By Dr Tania Saili Bakshi & Nikita Aggarwal
Dehradun, 4 Feb: The enchanting landscapes and captivating cultures of Uttarakhand took centre-stage, today, as literary enthusiasts and curious minds gathered at the Valley of Words|Shabdavali (VoW Cafe). ‘Author from the Valley’ stood witness to a profound exploration into the heart of the Himalaya with Neha Mittal’s latest creation, “Devbhoomi Uttarakhand: The Fascinating Cultures of Central Himalaya.”
The session, expertly moderated by the accomplished Deepanjali Singh, provided a platform for an in-depth discussion on the book’s themes, insights, and the cultural treasures of Uttarakhand.
Authored by IAAS officer Neha Mittal, “Devbhoomi Uttarakhand” unveils the mysteries and cultural richness of India’s most breathtaking hill state. As Mittal eloquently puts it, “When I was researching for the book, I realised that Uttarakhand is a culturally fascinating state where every corner has a different folklore or belief. We need an account where all this can be put together in simple language and interesting illustrations.”
Neha Mittal, a distinguished Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IAAS) Officer of the 2018 batch, holds a pivotal role at the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG)’s office in Uttarakhand. A skilled storyteller and researcher, Mittal’s connection with the mountains began with training at the prestigious institutes of LBSNAA in Mussoorie and NAAA in Shimla. Her initial posting in Dehradun allowed her to intimately experience the culture of Uttarakhand, serving as a profound source of motivation for her book on the subject.
Talking about the author, Festival Director, Dr Sanjeev Chopra said, “Legend and fable, history and geography, cultures and livelihoods, maps and illustrations are all embedded in a wonderful narrative by civil servant Neha Mittal in her fascinating book on Devbhoomi Uttarakhand. It’s a book for all seasons, and for all age groups, and VoW Cafe is delighted to host this conversation.”
Covering topics such as the sacred history of the Char-Dham pilgrimage, the intriguing story of the Goddess Nanda Devi, the forests and bugyals (meadows) of the region, and folklores of Kumaon, Garhwal, and Jaunsar, the pages dive into various facets of Uttarakhand such as retracing the Pandavas’ journey to heaven to feeling the pulse of the divine landscape, Mittal’s work captures Uttarakhand’s picturesque terrain.
Mittal’s narrative takes readers on a journey from the sacred to the mysterious, unravelling the essence of Uttarakhand where myth, history, and geography blend to create a sanctuary for, both, pilgrims and seekers. She seamlessly connects the Mahabharata to the four pilgrimage sites of Uttarakhand, adding layers of historical and cultural depth to her narrative. The illustrations and maps added to the text provide readers a visual feast to complement the rich storytelling.
In a noteworthy section, Mittal delves into the story of Keedha Jadi or caterpillar fungus also known as Himalayan Gold, shedding light on the black marketing of this elusive fungus.
Deepanjali, a multifaceted personality: author, poet, painter, and educationist, moderated the session with grace and expertise. The book discussion session further witnessed Neha Mittal presenting a captivating summary of “Devbhoomi Uttarakhand”. The in-depth conversation allowed the listeners to understand Mittal’s motivations, research methodologies, and personal experiences during the creation of this literary gem.
“In Deepanjali Singh, we have a great interlocutor who does justice not just to the content of the book under conversation, but also helps build the context in which the right questions are asked – for an effective dialogue is one in which issues come to the fore, and enhance the understanding of the issues under consideration,” added Chopra.
“Devbhoomi Uttarakhand” is a must-read for anyone connected to Uttarakhand or has a curiosity to know about the hill state. The book goes beyond a mere historical account, providing a profound understanding of the people, their mindset, and the deep-rooted religious traditions that shape Uttarakhand’s identity. It stands as a testament to the fusion of religion and meticulous research on the diverse cultures, tribes, and people of Uttarakhand.