Himachal takes its name from the Himalayas. Himachal literally means 'Land of snowy mountains'. Himalayas, the great mountain system extends almost 2,500 Km., from North-West to South-East and width of Himalayas is between 250 to 300 Km. The Himalayas are one of the youngest among the mountain system in India and these are believed to be 40 millions years old. The Himalayas are also the highest mountain system in the world.
There are three Himalayan zones :
Himachal Pradesh can be divided into three zones :
- The outer Himalayas
- The inner Himalayas
- The greater Himalayas
The outer Himalayas
The Outer Himalayas : The altitude of this zone ranges from 350 meters (1050 feet) to 1500 meters (4500 feet) above mean sea level. This range of outer (lower) Himalayas is well known as 'Shivalik Hills' (also known as Manak Parbat in ancient times). Shivalik literally means 'tresses of the Shiva'. It covers the lower hills of district Kangra, Hamirpur, Una, Bilaspur and lower parts of Mandi, Solan and Sirmaur districts. The famous places in this zone are Paonta valley, Nahan tehsil, Pachhad and Renuka tehsils of Sirmaur districts, Balh valley and Jogindernagar area of Mandi district, Kangra, Dharamshala, Palampur and Dehra of district Kangra, Dalhousie, Bhattiyat, Churah and Chamba tehsil of Chamba district. The annual rainfall in this zone varies from 1500 mm to 1800 mm. The climate and soil of this zone is suitable for the cultivation of maize, wheat, sugarcane, ginger, citrus fruits and table potatoes.
The Inner Himalayas :
The Inner Himalayas :- The altitude of this zone varies from 1500 meters (4500 feet) to 4500 meters (13,500 feet) above mean sea level. The Himalayas in this zone show a gradual elevation towards the Dhauladhar (Dhauladhar means White Peak) and Pir Panjal Ranges. Areas in this zone are tehsil Pachad (upper areas), District Sirmour, Karsog and Chachiote tehsils of Mandi district, the upper areas of district Kangra and Palampur tehsil of Kangra district, upper hills of District Shimla (capital of Himachal Pradesh) and upper parts of tehsil Churah of Chamba district. there is a very high peak of Choordhar (3,647 meters or 10,941 feet) to the south of Shimla. The positional rise of the Himalayas is constant to the North of Satluj. The longitudinal valleys in Himachal Pradesh divide the series of parallel ranges but there is also an exception as the Kullu valley runs transverse to the main alightment. the Himalayas continue to rise from plain areas to the Hilly areas. The climate and soil in this zone is suitable to temperature fruits and seed potatoes. Dhauladhar branch of the great Himalayas starts from the near Badrinath (in U.P.) and (just like a fairy tale to me spoken by the great Himalayas) it is intercepted by the river Satluj at Rampur-Bushahar, by the river Beas at Larji and by the river Ravi at the south-west of Chamba. In Bara-Banghal, the northern side of Dhauladhar strikes against the southern side of the Pir-Panjal range at twisty montain of Bara-Banghal. In Dhauladhar range fall the breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. Dhauladhar is like a sweet twist of the great Himalayas. There is a sudden rise in Dhauladhar mountains of 3,600 meters or 10,800 feet above the Kangra valley. Pir-Panjal is the largest range of the lower Himalayas and it separates itself from the Himalayas near the bank of Satluj river, so it makes a water-divide between the rivers Beas and Ravi on the one side and the river Chenab on the other side. Pir-Panjal range makes a turn towards the Dhauladhar range near Bara-Banghal that is the source of the river Ravi.
The Greater Himalayas :
The Greater Himalayas : The altitude of this zone ranges from 4500 meters (13,500 feet) to the highest points of the great Himalayas in different areas. The Great Himalayan range rivers along the Eastern boundary. The Satluj river divides it and separates the Spiti's (Lahaul-Spiti) drainage from Beas. Area in this zone are district Kinnaur, tehsil Pangi of Chamba district and some areas of Lahaul and Spiti. The normal rainfall in this zone is low. The climate in this zone is not cold in summer and of semi-arctic nature in winter. The soil is thick and supports variable fertility. The climate in this zone is very suitable for cultivation of dry fruits. Rainfall in this zone is low but Snowfall is very heavy. Snowfall in this zone starts in the mid of October-November to March-April. Snowfall is so heavy and geographical conditions are so odd that during the period of snowfall, the whole region remains cut off from the rest of the world. ( Loss of not having any kind of underground tunnel is clearly visible. Well ! let's see what happens in coming years. Hope that government would find a way out of this problem.) During the period of snowfall in this zone, the quality of life suffers and life looks very isolated. The famous Zanskar Range is also found in this part of the Himalayas which is Eastern most range. This range acts like a big wall by separating Spity and Kinnaur from Tibet. Zanskar Range has a number of very high peak points rising over 6,500 meters (19,500 feet). The highest among its peaks is Shilla which is 7,025 meters (21,075 feet) high. The second one is Riwo-Phargyul which is 6,791 meters (20,373 feet) high.