Morina Longifolia Lilium … in the Valley of flowers
© Photos: Rama Bhandari
TAKE A WALK THROUGH THE RAVISHING BEAUTY OF THE VERDANT CARPET THAT IS THE VALLEY OF THE FLOWERS, HIGH IN THE HIMALAYAN RANGES.
To know such beauty exists is a blessing. On the Uttaranchal range, on the way up to the Garhwal shrine of Laxman Mandir and Shri Hemkund Sahib, is a valley of peted in hues of flowers. The scent from the valley intoxicates the most jaded of travelers- it is a Xanadu of fresh air, ravishing beauty and coracle peace.
A short distance above the village of Ghangaria, the path to the valley branches off from the main path to Hemkunt Sahib. there , a wild life guard in the employ of the Forest department issues entry permits for the national park. From the check – post it is a three kilometers trek to the entrance to the “Valley of Flowers” itself. The trail passes through forests and meadows and across rivers and an avalanche slope before the floor of the valley open up before it.
The Valley of flowers first came to the notice of world travelers by Frank S. Smith, a mountaineer, explorer, and botanist who camped here for several weeks in the monsoon of 1937. He carried out valuable exploratory work and authored a book called “The Valley of Flowers,” which unveiled the beauty and floral splendor of the valley, opening the doors of this verdant jewel to nature enthusiasts worldwide. It is a glacial corridor, eight kilometers in length and two kilometers in width. Its floor slopes from almost 3,500 meters above sea level up to almost 4,000 meters.
True to it name, the Valley of Flowers is carpeted with wild-flowers during monsoon season. O the many species which coexist in this unique ecosystem, the most popular species which itors are the Himalayan Blue poppy native to the region, the uncommon varieties of primula and orchid which bloom during June and the impatiens, potentillas, and campanulas that paint the valley pink, red, and purple during July & August. The king of the Himalayan Flowers is the sassurea obvalata, popularly known as Brahma Kamal, a graceful creamish flower with brown and red stamens in the center.
The pinkish glow of the valley can be attributed to the large colonies of androsace marsh orchid, geraniums, pedicluaris and the carpeting thymus, all in near pink. Splashes of folden lily and creamy bell-shaped codonopsis area also seen. The pink pedicularis give way to its yellow cousin-the mainstay of the August bloom. Yellow flowers bedeck the valley as July proceeds. The pedicularis, grandiflora, ligularia, saxifraga and potentillas. The potentillas are the first to appear and last to disappear in the valley.
A stone path meanders among the flowers and across streams. The flowers grow so tall that leaving path is difficult. Few visitors continue the first one or two kilometers inside the valley. The pause to photograph flowers, drink from a mountain spring, and scan the valley floor for a glimpse of grave rumored to be there among the flowers.
In 1939, Joan Margaret Legge, a botanist from the Kew Botanical Garden in London, was collecting flora specimens in the valley when she fell to her death. A memorial was erected in her honor. Etched in English and Hindi into the white marble of the gravestone is a line from the Bible’s Psalm 121 which reads, ” I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence commenth my help. “
Traditionally, the valley of flowers was used by local shepherds for grazing their flock. But in the minds of many, it has a greater significance. The myths told about the valley by locals and visitors paint a picture as evocative as the flowering that is the valley’s namesake.
There are stories about fairies carrying off anyone who wanders into their domain. There are stories about with a fragrance potent enough to make anyone who inhales in faint away.
In Hindu mythology, the valley was created when the gods showered flowers down from the heavens. Since then, so the local people say, the valley has been host to great sages who attained enlightenment while meditating there.
Today, the people who visit the Valley of Flowers as trekkers and tourists are amazed at the splendor of the view and vegetation. Some come to study the flora and fauna, while others come for meditation. The majority comes for recreation and nature appreciation.
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