Clouds over the Goddess Mountain

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The Vishnugad-Tapovan Dam Project, One of Many around Nanda Devi RegionRANIKHET – From this Himalayan town about 380 kilometers from Delhi, my first view of mystical Nandi Devi was one of those velvet-cloaked, sledge-hammer moments in life that softly stuns the senses and leaves one wordless.

Golden early morning sunlight lit the snow-capped 7,800-meter peak, India’s highest, as Nanda Devi glowed with strength, stillness, purity, silence – an awe-inspiring sight in the crisp mountain air. Tourist guides in Seventh Heaven and other next-life holiday paradises may not have many prettier sights to sell.

Meaning “Blessed Goddesses”, “Princess of Mountains”, “Bliss-Giving Goddess” or, perhaps more accurately, “Mother Goddess of the Mountain”, the Nanda Devi area is an United Nations-declared World Heritage Park that ranks among major attractions in Uttarakhand, a state in north India also called “Dev Bhumi” or “Land of Gods”.

The gods can’t be faulted for their taste in real estate, as the Nanda Devi region, including the Valley of Flowers and the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, form one of the more spectacular scenic spots in South Asia.

But beautiful worldly paradises generally have a blighted side and Nanda Devi too, like its more famous cousin Mount Everest, is fighting off an onslaught of pollution, unruly development and other damage from a careless human presence. [more]

– By Raja Murthy
Asia Times
, June 23, 2009