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The rivers that emerge from the Himalaya mountains are older than the mountains! 

The sources of Himalayan rivers are spread over a distance of 8-10,000 km and are separated by mountain ranges. Another characteristic is that these flow parallel to the axis of the mountain ranges in the upper reaches, but after reaching a certain point, these suddenly turn south and flow perpendicular to them.  

Rivers like the Gandaki, Ramganga, that flow from the Himalaya to the Ganga basin are ‘antecedent’ rivers, in that these were in existence while the Himalayas were being created and got pushed up along with the emerging mountain range. Thus the age of these rivers is greater than the mountain range through which these flow. 

Highest Peak

Mount Everest at 29,029 ft (8,848 m) is not only the highest peak in the Himalayas, but the highest peak on the entire planet.

Other famous peaks include Karakora (K2), Kailash, Kanchenjunga, Nanga Parbat, Annapurna, and Manasklu.


The Himalayas are the source for the Indus, the Yangtze and the Ganga-Brahmaputra. All three are major river systems for the continent of Asia.

The main rivers sourced in Himalayas are the Ganges, Indus, Yarlung, Yangtze, Yellow, Mekong, and Nujiang.


The Himalayas are the third largest deposit of ice and snow in the world, after Antarctica and the Arctic. There are approximately 15,000 glaciers located throughout the range. At 48 miles (72 km) in length, the Himalayan Siachen glacier is the largest glacier outside the poles.

Other notable glaciers located in the Himalayas include the Baltoro, Biafo, Nubra, and Hispur.

Himalayan Population

  • Over 50 million people live in the Himalayan range, which includes northeast India, Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan. 
  • The Himalayas are home to Aryans, Mongoloids, and Negroids. 
  • Furthermore, 600 million people live in the basins produced by rivers rising in the Himalayas, such as the Indus, Ganges, and Tsangpo-Brahmaputra. 
  • Of the four principal language families in the Indian subcontinent—Indo-European, Tibeto-Burman, Austroasiatic, and Dravidian—the first two are well represented in the Himalayas. 
  • People in different Himalayan areas are affected by diverse cultures and have their own faith and beliefs. 
  • The culture of the valleys in the middle Himalayas is comparable to that of Afghans and Iranians. 

People of the Himalayas

In ancient times, peoples speaking languages from both families mixed in varying proportions in different areas. Their distribution is the result of a long history of penetrations by Central Asian and Iranian groups from the west, Indian peoples from the south, and Asian peoples from the east and north. 

In Nepal, which constitutes the middle third of the Himalayas, those groups overlapped and intermingled. The penetrations of the lower Himalayas were instrumental to the migrations into and through the river-plain passageways of South Asia.

The Greater Himalayas

The Great Himalayas and the Tethys Himalayas are inhabited by Tibetans and peoples speaking other Tibeto-Burman languages. Tibetans on Mount Everest’s north slope practise Tibetan Buddhism.

The Lesser Himalayas

The Lesser Himalayas are the home of Indo-European language speakers. Among the latter are the Kashmiri people of the Vale of Kashmir and the Gaddi, the hill people with large flocks of sheep and herds of goat, and Gujari, the migrating pastoral community living off herds of sheep, goats and cattle for pasture. 

The Champa, Ladakhi, Balti, and Dard peoples live to the north of the Great Himalaya Range in the Kashmir Himalayas. The Dard speak Indo-European languages, while the others are Tibeto-Burman speakers. The Champa traditionally lead a nomadic pastoral life in the upper Indus valley. The Ladakhi have settled on terraces and alluvial fans that flank the Indus in the northeastern Kashmir region. The Balti have spread farther down the Indus valley and have adopted Islam.

Other Indo-European speakers are the Kanet in Himachal Pradesh and the Khasi in Uttarakhand. In Himachal Pradesh most people in the districts of Kalpa and Lahul-Spiti are the descendants of migrants from Tibet who speak Tibeto-Burman languages.


In Nepal, the Pahari, speaking Indo-European languages, constitute the majority of the population, although large groups of Tibeto-Burman speakers are found throughout the country. 

They include the Newar, the Tamang, the Gurung, the Magar, the Sherpa and other peoples related to the Bhutia, and the Kirat. The Kirat were the earliest inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley. 

The Tamang inhabit the high valleys to the northwest, north, and east of Kathmandu Valley. 

The Gurung live on the southern slopes of the Annapurna massif, pasturing their cattle as high as 12,000 feet (3,700 metres). 

The Magar inhabit western Nepal but migrate seasonally to other parts of the country. 

The Sherpa, who live to the south of Mount Everest, are famed mountaineers.

Sikkim & Bhutan

For some 200 years the Sikkim region and the kingdom of Bhutan have been safety valves for the absorption of the excess population of eastern Nepal. More Sherpa now live in the Darjiling area than in the Mount Everest homeland. At present the Pahari constitute the majority who come from Nepal in both Sikkim and Bhutan. 

Thus, the people of Sikkim belong to three distinct ethnic groups—the Lepcha, the Bhutia, and the Pahari. Generally speaking, the Nepalese and the Lepcha live in western Bhutan and the Bhutia of Tibetan origin in eastern Bhutan.

Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh is the homeland of several groups—the Abor or Adi, the Aka, the Apa Tani, the Dafla, the Khampti, the Khowa, the Mishmi, the Momba, the Miri, and the Singpho. Linguistically, they are Tibeto-Burman. Each group has its homeland in a distinct river valley, and all practice shifting cultivation (i.e., they grow crops on a different tract of land each year).

Population Growth Rate

From 1961 to 2011, the Himalayan population has grown by 250%, from 19.9 to 52.8 million. If the population keeps growing at the same rate (3.3% annually) as during the last fifty years (1961-2011), the number of people will exceed 260 million in 2061 (a 13-fold increase). 

Fortunately, recent decades show the growth rate slowing down. In Nepal, for example, the average annual growth rate between 1999-2001 was 2.25%, and between 2001-2011, it was 1.35% only. Nevertheless, in the last 50 years (1961-2011), the population of the Himalayan landscape increased by more than 32 million people.

Population Density

Barring only Nagaland, where apparently the population has declined, the density of population is on the rise. The growth rate has been approximately 28 per cent, 27 per cent and 25 per cent in Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, respectively, in the census for the decade 2001-11, compared to the all-India average of 17.6 per cent.

Sex Ratio 

Almost all the states of Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) exhibit an increase sex ratio during last five decades, and their average ratio (949 females/1000 males) is higher than the national average (940 females/1000 males). However, the drop in the corresponding ratio of the 0-6 years age group, considered to be a more revealing statistic, from 951 to 935, against India's 927 to 914 decline, becoming an area of concern. (Census 2011)

Literacy Rate  

The percentage of literates in the Indian Himalayan Region (about 79.35) is marginally higher than the national average (74.04%) as recorded in 2011 census. Majority of the districts have literacy rates higher than the region's average. The literacy rate of more than 50% of IHR population is between 70 to 90%.  Mizoram recorded the highest literacy rate (91.58%), while Arunachal Pradesh recorded the lowest literacy (65.38%) among IHR states.

Urbanisation Trends

As per Census 2011, the urban population in the Himalayan states grew at not less than 40 per cent, much more than the meagre 12 per cent growth of their rural population, and certainly faster than the growth in the all-India picture.

Additional Facts

  • The Himalayas are the result of tectonic plate motions that collided India into Tibet.
  • Because of the great amount of tectonic motion still occurring at the site, the Himalayas have a proportionally high number of earthquakes and tremors.
  • The Himalayas are one of the youngest mountain ranges on the planet.
  • The range affects air and water circulation systems, impacting the weather conditions in the region.
  • The Himalayas cover approximately 75% of Nepal.
  • Serving as a natural barrier for tens of thousands of years, the range prevented early interactions between the people of India and the people of China and Mongolia.
  • Mt. Everest was named after Colonel Sir George Everest, a British surveyor who was based in India during the early-to-mid-nineteenth century.
  • The Nepalese call Mt. Everest “Samgarmatha” which can be translated as “Goddess of the Universe” or “Forehead of the Sky.”
  • In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay were the first people to successfully climb to the summit of Everest.
  • Despite its name, the Snow Leopard – a Himalayan local – is actually most closely related to the Tiger.


Himalayas: Fun Facts

  • The Highest Mountain Range in the World

A humangous mountain range, the Himalayas has 30 peaks that tower over 24,000 feet and average about 200 miles in width. In fact, the Himalayas cover about 0.4 percent of the surface area of the Earth.

  • Youngest in the World

At about 70 million years old, the Himalayas are the youngest mountain ranges in the world.

  • They’re Getting Taller!

Scientific tests have led to the discovery that the Himalayas are geographically alive! Research has shown that the Indo-Australian plate moves about 20 mm per year, causing the mountains to continue to grow. This means those mountains are going to be even taller.

  • The Family of Eight-Thousanders

The Himalayan Ranges has 25 points, which exceed 8000 meters.

  • The Most Virginal Part on Earth

Very few people visit the Himalayas and after the Antarctica, it is the 2nd most virginal part on earth.

  • Third Pole of Earth

Since the Himalayas, spread across over 4.2 million square kilometres, store the highest amount of snow and ice after the North and the South pole, they are also known as the third pole of Earth.

  • Geographic Variation

Due to the length, breadth and height of the mountain range, the Himalayas have a variety of geographical landscapes. Farther up in elevation, you’ll find snow-capped mountains, but traveling along the base you’ll find lush green valleys and dense jungles. This also means there are great changes in climate. Near the peaks, it is cold and icy. Near the bottom, the climate is wetter and warmer. Winter and summer are the only seasons that really occur on the mountains.

  • Home of Snow that Never Melts

The tallest mountain in the Himalayas and the world, Mount Everest’s upper portion is covered with snow that never melts. In fact, the glaciers around Mount Everest are reservoirs of freshwater.

  • Rivers that Flow from the Himalayas

The Ganges, the Indus, the Brahmaputra, the Mekong, the Yangtze and the Yellow Rivers all originate in the Himalayas. This water supplies three primary river systems in Southeast Asia: Indus Basin, Yangtze Basin and Ganga-Brahmaputra. Interestingly, those rivers are actually older than the Himalayan peaks!

  • Exotic Wildlife

Due to its unique climate and geography, the Himalayas are home to some of the rarest species in the animal kingdom. Snow leopards, wild goats, Tibetan sheep, musk deer and mountain goats can be seen stalking, jumping and leaping through the mountains.

  • Mountain Names

Mount Everest was named by Sir Andrew Waugh in 1865 in honor of his predecessor Sir George Everest who was the Surveyor General of India from 1830 to 1843. However, the locals have their own names for the giant mountain. The Tibetans and Sherpas call it Chomolungma, which means “Mother Goddess of the Earth.” While, Nepalese term the Himalayas as 'Sagarmatha’ which means “forehead of the sky.” 

  • Danger on Mount Everest

Around 150 people have died during their expeditions to the peaks of Mount Everest. Frigid climate and unstable terrain make a climb to the peak dangerous and thrilling. With a death rate of 9 percent, the climb is not for the faint of heart.

  • Natural Sanctuary

Despite the sometimes-harsh conditions, there are people who reside in the Himalayas. The majority of these residents are those who live in the mountain monasteries. With Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism in the region, the mountains can be a perfect location for religious teachings and spiritual exploration. Some monasteries are modern, but many are believed to be more than 1,000 years old!

  • Himalayas feed 20% of the Earth’s population

With approximately 15,000 glaciers, holding around 600 billion tonnes of ice, the Himalayas help 1.65 billion people (20% of the world’s population) as they feed major perennial river systems like the Indus and Mekong.

  • Mount Kailash – Pilgrim Site for 4 Religions

Nestled in the Himalayas, Mount Kailash is a spiritual and religious site for 4 religious traditions – Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Bőn. Tibetan Buddhists regard Mount Kailash as the abode of the tantric meditation deity, Demchog, while Hindus believe it’s the home of Lord Shiva. It is also regarded as the site where the Jain prophet received entitlement while for Bőn practitioners; the mountain is the center of spiritual energy and power.

  • Yetis and Other Legends

The Himalayan mountains stretch across five different countries: India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and Pakistan. For this reason, much folklore and mythology revolves around the mountain range. A Sherpa legend—which has also become integrated in Western pop culture—tells of the Yeti, which is said to be an ape-like monster that roams the Himalayas.

  • Colored Pencils on the Peak

Tenzing Norgay from Nepal and Edmund Hillary from New Zealand were the first people to climb to the peak of Everest in 1953. The duo had a total of 15 minutes to spend on top on Everest, which, rumor has it, gave Tenzing enough time to bury his daughter’s red and blue pencils on the peak.