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Stories and legends from Himalaya

Research Material from Shri Bhuvneshwari Mahila Ashram

It's the stories that exist in the minds of the local people that actually create a live version of history and give an impression of life in the area, not text book definitions and timelines. In that sense, we have tried to make stories like this the backbone of this website. As often as possible, there are links to the stories listed below, but here we have presented them as a list. Choose one or two or read them all, in the end, you'll have a better impression of life here in Uttarakhand, the history that has shaped it and the challenges of today. We'll continue to update the list and change the stories as we record them from word of mouth interactions and translate written stories from Hindi and Garwhali. So, come back often and be entertained, saddened, amazed, and hopefully inspired by these tales.

The Cherry Tree


One day, when Rakhi was six, she walked home from the Musoorie bazaar eating cherries. They were a little sweet, a little sour- small, bright red cherries that had come all the way from the Kashmir valley. There were not many fruit trees in the Himalayan foothills of northern India where Rakhi lived with her grandfather. The soil was stony, and only on the more sheltered slopes were there forests of oak and deodar.

By the time Rakhi reached her grandfather's cottage, there were three cherries left. "Have a cherry, Dada," she said when she saw her grandfather in the garden.

Grandfather took a cherry, and Rakhi promptly ate the other two. She kept the last seed in her mouth for a long time, rolling it around on her tongue until the tang had gone. Then she placed the seed on the palm of her hand and studied it.

"Are cherry seeds lucky?" she asked.
"Of course," said Grandfather.
"Then I'll keep it."
"Nothing is lucky if you put it away. You must make it work for you."
"What can I do with a seed?"
"Plant it!"

Rakhi went to the corner of the garden, where the earth was soft and yielding, and pressed the seed into the soil with her thumb. It went right in.

When it was winter in the hills, a cold wind blew and the garden was bare. In the evenings Grandfather and Rakhi sat outside near a charcoal fire, and Grandfather told stories- about people who turned into animals, ghosts that lived in trees, and beans that jumped and stones that wept.

One spring morning Rakhi bent to pick up what she thought was a small twig in the garden and found it was rooted. She stared at it for a moment, then ran to fetch Grandfather, calling, "Dada, come and look. The cherry tree has come up!"

Grandfather bent almost in half to peer down at the tiny tree. It was about four inches high. "Yes, it's a cherry tree," said Grandfather. "You should water it now and then."

Rakhi gave it a sprinkling and circled it with pebbles.
"What are the pebbles for?" Grandfather asked.
"For privacy," Rakhi said.

She looked at the tree every morning, but it did not seem to be growing. So she stopped looking at it- except once in a while, quickly, out of the corner of her eye.

That year the monsoon rains came early, and Rakhi plodded to and from school under her umbrella. Even when it wasn't raining, the trees dripped and mist came curling up the valley. The cherry tree grew quickly.

It was about two feet high when a goat entered the garden and ate the leaves. Only the main stem and two thin branches remained.

"Never mind," said Grandfather, seeing that Rakhi was upset. "It will grow again. Cherry trees are tough."

Toward the end of the rainy season, new leaves appeared on the tree. Then a runaway cart rumbled down the hill and snapped the young tree in half.

"Will it die?" asked Rakhi.
"It might," admitted Grandfather.

But the cherry tree did not die. By the time summer came around again, it had sent out several new shoots. Even when there was rain, Rakhi would sometimes water the tree. She wanted it to know that she was there.

One day Rakhi found a hairy caterpillar on the tree. I was making a meal of the leaves. The girl removed it quickly and dropped it over the wall. "Come back when you're a butterfly," she said.

One February it was Rakhi's birthday. She was ten, and the tree was nearly four but taller than the girl. Then on a sunny morning Grandfather came into the garden to "let some warmth get into my old bones," as he put it. He stopped in front of the cherry tree, stared at it for a few moments, and called out: "Rakhi, come and look!"

Rakhi dashed over to see a pale pink blossom at the end of a branch. They gazed at this little miracle.

The following year there were more blossoms. The tree overshadowed Rakhi, even though it was less than half her age. That summer there were small cherries on the tree. Rakhi tasted one and spat it out.

"It's too sour," she said.
"They'll be better next year," Grandfather replied.


One afternoon Rakhi went to the garden and rested beneath the tree. She gazed up through the leaves at the blue dome of the sky. She could see the mountain disappearing into the clouds. She was still lying beneath the tree when the evening shadows crept across the garden.

Grandfather came and sat down, and they waited in silence until the stars came out.

"Just one small seed," said Rakhi, and she touched the smooth bark of the tree she had grown. She ran her hand along the branch and put her finger to the tip of a leaf.

"How it changed!" she said.
"Just like you," smiled Grandfather.


Night settled on the foothills, and Rakhi looked at the tree spread against the starry sky. She said to herself, "One day I will tell my children how Dada and I planted this cherry tree many years ago when I was six."

Ruskin Bond is a renowned children's writer. He has written many short novels, stories, poems and journals. He has spent most of his life in the Garhwali hill station of Mussoorie.

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The Chipko Movement


"Start using your axes to chop! Why don't you start? Remember, we will die, but we will not let you cut our trees!"

This challenge was issued from the brave ladies of Raini, a village of Uttarakhand, while they were hugging their trees to keep them from being cut down.

The jungle in question bordered the village, and the people of the village were dependent on it for their daily necessities. It was from there that they retrieved firewood and wood for construction. It was also in that jungle that they grazed their animals and collected fodder. In fact, Raini was not the only village whose inhabitants' lives were intertwined with that particular jungle. And almost all the villages of the hills are the same. People's lives depend on what they can muster from their surroundings, especially the lush forests that characterize the region.

Many jungles in the area were being senselessly cut down by government contractors for other purposes. The contractors had been given permission to cut the older, dead trees, but they had grossly overstretched their jurisdiction and were wrecklessly destroying the forests. Slowly, the green jungles were turning into desolate, rocky hillsides.

The contract was given, also, for the jungle of Raini village, but the ladies of the village knew about the situation from the other villages. They decided that they would not let the same problem come to their village. They agreed that they would, if needbe, sacrifice their lives to protect the jungle. The leader of the group was a local lady, Gaura Devi. She was an illiterate farmer, but she was a very sensitive and perceptive woman.

When the contractors arrived, Gaura Devi and the other women from the village were clinging to the trees creating a human shield. The workers for the contractors tried to force the women to separate themselves from the trees with psychological pressure and threats of physical violence, but the ladies held strong. They had already decided that they would not allow the contractors to cut a single tree, and they were not afraid. Slowly, slowly, the women from other nearby villages came to support the Raini women in their efforts to maintain the forests.

Eventually, the women won out and the contractors had to refrain from cutting anymore of their forest. Taking inspiration from this initial group of brave women, the movement spread throughout Uttarakhand known as the Chipko Movement. Everywhere it was lead by the women of the region and supported by everyone. Because of this widespread movement, the government had to change its policies to protect the traditional rights of the denizens of Uttarakhand.

Research material for this story was collected from the SBMA library.

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Danger at Twilight


Darkness comes swiftly to the villages of Garhwal. The sun sets behind the huge mountains and almost immediately it is night. In one little village near the town of Agustamuni, lives Rajeshwari. She is normally a bright-eyed, gutsy little girl, all of twelve. Today something is wrong, as the evening shadows lengthen her mother calls out to her son to come in and lock the door. The leopard might be about. Rajeshwari freezes. She starts to shiver uncontrollably and nothing anybody can do will calm her.

A week ago as her family sat down to dinner, a leopard crept into the house and pounced. It dug its claws into Rajeshwari's back and dragged her out into the darkness. It stopped briefly to secure its hold then made for the forest. Rajeshwari's grandmother and father ran behind the leopard and the screaming child for a distance, shouting and beating tin vessels. Annoyed and disconcerted the animal dropped Rajeshwari and disappeared into the night. As Rajeshwari lay bleeding its rasping calls could still be heard.

The little girl's back was torn open and her right cheek was deeply scratched. She needed to be rushed to the hospital in Agustamuni. It took hours to arrange for the slow transport and finally almost at midnight, they reached the hospital.

The doctor was in no mood to be disturbed from his night's sleep. He hated his posting and couldn't wait to be back in civilization. He sent word that he would deal with the patient in the morning. The villagers lost control and in a rage Rajeshwari's grandfather threatened to burn down the hospital. It was only then that the doctor grudgingly treated her wounds. Rajeshwari has seven stitches on her cheek and her back might never heal completely.

In Pakhi, a village near the town of Pipalkoti, seven year old Nidhi was returning from the outdoor toilet with her mother. Dusk was falling. A leopard appeared suddenly and jumped at the little girl. Her mother shouted and surprisingly the animal dropped Nidhi and disappeared. But not before injuring her gravely. Her father rushed her to the nearest hospital at Gopeshwar thirty-five kilometers away. Today a month later, Nidhi is still fighting for her life. In the neighboring district of Pauri, in a village called Dunga, twelve year old Aarti was saved by villagers.

Eleven year old Rani and four year old Nirmala were not so lucky. Badel is yet another village in these dangerous mountains. Thirty-five year old Sarojini Devi had gone with her two daughters to the forest to gather fodder. A daily chore. As they returned they were attacked by a leopard. In a desperate bid to save her daughters Sarojini Devi struck out at the animal with her axe. It was futile. In a few swift moments the leopard overpowered her and dragged her away. Later the villagers found her half-eaten body.

And these are just a few examples spanning a time frame of a few months. The horror of man eaters haunts the entire region. In a study of the Pauha Block of the Pauri district, an area covering seven villages, the findings were chilling. In 1998 alone seventeen people were killed. Mostly women and children. Many families have migrated to the plains out of fear. Skewed government laws are in many ways responsible. Humans are low on the priority list. An animal on the rampage is not declared a man eater until it kills at least three humans. Identification of the animal is virtually impossible as the forest department infrastructure is criminally inadequate, and most victims are attacked under cover of darkness. So while the Wildlife Protection Acts secures the future of wild animals, villagers in mortal danger abandon their homes and fields. This situation is made more complex by decreasing forest cover and prey. For which the forest and timber mafia are hugely responsible.

Meanwhile in these dark mountains some villages become ghost towns after dark and in some the villagers don't sleep. While India advances towards the twenty-first century, replete with state of the art technology and nuclear bombs, some of its people still fight wild animals to stay alive. Where with every sunset childhood comes to a grinding halt.

J.P. Maithani is a social activist based in the Chamoli district of Garhwal. This story was printed in Uttarakhand: Children in the Himalaya, an SBMA publication.

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The Ganga River


From the Himalayas, two main rivers, the Bagirathi and Alakananda, flow down towards the plains. Long before reaching the plains, however, they meet one another in a place called Devprayag. At this confluence, the great Ganga River begins.

The source of the Bagirathi is high in the Himalayas in a place called Gaumuck, in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. From Gaumuck, the river makes its way to Gangotri, a very holy place for Hindus. From there, it winds its way to Uttarkashi, but before arriving there, it passes through an electricity generating unit at the Maneri Bhali Dam in Maneri. Between Uttarkashi and Devprayag, the Bagirathi flows through Tehri where the biggest dam in Asia is currently under construction.

The Alakananda begins in the Satopanth Glacier, 15 kilometers north of Badrinath, in the Chamoli district. From the glacier it reaches Badrinath after going through Vasudhara. Badrinath is the biggest holy place on the banks of the Alakananda, and it is northern one of the four holy Dhams in the country.

Where the Alakananda meets other rivers along its path there is a prayag. All five of these famous confluences are in Uttarakhand, and they are known as Panch Prayag. In Devprayag, where the fifth confluence occurs with the Bagirathi, the river becomes known by only one name, the Ganga.

After reaching Rishikesh and Hardiwar, the Ganga leaves the hills and continues its meandering course into the plains. In the plains, the Ganga fulfills the needs of many people and farmers. There are many holy places and holy cities along the banks of the river, such as Kanpur, Allahbhad, Varanasi, Patna, and Kolkata.

Research material for this story was collected from the SBMA library.

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Perseverance Conquers All


Despite all their efforts the mountains still haven't earned their certificate proclaiming them literate. You will certainly have to applaud the efforts of Umesh Navani, in the Uttarkashi District of Garhwal. This is not the first or second, but the ninth time he is appearing for his high school examination. And he isn't the only miserable one in his village, Balbir Singh gave up after his seventh attempt but Ram Prakash, on his sixth attempt, is still going strong. And the story doesn't end here, in the 1997/1998 academic year, out of the twenty-one students who appeared for the high school examination, eleven were sitting for at least the third time. And when the results came only two girls had passed. Both first timers. This situation exists all over the mountains as children test their fate again and again. While the boys get to keep trying till they are young men, the girls have only a few chances and then they, with a band and fanfare, are bundled off in palanquins with unknown husbands. Anyway, the one good thing is that since no one is educated there are no queues of the endless unemployed outside the unemployment offices. And then even if they were all educated and literate, who would employ them? And so the mountains continue to be educated in this manner and in these mountains what else are the children to do where their education system is so weak and on the way to this education are rivers and streams, back breaking climbs and wild animals.

Umesh Navani's village is blessed with every conceivable hindrance to education that can exist in these mountains. To get to high school you have to walk seven kilometers to the neighboring village. First climb down to the riverbed below the village, cross the river and then climb the vertical slope up to school. Of course there isn't any bridge so in the monsoon forget about trying to cross the raging torrent. Forget about school and goof off. And anyway across the river waits a thick forest and wild animals, so unless you are in a big enough group it's no use. It isn't as if the children of the mountains have planned an elaborate ruse to discredit the education system, or that they are hindered by any physical or mental or social handicaps. It's just that there is no strong foundation or grounding in any field. After having failed once, they don't get admitted into school as regular students, they enroll as private students. So any chances of learning better grow more remote. This process of failing goes on till marriage and finally when the babies come, the youth settles down to the life of an illiterate farmer, eeking out a living in the back of beyond. For the half century since independence, this has been the story of the villages of the mountains. Those who have studied and succeeded have left the villages with their families and those who can afford it have their children sent out to stay with relatives and learn something.

For many children in the mountains, the examinations loom large as stumbling blocks for the future. Necessity, they say is the mother of invention, and many enterprising scholars and their gurus have developed easy ways to skirt around the trivial problems of teaching and examinations and passing. In these esteemed centers of learning, during the year the teachers work hard at their private businesses, there is no time to teach, and so as not to hinder the education process, during the examinations they sit with their eyes conveniently shut. And to these centers flock students from far and wide.

But Surajpal of Umesh Navani's village is attempting the impossible, he will lock horns with the high school examination for the fourth time. His mother is worried, he is so caught up with his studies that he has no time to eat or even sleep. She hopes this time God in his mercy will pass her son. Every time it has been math that has destroyed his dreams. And every time he has colored four thick exercise books with mathematic squiggles. At exam time he suffers the agonies of all his contemporaries. Shelling out the price of a degree- ten rupees for the form, hundred for the center of his choice, and if he does pass, separate fees for his marksheet and for the math paper. But he doesn't know the rates of those yet!

So whether it is the vanquished warrior Umesh Navani or the intrepid fighter Surajpal, or any of the hundreds of students like them, in their youth they finally succumb to a system which neither joins them to their fields and their soil nor gives them the education to make any creative contribution to the larger society. A time which could have woven them into the web of their inheritance, their own village life, its culture, its environment, is instead alienating them. And so without giving its students any educational benefits, the system carries on regardless. New crops of children are planted in classrooms that echo with choruses of "present Sir!" The system proceeds on and has nothing to say about the hundreds of children who can't even get through high school. Actually the fact is that the government concerns itself with primary education- that way everyone can soon be declared literate. The numbers of the so called literate increase encouragingly and the country is well on the way to progress. And the mountains? Well, they are just leaping ahead.

It seems as if these mountains are cursed by Saraswati, the Goddess of learning. The way to an education is like a dry re-run of a daily soap replete with flooding unbridged rivers, wild animals and rocky tracks. And those who do fight the odds to win for themselves the touchstone, that high school certificate, are also cursed. Compelled to leave their fields and their homes and remain locked as vague memories of long ago village fair or festival in dusty photo albums. The ones who lose the fight, who fail again and again, with them lies the responsibility to look after the home and village, to save them.

In these villages people are willing to do anything to educate their children. And in these villages only an empty system of education exists. The twenty-first century brings many changes, and the people of the hills can't even hold off this change until they can deal with it. They will remain onlookers in their own homes, as change sweeps the mountains and makes them unrecognizable. The only weapon that will help them mould this change is education- wholesome and for everyone. Society and government have neglected the dangers of illiteracy and now the challenge lies with the youth of the twenty-first century. It will take time for them to be ready to face the challenge and then it might be too late.

Prem Bahukhandi is pursuing a Ph.D. at the Jawaharal Nehru University in Delhi, on watershed in the Garhwal region. This story was printed in Uttarakhand: Children in the Himalaya, an SBMA publication.

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Teelu Rauteli


Long ago, the Katyura King, Dham Shahi, attacked the Garhwal kingdom. The King of Garhwal, Man Shahi, was brutally defeated and Khairagarh, a famous territory of Garhwal, came under the custody of Dham Shahi. Dham Shahi was a very cruel king who levied unreasonable taxes and violently oppressed the people. Obviously, the Garhwalis, especially the leaders in the region, were extremely unhappy with the arrangement. Quickly, a revolt against the Katyura kingdom began to gain momentum. Bhupu Gorala, one of the leaders of the revolutionary group that formed, was killed in the war. He had two sons who, after the death of their father, took up arms as part of the revolt, but they also lost their lives fighting for Garhwal.

Bhupu Gorala also had a daughter, Teelu, who was fifteen years old when her father and two brothers were defeated in battle. The place where Teelu's brothers were killed, Kanda, was a festival ground where the traditional fair, Thaul, was held annually. Teelu told her mother that she wanted to attend the Thaul and play with her friends. Her mother reminded her that her father and brothers had been killed by the enemy. On top of that, her brothers had died where the Thaul is held, the place where she was proposing to frolic with her friends. Teelu's mother told her that if she wanted to play, she should do it on the battleground and play like the warriors there.

Teelu took the advice to heart. Quelling her desires to go to the fair, she decided to take revenge for the death of her father and brothers. She swore to herself that she would release the kingdom from the enemies. She began by building an army out of her friends, the young boys from the village, and anyone else who was willing to fight. One day this army attacked the Khairagarh and successfully won it back. Her army started vanquishing the enemy and freeing the other territories one by one, and eventually it reached Saraikhet where Teelu's father had been killed in battle. In Saraikhet, there was a terrible battle, but Teelu was victorious in the end. She was happy to have finally avenged her father's death.

While Teelu was winning the other territories back, the Katyura came back to attack Khairagarh. As soon as Teelu heard the news, she returned to Khairagarh with her army and won it once again. After that battle, Teelu went to Kandagarh, another Garhwali territory, to have some well-deserved rest. On the way there, she decided to take a bath in the Nayar River. While she was bathing, a Katyur soldier saw her unprotected and unarmed. When Teelu arrived at the bank of the river, the soldier took advantage of her vulnerability and killed her. This brave woman became a martyr at the age of only 22.

People of Garhwal still sing songs about Teelu:

You are a Goddess.
You put your name where it cannot be erased
And now you are alive in our stories and memories.
You showed us the way
And you will never die.


Research material for this story was collected from the SBMA library.

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Children in Himalayas


It's four thirty in the morning- I wake early these days and recently the first sounds I hear are the calls and laughter of two little boys who have just been employed by Mr. Bisht who runs the bakery downstairs. It's their duty to start the pump and open the gate and sweep out the kitchen before the early morning baking begins. Mr. Bisht the baker says one is fourteen and the other twelve, but to me they seem more like ten and eight. Why did you leave your villages? Did you run away? No, they said, there wasn't enough money in the village so we came here with our uncle to look for work. And so here they are. Pappu, the younger, has a strangely strident cheerful voice, often raised in noisy laughter or shouts. But this morning something's happened. The harsh voice is sobbing out disconnected words, broken sentences I can't make out. Has he caught his thumb in the gate latch perhaps? But there is more than just physical pain in his voice. Just a fight with Jaggu then? Some injustice or bullying that has filled him with hurt and impotence?

My children are grown up and far away, but listening, I want to go down and gather him up and hush his sobs. But who am I? Only a stranger remembering her own children's long past needs. And so now at four forty-five, before the stars dim or the birds awake, his sobs lessen and stop unlistened to and much later when I go out, the storm has subsided and his world has righted itself. I hear again his cheerful voice and see the grin on his dirty tear-stained face.

So cheerful is he that I'm tempted to lure him away to work for me in my home instead. Actually, Mr. Bisht doesn't really treat them badly. Apart from waking them up a four-thirty and expecting them to wash the dishes at ten or eleven at night, they are all right- not beaten, given old clothes and food, or even I'm sure, an occasional cup cake. But if Pappu worked for me I'd be much kinder. Besides his salary, I'd give him food and clean new clothes and shoes and even perhaps teach him how to read. But of course, he'd have to be absolutely honest- no opening the biscuit tin and pinching cookies because that would lead to bad habits. And he would have to be obedient and do as I say- which means he must remember to give each of us the right cup, to remember that the metal teapot must not be washed with Vim, that the forks must be placed on the left of the plates. He must be careful too, he must not allow the butter-dish to fall from his hands and break. Above all he must be cheerful and a willing worker- not for him the luxury of sulks or a tantrum, or the relief of tears or answering back. And never, in his free time during my afternoon nap, must he run off and play with the other servant boys in the bazaar. That would spoil him completely. If he has nothing to do he should learn to read and write. No, he must always be sensible of how privileged he is- that he eats good rice and meat and vegetables instead of the Madua and greens he'd get in the village, that he's being taught to be clean and that soon he'll save enough to buy some fancy things to take back to the village with which to tempt more of his friends away from their homes.

And so the Pappus and the Jaggus and Prems and Purans pour into the towns and cities in search of their destiny. You see them everywhere- fetching and carrying in houses, rubbing sleep from their eyes at two o'clock in road side dhabas, pulling at your sleeve, begging to be allowed to carry your 40 kg suitcase for R's 20, swearing when they see the doubt in your eyes, that they are as strong as a full grown coolie.

Pitiful, inhumane, we rightly and righteously feel. And yet these children are not bonded labor. They all have come of their own free will, either sent by parents desperate for more money, or having run away from the miserable poverty and hunger and want they face in their villages. They have to work there too, we tell ourselves as we make use of them, and of course in some ways they are 'better off' than in their villages. But whether we, their employers, treat them well or ill, can they ever be really compensated for their lost childhood?

I teach in a school for over-privileged children whose sights are also set on moving on- to scholarships abroad in Harvard or Oxford. It's a good school and much care and concern is expended on their social and psychological and emotional needs- Piaget's stages of child development and the special needs of each stage and how we as parents and teachers need to be aware of them, and deal with them.

And the Pappus and the Jaggus and Prems and Pushkars who have 'moved on', who have left their green fileds, their hunger and flute-playing, their drunken fathers, their village melas and over-worked mothers- their homes. Are clean clothes and enough food and even a full night's sleep and some kindness enough? I don't know- but I'm haunted by the sound at four-thirty in the morning of an eight year old's or ten year old's or even a twelve year old's sobs and that there was no one there to ask him why he was crying.

Dr. Anil Bisht is a reader in English at the Kumaon University. She lives in Nainital. This story was printed in Uttarakhand: Children in the Himalaya, an SBMA publication.

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The Valley of Flowers


This is an ancient story from The Mahabharata, one of the two great Hindu epics, about the Valley of Flowers in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand near the border of China.

One time the Pandavas (the five brothers/heroes in The Mahabharata) were resting in Pandukeshar on their way to Badrinath. On an especially sunny day, Draupadi found a beautiful flower floating down the river. She was so taken by its beauty that she asked the Pandavas to find more flowers like it for her. Bheem, the strongest of the Pandavas, decided to take on the responsibility, so he set off travelling along the river in search of the illustrious flowers. Eventually, he reached a very large valley that was full of flowers. For a short while, he completely lost his senses while observing the ocean of color that lay before him. After some time, though, he remembered that he had a purpose, to bring back the flowers to Draupadi, and he began to pick them for her.

The problem was that the valley he had discovered lay in the kingdom of Kuber, the god of wealth. Soldiers of Kuber saw Bheem desecrating their master's land. They captured him and started to take him to Kuber, but when they discovered he was one of the Pandavas they immediately released him.

The place that Bheem discovered in search of his flowers has now become known to the world as the Valley of Flowers. This valley is about ten kilometers long and two kilometers wide, and in the middle the Pushpavati River flows. It is completely filled with flowers of every color, and they seem to cover every conceivable surface. Interspersed among the flowers, there are also many different herbs that grow. People say that Hanuman ji took Sanjivani, the life-saving herb, from this place.

The people of Uttarakhand knew of this valley long before anyone else. Local people called it Bhyundar Ghati and Bhistoli Khark. People say that the name Bhyundar comes from the Pandava's Bheem, who discovered the valley. In the beginning, very few people went to this place because there was a myth that it belonged to the fairies, and anyone arriving there would be captured by them.

This valley became famous throughout the world after 1931. In that year, one English mountaineer, Frank Smith, reached the valley after losing his way. He was so impressed by the beauty of the area that he named it the Valley of Flowers. Later, another flower-loving woman, Joan-Margaret Leagh, came to Chamoli to collect the seeds of the flowers that grow in the valley. She also greatly appreciated the valley and was instrumental in introducing the area to the rest of the world. One day as she was wandering in the valley, she slipped and fell to her final resting place among the beautiful flowers. Her gravesite still remains there. Today, people from all over the world come to visit the Valley of Flowers and to admire the splendid beauty.

To reach the Valley of Flowers, there is a foot-path from Govindghat, which is on the way to Badrinath from Joshimath. After 10 kilometers from Govindghat, at a place called Ghangharhia, the path splits. One choice leads to the Hemkund, a famous holy place in the Sikh religion, and the left path takes one over the last four kilometers to the Valley of Flowers.

The government has declared this area protected and has banned people from grazing animals and collecting firewood and fodder there in order to protect the flowers.

Research material for this story was collected from the SBMA library.

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Our heartfelt thanks to:
Cyril Raphael at SBMA, Dehradoon
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