ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Re-enchanting the Himalayan Environment in Twenty-First-Century Travel Narratives?


Pozza Nicola - Department of South Asian Studies, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland


34 – Religious and Environmental Encounters: North Indian Mountains Through the Eyes of Travellers


 While the conceptions of the Himalaya have been “secularized” in the nineteenth-century travelogues (Banerjee & Basu 2015), before becoming the symbol of a quest for a deeper identity and meaning of life (Pozza 2015), how is this emblematic space of India perceived and described in contemporary travel narratives? More specifically, in the current context of extreme economic and tourism development in Uttarakhand, how do these texts address the religious dimension in relation to the environmental issues that are currently gaining prominence?

To address these questions, my contribution examines three contemporary Hindi writings resulting from journeys to the Himalaya undertaken by the writer and neurologist Ajoy Sodani: “Darrā-darrā himālay: sāhasik yāyāvarī kī gāthā” (2014); “Darakte himālay par dar-ba-dar: yāyāvarī duryodhan ke des mẽ (2018)”; and “Sārthavāh himālay: dāstā̃ kaśmakaś bharī yāyāvarī kī” (2022). In these narratives, religious references and a concern for environmental issues play a prominent role. By comparing them, I will analyse how the author describes the different spaces and landscapes he crossed during his various journeys, and the specific place he gives in his works to the religious and environmental issues. Eventually, the aim is to see how the traveller’s motives, experiences, and interpretations deal with the current Himalayan environment in comparison to the conceptions of the last two centuries.