‘Crossing the Himalaya’

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04/05/2017 by Julia van der Doesch

The Himalayas, or Himalaya, form a mountain range in Asia separating the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau.

The Himalayan range has the Earth’s highest peaks, including the highest, Mount Everest. The Himalayas include over a hundred mountains exceeding 7,200 metres (23,600 ft) in elevation. By contrast, the highest peak outside Asia – Aconcagua, in the Andes – is 6,961 metres (22,838 ft) tall.

The Himalayas are spread across five countries: Bhutan, India, Nepal, China, and Pakistan, with the first three countries having sovereignty over most of the range. The Himalayan range is bordered on the northwest by the Karakoram and Hindu Kush ranges, on the north by the Tibetan Plateau, and on the south by the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Some of the world’s major rivers, the Indus, the Ganges, and the Tsangpo-Brahmaputra, rise in the Himalayas, and their combined drainage basin is home to roughly 600 million people. The Himalayas have profoundly shaped the cultures of South Asia; many Himalayan peaks are sacred in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Lifted by the subduction of the Indian tectonic plate under the Eurasian Plate, the Himalayan Mountain range runs, west-northwest to east-southeast, in an arc 2,400 kilometres (1,500 mi) long. Its western anchor, Nanga Parbat, lies just south of the northernmost bend of Indus river. Its eastern anchor, Namcha Barwa, is just west of the great bend of the Tsangpo river. The range varies in width from 400 kilometres (250 mi) in the west to 150 kilometres (93 mi) in the east.

The name of the range derives from the Sanskrit Himā-laya (हिमालय, “Abode of Snow”), from himá (हिम, “cold, winter, frost”) and ā-laya (आलय, “receptacle, dwelling”). They are now known as the “Himalaya Mountains”, usually shortened to the “Himalayas”. Formerly, they were described in the singular as the “Himalaya”. This was also previously transcribed “Himmaleh”, as in Emily Dickinson’s poetry and Henry David Thoreau’s essays.

The mountains are known as the Himālaya in Nepali and Hindi (both written हिमालय), the Himalaya (ཧི་མ་ལ་ཡ་) or ‘The Land of Snow’ (གངས་ཅན་ལྗོངས་) in Tibetan, the Hamaleh Mountain Range (سلسلہ کوہ ہمالیہ) in Urdu, and the Ximalaya Mountain Range (t 喜馬拉雅山脈, s 喜马拉雅山脉, p Xǐmǎlāyǎ Shānmài) in Chinese.

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