The Himalaya Range or Himalayas for short (English pronunciation:/hɪˈmɑːləjə/ or /ˌhɪməˈleɪ.ə/; Sanskrit: हिमालय), meaning "abode of snow", is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. By extension, it is also the name of a massive mountain system that includes the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, and other, lesser, ranges that extend out from the Pamir Knot.

The Himalayan mountain system is the planet's highest and home to the world's highest peaks, the Eight-thousanders, which include Mount Everest and K2. To comprehend the enormous scale of this mountain range consider that Aconcagua, in the Andes, at 6962m (22841ft), is the highest peak outside Asia, whereas the Himalayan system includes over 100 mountains exceeding 7200metres (23622ft).

The Himalayan system, which includes outlying subranges, stretches across six countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Some of the world's major rivers, the Indus, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, and the Yangtze, rise in the Himalayas, and their combined drainage basin is home to some 1.3 billion people. The Himalayas have profoundly shaped the cultures of South Asia; many Himalayan peaks are sacred in both Hinduism and Buddhism.

The main Himalaya range runs, west to east, from the Indus river valley to the Brahmaputra river valley, forming an arc 2400km (1490mi) long, which varies in width from 400km in the western Kashmir-Xinjiang region to 150km in the eastern Tibet-Arunachal Pradesh region. The range consists of three coextensive sub-ranges, with the northern-most, and highest, known as the Great or Inner Himalayas.

The flora and fauna of the Himalayas varies with climate, rainfall, altitude, and soils. The climate ranges from tropical at the base of the mountains to permanent ice and snow at the highest elevations. The amount of yearly rainfall increases from west to east along the front of the range. This diversity of climate, altitude, rainfall and soil conditions generates a variety of distinct plant and animal communities.

The Himalayas are among the youngest mountain ranges on the planet and consist mostly of uplifted sedimentary and metamorphic rock. According to the modern theory of plate tectonics, their formation is a result of a continental collision or orogeny along the convergent boundary between the Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. This is referred to as a fold mountain.

The collision began in the Upper Cretaceous period about 70 million years ago, when the north-moving Indo-Australian Plate, moving at about 15cm per year, collided with the Eurasian Plate. About 50 million years ago, this fast moving Indo-Australian plate had completely closed the Tethys Ocean, the existence of which has been determined by sedimentary rocks settled on the ocean floor and the volcanoes that fringed its edges. Since these sediments were light, they crumpled into mountain ranges rather than sinking to the floor. The Indo-Australian plate continues to be driven horizontally below the Tibetan plateau, which forces the plateau to move upwards. 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.

The Indo-Australian plate is still moving at 67mm per year, and over the next 10 million years it will travel about 1,500km into Asia. About 20mm per year of the India-Asia convergence is absorbed by thrusting along the Himalaya southern front. This leads to the Himalayas rising by about 5mm per year, making them geologically active. The movement of the Indian plate into the Asian plate also makes this region seismically active, leading to earthquakes from time to time.

The Himalayan range encompasses about 15,000 glaciers, which store about 12,000km of freshwater. The 70km long Siachen Glacier at the India-Pakistan border is the second longest glacier in the world outside the polar region. Some of the other more famous glaciers include the Gangotri and Yamunotri (Uttarakhand), Nubra, Biafo and Baltoro (Karakoram region), Zemu (Sikkim) and Khumbu glaciers (Mount Everest region).

The higher regions of the Himalayas are snowbound throughout the year in spite of their proximity to the tropics, and they form the sources for several large perennial rivers, most of which combine into two large river systems:

The eastern-most Himalayan rivers feed the Ayeyarwady River, which originates in eastern Tibet and flows south through Myanmar to drain into the Andaman Sea.

The Salween, Mekong, the Yangtze and the Huang He (Yellow River) all originate from parts of the Tibetan plateau that are geologically distinct from the Himalaya mountains, and are therefore not considered true Himalayan rivers. Some geologists refer to all the rivers collectively as the circum-Himalayan rivers. In recent years scientists have monitored a notable increase in the rate of glacier retreat across the region as a result of global climate change. Although the effect of this won't be known for many years it potentially could mean disaster for the hundreds of millions of people who rely on the glaciers to feed the rivers of northern India during the dry seasons.

According to a UN climate report, the Himalayan glaciers that are the sources of Asia's biggest rivers could disappear by 2035 as temperatures rise and India, Tibet, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar could experience floods followed by droughts in coming decades.

Several places in the Himalaya are of religious significance in Hinduism and Buddhism. In Hinduism, the Himalaya have also been personified as the god Himavat, the father of Shiva's consort, Parvati.

Some of the important religious places in the Himalayas are:-

In addition, to the above, a number of Tibetan Buddhist sites are situated in the Himalaya, including the residence of the Dalai Lama. There were over 6,000 monasteries in Tibet. The Tibetan Muslims had their own mosques in Lhasa and Shigatse.

The following mystic entities are associated with the Himalayas:

Himalaya is from the collection Hunkar (epic poem) (A Roar) by Rashtrakavi Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar' which has been described by a critic as burning coals in the shade of playful rainbow. In this poem the loftiness of the Himalayas reflects metaphorically the Mahatma, whom he invokes to rise to action, leaving the path of the mystical meditation of the ascetic.

Few stanzas in translation are:

My king of mountains! My magnificent one! Radiant embodiment of great glory! Flame of fierce, accumulated prowess! Snowy diadem of my motherland! Effulgent brow of my Bharat! My king of mountains! My magnificent one!

Unvanquished, unfettered, free through the ages, Sacred, righteously proud and great through the ages, What glory have you been radiating Through the ages in the limitless sky? How unbroken is your eternal meditation! Sages of sages! How unending your concentration! Pouring into infinite space, what intricate problems Do you seek to solve? What intractable web of perplexities? My king of mountains! My magnificent one!

O sage engrossed in silent tapasya! Open your eyes atleast for a moment! Our country is burning, in flames Writhing restlessly at your feet! The blessed Indus, the five rivers, Brahmaputra Ganga and Yamuna - the nectar-swept streams That flow to the blessed land Are abundant with your melting compassion. At the gates of that land, You, the guardian of its borders, Have challenged, 'You must cut off my head Before you can trample over this land. O pious sage, a great misfortune has fallen today On that same land of piety! Afflicted, the children are writhing Bitten by countless snakes from four directions. My king of mountains! My magnificent one!