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 brown bear.

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 Philadelphus coronarius. 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 areas. 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.

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