A visual ode to the mighty Himalayas

Scenic beauty

As you enter the Convention Foyer at the India Habitat Centre, a sense of calmness washes over you. Adorning the walls are breathtaking images of the Himalayas outlining both, its beauty and might.

So, while one image shows the divine Nanda Devi mountain range before dawn, another captures the sunset over Panchchuli, the five allegorical furnaces in which the Pandavas cooked their last meal before ascending towards heaven. These and many more photographs formed ‘Hear Me, O Himalaya,’ an exhibition by Vaibhav Kaul.

Sharing his fascination for the Himalayas, Kaul tells Metrolife that he has been walking in the Himalayas since the age of five, when his father took him to the glacier at Gaumukh, the source of the Ganges in the Himalayas.

“I have also been painting, photographing, and making maps of the Himalayas since then. My parents are great nature lovers and adventurers, so my sister and I also love the outdoors. I started exhibiting my photographs and watercolour paintings of the Himalayas in 2013, just after my MSc research at the University of Oxford, which included an expedition to Lahaul,” he says.

Describing the recently-held exhibition as a “memoir of the beautiful conversations” he has had with the Himalaya, his “dearest friend and driving force in life”, Kaul says that it offers something for all — awe-inspiring peaks like Kedarnath, Trishul, Nanda Devi and Annapurna for the spiritually inclined; lakes, meadows, wildflowers, birds and sheep from Kashmir, Lahaul, Garhwal, Kumaon, Nepal and Sikkim for the romantics; and snowfields, glaciers, precipices and suchlike for the adventurers.

The exhibition, which comprises 66 images, while promoting Kaul’s research on reducing disaster risk in changing Himalayan environments, also intends to raise funds for Saheli Trust, a Himalayan charity working towards improving the lives of distressed and vulnerable women and children. Kaul’s project is supported by the University of Sheffield, UK, and the Dudley Stamp Memorial Award (Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers).

“Some of the photographs were taken at locations that are more than two days away on foot from road or the highest village in the region (the uninhabited upper valleys of Tsarap Chu and Yunan in Ladakh’s Zanskar Basin). Such places are truly isolated and there is absolutely no means of communication with the rest of the world. This is a major risk in itself. Besides, there are all kinds of scary landslides and ice, snow and rock avalanches. At slightly lower altitudes than my research sites, there are potentially dangerous wild animals such as bears, leopards and wolves,” Kaul says when asked about the challenges faced while shooting the images.

Adding, Kaul says that his mother and he once encountered a pack of howling wolves while walking through a fir forest in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh.

“After sprinting downhill for a few minutes, we luckily found a herd of hefty buffaloes on a small meadow. If we hadn’t hidden behind the buffaloes’ buttocks, I wouldn't have been telling you this story now,” he says.

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