December 11 is celebrated as International Mountain Day every year in order to acknowledge the significance of mountain ecosystems and their indigenous peoples across the world.
Let us look at some interesting facts about Odisha and its mountains, along with the need for the celebration of such a day.
1) Deomali Peak in the Koraput district, with an elevation of 1,672 meters, is the highest peak in Odisha. It is a part of the Chandragiri-Pottangi subrange of the Eastern Ghats.
Surrounded by deep forests, the peak is rich in flora and fauna as well as in mineral resources like bauxite, limestone, and gemstones.
Deomali is inhabited by the tribes Kandhas, Parajas, Bhumias, Malis and Bhotias.
2) Mahendragiri is the second largest mountain peak in the state after the Deomali. Located in the Paralakhemundi subdivision of the Gajapati district, it has an elevation of 1,501 meters.
Enshrined in mythological history, it is referred to in the Ramayana as the Mahendra Parvata. The Puranas and Mahabharata speak of the chiranjeevi Lord Parashurama performing tapasya and living here eternally.
The Mahendragiri Hill is home to over 600 flowering and medicinal plants. Work is on for the declaration of Mahendragiri as a biosphere reserve.
3) The Khandadhar Hill lying in the Keonjhar and Sundergarh districts has two waterfalls of the same name. The Khandadhar Fall Keonjhar lies on the Keonjhar side of the mountain, while the Khandadhar Fall Sundergarh lies on the Sundergarh side of the mountain.
The Keonjhar falls is 152 metres high and has a smoke-like appearance caused due to the spraying of water on the rock face. The Sundergarh fall was named Khandadhar as it has a sword-like appearance (khanda meaning sword and dhar meaning blade).
4) Langudi Hills in Jajpur is home to an ancient Buddhist site, believed to be older even than other famous centers of Buddhist learning like Nalanda and Vikramashila.
Pushpagiri was an ancient Buddhist mahavihara located atop Langudi Hill, which is now popularly frequented by travelers.
In 2000, archeological excavations at the site revealed a large stupa, pillars, a fragmented Brahmi inscription, terracotta seals and Northern Black Polished Ware.
5) Gudahandi Hills is a pre-historic site dated back to 25000 to 20000 BCE, located in Ampani Sanctuary, Kalahandi. The Gudahandi hills are so named because of their resemblance to the jaggery pot used in Odisha (guda meaning jaggery and handi meaning pot).
The red slate stone caves in these hills are natural caves, and the paintings and inscriptions on the cave walls are believed to belong to the period of the Indus Valley Civilisation.
6) Kalpana Dash holds the honour of being the first woman mountaineer from the state of Odisha as well as the first Odia mountaineer to scale the Mount Everest.
She achieved the feat on 21st May 2008 after two failed attempts in 2004 and 2006.
Dash has successfully conquered the highest peaks of 4 other continents- Mt. Kilimanjaro of the Tanzania range in Africa, Mt. Aconcagua of the Andes in South America, Mt. Elbrus of the Caucasus Range in Europe and Mt. Kosciuszko of Australia.
On 23rd May 2019, Dash once again, successfully climbed the Everest, but became ill during the descent, and died just above its balcony.
7) Ganesh Chandra Jena is the second Odia after Kalpana Dash, and the first male person from the state to successfully climb the Mount Everest. He etched history on the 18th of May, 2011.
On 1st August 2015, a six-member team headed by Jena successfully summitted the 5,642 meter high Mount Elbrus, in Moscow, Russia.
Jena is the first Indian mountaineer to complete a traverse climbing (to climb a mountain by one route and come down by another) of the Mount Elbrus. He climbed the mountain from the South side and climbed down by the North.
8) The theme of the International Mountain Day for 2019 is “Mountains Matter for Youth”. The theme has been chosen in order to highlight the challenges and struggles faced by rural youth living in the mountains.
International Mountain Day has been celebrated across the globe since the United Nations General Assembly established it in 2003, so as to promote and encourage sustainable development and conservation of the mountain ecosystem.
Mountains are home to 15 per cent of the human population and a quarter of the world’s land animals and plants.
(This article first appeared in LocalWire)