posted on 06/06/23
They take place every Tuesday from 8 August–5 September at 4.30pm (GMT +1) and, including Q&A, will probably last an hour. They are available for viewing for eight weeks after the last episode is streamed (31st October 2023).
The birth of the Himalaya mountains remains one of the grandest geological dramas of our planet. This was a process that began millions of years ago and is one that is still not over. A vast sea vanished and left behind the world’s highest mountain range, glaciers, rivers racing through deep gorges and azure salt-water lakes. The gentler aspects of nature arrived bringing to the terrain magnificent forests and rare herbs. This lecture traces these origins and brings us to the present.
Vajrayana Buddhism, the ‘Thunderbolt Vehicle’ form of Tantric Buddhism that took shape within and along the fringes of the Himalaya Mountains, is today one of most recognisable forms of the religion. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is generally accepted as its spiritual head. Numerous monasteries and sacred places dot the Himalayan ranges. Somewhat in contrast, pockets of the mid-hills have ‘local deities’ that may be worshipped in one village but shunned in another; practices and forms of worship draw heavily from nature. This lecture is interspersed with iconography, legends and folklore.
Down the centuries, invaders in search of wealth or conquest have poured into India through the high passes that border today’s Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many have returned with considerable treasures that have included precious metals and stones, slaves and animals. A few have come from passes that lie in the northeast and border Tibet and Myanmar. Many invaders made India their home and created a diverse pool of ancestry. There have been a few, invariably unsuccessful military excursions, that have gone from India to the North – the best-known being the first major war of Queen Victoria’s reign, ‘The First Afghan War’.
Seen from outside, it seems that there was no human activity in these ranges. But along valley floors and in the mid-hills, despite the geographic isolation, there were numerous villages and small towns. Traders moved from one market fair to another. In this pastoral setting, the rhythm of life was largely focused around a subsistence agricultural economy. An immense change took place in the early 19th century when the British began building a chain of ‘hill stations’ all across the Himalaya. This lecture examines the traditional and the colonial landscape.
It was 70 years ago that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain. Yet, the Himalayas have drawn Indian pilgrims, sages and seers for centuries, but there was very little codified information that was passed down about the mountains and what lay within. The invasion of Alexander of Macedon and the travels of the Chinese monk-scholar, Hsuan Tsang bring us some of the early writings. Then from the 18th century onwards, comes the time of explorers, climbers, scientists and spies. This lecture traces this fascinating movement of people and information.
Award winning author, historian and journalist. He has published 15 books of history, travel, fiction and poetry and is a recognised authority on the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh and its capital, Shimla. He has handled assignments for television, including for the BBC, and for the Indian Institute of Advanced Study and various departments of the Indian Government. He writes regularly for magazines and papers in India and elsewhere. He is the state Co-convenor of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage.
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