The unique, fascinating artistic heritage of the Himalayan region, the birthplace of two major world religions, is still largely unknown to the layperson. But the snow-covered mountains of the northern Indian subcontinent abound in beautiful religious and mythological treasures.
Until Singh coined the term 'Himalayan art' and published his book, there had been no general account of the subject. This was in no small part due to the remoteness of the communities within which this art resided. Singh made it his mission to travel in the most inhospitable conditions by all available means, covering the entire region including Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. He collected hundreds of photographs of manuscripts, sculptures and wall paintings.
It was thanks to the popularity of Singh's acclaimed book that thousands of tourists from all over the world thronged to the relatively ignored Himalayan region not just to conquer its nature, but also to see its culture. Even for Singh, expressly looking to document the region's art, this was not always obvious. Among the many anecdotes in the book is the revelation that Ladakh's Alchi monastery was discovered when the jeep Singh was travelling in fell into a trench. As it was being hauled out, Singh chanced upon a little-known shrine and was astonished to discover the hidden relics that today have made the monastery among the best known in the world.
What might have been as surprising to the author was the incredible success of the book. Even Singh found it impossible to get a copy of the book – until he chanced upon a second-hand copy in the bookshop of the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul.
Nishchal N. Pandey