The Himalayas, or Himalaya, is a mountain range in Asia separating the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau.

The Himalayan range has the Earth’s highest peaks, including the highest, Mount Everest. The Himalayas include over a hundred mountains exceeding 7,200 metres (23,600 ft) in elevation. By contrast, the highest peak outside Asia – Aconcagua, in the Andes – is 6,961 metres (22,838 ft) tall.

The Himalayas is spread across five countries: Bhutan, India, Nepal, People’s Republic of China, and Pakistan, with the first three countries having sovereignty over most of the range. The Himalayan range is bordered on the northwest by the Karakoram and Hindukush ranges, on the north by the Tibetan Plateau, and on the south by the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Some of the world’s major rivers, the Indus, the Ganges, and the Tsangpo-Brahmaputra, rise in the Himalayas, and their combined drainage basin is home to some 600 million people. The Himalayas have profoundly shaped the cultures of South Asia; many Himalayan peaks are sacred in Hinduism and Buddhism.

The Himalayan range is one of the youngest mountain ranges on the planet and consists mostly of uplifted sedimentary and metamorphic rock. According to the modern theory of plate tectonics, its formation is a result of a continental collision or orogeny along the convergent boundary between the Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. The Arakan Yoma highlands in Myanmar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal were also formed as a result of this collision.

Main Himalaya Range

This is the principal Himalayan mountain range dividing the Indian subcontinent from Nanga Parbat in the west, the range stretches for over 2,000-km to the mountains bordering Sikkim and Bhutan in the east. The west Himalaya is the part of this range that divides Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh from Ladakh. The highest mountains here are Nun and Kun. In Kashmir the subsidiary ridges of the Himalaya include the North Sonarmarg, Kolahoi and Amarnath ranges.

Further east, the Himalaya extends across to the Baralacha range in Himachal Pradesh before merging with the Parbati range to the east of the Kullu valley. It then extends across kinnaur Kailas to the swargarohini and Bandarpunch ranges in Uttaranchal. Further east it is defined by the snow capped range North of the Gangotri glacier and by the huge peaks in the vicinity of Nanda Devi, the highest mountain in the Indian Himalaya. In Western Nepal the range is equally prominent across the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri massifs, while in Eastern Nepal the main ridgeline frequently coincides with the political boundary between Nepal and Tibet.

The Main Himalayan Ranges are:
  • Pir Panjal Range
  • Dhaula Dhar Range
  • Zanskar Range
  • Ladakh Range
  • East Korakoram Range

Pir Panjal Range: To the south of the main Himalayas lies the Pir Panjal Range at an average height of 5,000m. From Gulmarg in the Northwest it follows the southern rim of the Kashmir valley to the Banihal pass. Here the Pir Panjal meets the ridgeline, which separates the Kashmir valley from the Warvan valley. The major passes here in Pir Panjal are the pir panjal pass due west of Srinagar, the Banihal pass which lies at the top of the Jhelum River at the southern end of the Kashmir valley, and the sythen pass linking Kashmir with Kishtwar.

Dhaula Dhar Range: To the south of the Pir Panjal lies the Dhaula Dhar range. It is easily visible because of its distinct feature of the snow-capped ridge, which forms the division between the Ravi and the Beas valleys. In the west it divides the Chenab valley and the Tawi valley. Towards the east it extends across Himachal Pradesh forming the high ridges of the Large Gorge and extending towards the south of the Pin Parvati valley before it forms the ridgeline east of the Sutlej River.

Zanskar Range: It lies to the north of the main Himalaya. It acts as a backbone of Ladakh south of the Indus River, extending from the ridges beyond Lamayuru in the west across the Zanskar region; there it is divided from the main Himalaya by the Stod and Tsarap valleys, the Zanskar valley. On the east of the Zanskar region the range continues through Lahaul and Spiti. While on the North it continues across the Kinnaur before extending towards west across Uttaranchal. Some of the main passes are the Fatu La, on the Leh-Srinagar road, while the main trekking passes into the Zanskar valley are Singge La, the Cha Cha La and the Rubrang La are.
Ladakh Range: To the north of the Leh lies the ladakh range and it is an important part of the Trans-Himalayan range that merges with the Kailash range in Tibet. Here the important passes are the famous Kardung La, and Digar La, which lie to the north east of Leh.

East Karakoram Range: It is a giant range, which geographically divides India and Central Asia. The range consists of high mountain peaks like Saltoro Kangri, Rimo and Teram Kangri. The Karakoram Pass acts as the main connector between the markets of Yarkand, Leh and Kashgar.

Siwalik Hills: It lies to the south of the Dhaula Dhar, with an average height of 1,500 to 2,000m.It includes the Jammu hills and Vaishno Devi, and extends to Kangra and if you move further east to the range south of Mandi. In Uttaranchal side it stretches from Dehradun to Almora before it heads across the southern borders of Nepal.

Outer Himalaya
  • Outer Himalaya Vedic name is Siwalik. It is youngest and lowest range of Himalaya. The height of this range varies between 600 m to 1500 m, but rarely exceeds 650 m.

Important Hills of Siwalik Range

  • Dalfa , Miri, Mishmi, Abor and Patkai in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Dhang range, Dundwa range, Churian and Muria Ghats in Nepal.
  • Jammu hills in Jammu & Kashmir.

Middle Himalaya or Lesser Himalaya
  • The Middle Himalaya forms the most intricate and rugged mountainous system, it is 60-80 km wide and 3700-4500m high. Its Vedic name is Himachal.
  • Most of the hills stations such as Dalhousie, Manali, Shimla, Nanital, Musoorie, Darjeeling, etc. are located in this range.
  • On Dhauladhar range, the hill stations of Shimla and Pir Panjal are Situated. The Kashmir valley which is about 150 km long and 80 km wide lies between the Pir Panjal and the Zaskar ranges.
  • From west to east, middle Himalaya is divided into following ranges:
    1. Pirpanjal range (J&K): It is longest range of the Middle Himalaya.
    2. Dhauladhar range (Himachal Pradesh)
    3. Mussoorie range (Uttarakhand)
    4. Nagtibba range (Uttarakhand)
    5. Mahabharat range (Nepal)

Inner Himalaya or Greater Himalaya
  • Inner Himalaya or greater Himalaya Vedic names are Himadri & Bahirgiri. It is the highest mountain range of the world. Its average height is 6100 m. Most of the world’s highest peaks are located in this Inner Himalayan region.

Important Peaks in Inner Himalaya

  1. Mount Everest (8848 m): Mount Everest is the highest peak in the world. It is located in Nepal. It is also known as Sagarmatha in Nepal and Chomolangma in China.
  2. Mount K-2 (8611 m): It is also known as Godwin Austin or Qagir. It is the highest peak of India and 2nd highest peak of the world. It is located in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir in Karakoram range.
  3. Mount Kanchenjunga (8598 m): It is the 2nd highest peak of India and third highest peak of the world. It is located in Sikkim region.

Hills of North Eastern States in India

  • Arunachal Pradesh : Dafla hills, Mishmi hills, Miri hills, abor hills and Patkai hills.
  • Nagaland : Naga hills
  • Assam : Mikkir hills
  • Mizoram : mizo or Lushai hills
  • Meghalaya : Garo, Khasi and Jaintia hills.

 Trans Himalaya
  • Trans Himalayan region lies behind Himalayas (mainly in western part of Himalayas) in Jammu and Kashmir and it comprises of Karakoram, Ladakh & Zaskar range. It includes lofty peaks and big glaciers such as Sachin, Baltaro, Biafo and Hispar, etc.
  • These ranges have been found even before the formation of Himalayas.
  • The highest peak of Karakoram range is Mount K-2 (8611 m) which is also known as Godwin-Austin or Qagir. The other important peak of this range  is Hidden peak (8068 m).
  • The Kailash range is an offshoot of the Ladakh range. Its average elevation is 5500 to 6000 m. The highest peak of Kailash range is Mount Kailash.