The Valley of the 200 km long Parvati river is a vast arena of rocky glens, diverse forests, streams and
more than 40 glaciers. In fact the Parvati is a tributary of the Beas in name only. At the point where it
meets up with the Beas, the Parvati is probably the bigger stream of the two. This then is the imposing
gateway to the Parvati river ... forested slopes ending in near vertical cliffs atop which stand rows of
Deodar trees, cutting into the blue skies at 3000 metres or more.
This grandstand view of the Parvati Glen is just 20 kms into the valley. Here the Malana Nala meets up with
the Parvati. The Malana river travels down from it's source on the Malana glacier on the main spur of the
Great Himalaya range, passing by and giving it's name to the fabled Malana village, ethnically a small
city state in itself. Many an explorer has read different things into this strange community where the
ancient system of Panchayati raj or direct democracy is practised to this day. Their Dardic features and exclusivist tribal
laws have created a large number of histories for the people of Malana, prominent among them being
tales of Greek descent, with their ancestors deserting from Alexander's army. At Malana the cult of
deified sages reigned supreme, and even today, the Jamdgni god is all powerful. The whole social and
political administrative edifice is supposed to get it's inspiration and authority from Jamdgni, who
speaks through his oracles, a hereditary office in the village. These oracles are known as
Kiratas and to this day many of them sport the long braided hair that is a symbol of their office.
The Malana valley is so far unspoilt because of the complete absence of the motor road and the precipitious
terrain in general. The Malana Glen has, on both sides, vast Deodar and Spruce forests besides other
coniferous species like the giant Kail..... besides acres upon acres of flowering Rhododendron and wild
bush making it excellent terrain for lower story wildlife like the Pheasants and further up, plentiful
Most of the population in the Parbati valley is concentrated in the main and the northern valleys, the other
bank being comparatively undisturbed. It is to the south side that we must go to see an example of
what lower Himalayan forests must have been like, not so long ago. At Kasol, near the Hot Springs of
Manikaran, the Garahan Nala meets up with the Parbati and it is in the side valleys of this Nala that we
find one of the rarest forest types nowadays .... an evergreen broadleaved forest rich in species not
encountered elsewhere in the entire Beas area. Not only is the forest rich in species diversity but the
different species occur in approximately the same numbers. Pine, Spruce and Deodar occur regularly
along glades, interwoven with Yew and rhododendron. The other species in the top canopy are
Machilus duthiei, Acer Pictum, Celtis Australis, Quercus Incana, Staphylla emodi, Betula and many
others. The other small sized tree species include Rhus, Morus serrata, Cornus macrophylla and
Shrubs are well represented with high species density, that is, large concentrated populations. Rubus
niveus, R. ellipticus, Sorbaria tomentosa, Hydrangea anomala and a host of others.
And the flowers..... tight clusters of Iris Kumaonensis in the moist, shady areas, along with Pilea
umbrosa, Fagopyrum cymosum and Viola while Lamium and Sedum rosulatum prefer the drier rocky
areas. Moist rocks are covered with creepers such as the vibrant Ficus sarmentosa while within the forest
Hedera nepalensis is one of the prominent climbers. All over are various species of Polygonum,
Impatiens, Polystichum and many others
Further upstream, is the confluence of the Parvati and the Tos Nala. The Tos Nala has it's parentage
in the 25 glaciers straddling the Great Himalaya range, only 40 kilometers away. High up there is A
vast amphitheatre of peaks ..... Deo Tibba, Indrasan, White Sail and a host of other 6000 meter
summits, with their sharp rock eminences jutting out from the vast, almost level, glaciers perched atop
this roof of the Himalaya.
In the Tos Nala we come across numerous thaach ......sheep resting places! This is par excellence graziers
country and shepherds move about the high pastures during the summer months with their flocks. So
far the balance between Man and nature has been preserved here but this seems like a good time to
discuss livestock grazing in the Himalayas and it's effect on the environment and wildlife. It has now
been recognised that migratory flocks of domestic animals play a very important role in the Himalayan
eco-systems and have done so for centuries. Artificial attempts to restrict the entry of these animals
have often had unlooked for complications such as the famous "Valley of Flowers " in Garwhal,
currently undergoing a Polygonum invasion to the detriment of other, more delicate Himalayan high
altitude species. On the other hand overgrazing is a very real issue... once grazing reaches the point
where it begins to significantly alter the structure and composition of the vegetation, it becomes a threat
not only to the wildlife and species diversity, but to every component of the eco-system. Overgrazing in
many areas has deprived many pheasant and animal species of the forest understory and shrub cover
essential to their habitat. Studies indicate overgrazing by domestic stock to be the most important
problem confronting wildlife and habitat conservation throughout Himachal Pradesh. But the problem
is not so simple, for studies and records show an actual decline in domestic livestock numbers over the
last hundred years or so.
Consequently overgrazing is probably due to the concentration of flocks in already overburdened areas
indicating serious lacunae in the Permit system that organises grazing in the Western Himalayas.
All flocks must be registered with the Forest department which issues grazing permits.
Many permit holders are also the holders of customary rights which derive from the Rajas of the
princely states, like Chamba. In return for the permits the forest department gets an annual revenue
Trini based on the numbers of the flock. Graziers caught with exess numbers or without any permit at
all face a fine, and even higher penalties apply to flocks caught grazing in Reserve forests or protected
The Permit system gives the Forest Department considerable regulatory capacity by empowering it to
close a particular Dhar for any length of time from one to thirty years, though the Department is legally
required to provide alternative grazing for the permit holders who are so displaced.
Inspite of this system certain areas bear disproportionate pressure as migratory routes change. For
example Kulu and the Valley of the Upper Beas are considered more heavily grazed now as compared
to Chamba and Bara-Banghal. An important reason is probably the motor road over the Rohtang pass
providing the Gaddis a comparatively safe and easy entrance into Lahoul as compared to the passes
exiting Chamba and Bara Banghal.