'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Monday, February 15, 2010


“I was told (by a resident of Darjeeling) that the summit of Kinchinjunga is often hidden in the clouds, and that sometimes a tourist has waited twenty-two days and then been obliged to go away without a sight of it. And yet was not disappointed; for when he got his hotel bill he recognized that he was now seeing the highest thing in the Himalayas.”
- Mark Twain, sometime in the 19th century (before Everest was measured accurately).

I remember a time long gone when the wonderfully alliterative name 'Kanchenjunga' first hurled into view in a children's atlas and one went 'kanjenjenjenjen...' with it. Sure enough, 'Kanchenjunga' is to mountains what 'Tintoretto' is to artists(*).

A decade and some ago, I first glimpsed the peak - had made the hugely over-hyped 'mountain flight' from Kathmandu and the flight attendant pointed out a wall-like snowy range far to the east and said: "...and that's Kanchenjunga!"

A few days ago, at Gangtok, Sikkim, I got lucky with the weather and saw the mountain again. Just under an hour of power-walking from Gangtok is 'Tashi Viewpoint' where stands a tower from atop which a whole range of mountains consisting of Kanchenjunga, Siniolchu and so forth are impressively visible. A slight goof-up with scheduling ensured that I missed sunrise "pour molten gold over the peaks"; but an hour of staring at silvery ice was not bad at all by any means. Indeed, the visual impact of the spectacle is comparable to (although not quite an equal to) the view of the Annapurna Range from Sarangkot, Nepal.

Wiki says Kanchenjunga has five separate peaks. From Tashi, only two could be made out; an identical pair of protuberances rising from the broad and rugged visage of the mountain - they were reminiscent of Moses' horns. Presently, a solitary plume of white vapor rose from the very top; it persisted and snaked quite some distance into the deep blue above. The mountain looked like a steaming volcano.

The 'book' says the mountain is the guardian diety of Sikkim.An online source says: the name means “Five Treasures of Snow,” referring to Kangchenjunga’s five peaks. The Tibetan words are: Kang (Snow) chen (Big) dzö (Treasury) nga (Five). The five treasures are Gold, Silver, Precious Stones, Grain, and Holy Scriptures. So the correct spelling should be 'Kangchendzonga'.

A much simpler derivation of the name could be the Sanskrit kanchana+jangha = 'golden thigh'
But then, it is difficult to correlate anything of what is visible of the mountain to the thigh of any living being.

Aside: the phrase 'golden thigh' does have significance in a different context. Among the several semi-divine attributes tradition assigns the great Greek philosopher Pythagoras was a mysterious 'golden thigh'!

The smaller Siniolchu peak has been described as the most beautiful on earth; it might well be that but not when viewed from Tashi; what I saw of it is not really in the class of Machchhapuchre (as it appears from Sarangkot).

(*)- Let me quote myself from an earlier post: "Tintoretto was the best-sounding name any painter ever had!"
And nearly a quarter of a century ago, a smart and daring bit of investigative journalism was seralized in a newspaper in far-away Kerala. The theme: scary details of illegal ganja (cannabis) cultivation and drug processing in the high ranges of Kerala's Western Ghats. The title: 'A journey through 'Ganjanjunga''


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