Mahabharat Lekh

Mahabharat Lekh

The Mahabharat Lekh or Range is a major east-west mountain range generally 1,500 to 3,000 meters high across Nepal. East of Nepal it extends through Sikkim and Bhutan but is difficult to differentiate from other Himalayan ranges in India's Arunachal Pradesh. West of Nepal the range extends across northern India to the Indus River in Pakistan. The Mahabharat Range is also called the 'Lesser Himalaya' and Lower Himalayan Range. It parallels the much higher Himalaya range which lies about 100 kilometers to the north, and the lower Siwalik or Churia Range (Outer Himalaya) to the south.

Southern slopes of the Mahabharat Range are steep and nearly uninhabited due to a major fault system called the 'Main Boundary Thrust". The crest and northern slopes slope gently enough to support upland pastures and terraced fields. Nepal's densely populated Middle Hills begin along the crest, extending north through lower valleys and other "hills" until elevations rise above 3,000 meters and cereal-based agriculture gives way to seasonal herding and limited cold-tolerant crops such as potatoes.

Most ethnic groups found along the Mahabharat Range and northward into the Middle Hills have Tibeto-Burman affinities including Newar, Magar, Gurung, Tamang, Rai and Limbu, however the most numerous ethnic group is indo-european Hindus called Paharis, mainly of the upper Brahman and Kshatriya or Chhetri castes. Lower terrain south of the escarpment was historically malarial and inhabited by apparently aboriginal peoples with evolved immunity, notably the Tharu.

The Mahabharat Range is an important hydrographic barrier crossed by relatively few rivers. Drainage systems have evolved candelabra configurations with numerous tributaries flowing south from the Himalaya through the Middle Hills, gathering immediately north of the Mahabharat Range and cutting through in major gorges as the Karnali in the west, the Gandaki or Narayani in central Nepal, and the Kosi in the east.

With temperatures persisting around forty degrees celsius in the plains of India from April until the onset of the summer monsoon in June, but ten to fifteen degrees cooler atop the Mahabharat Range, dozens of Hill Stations were developed as alternate capitals and resorts for the hot season by India's Mughal and British rulers. There were no hill stations per se in Nepal, Sikkim or Bhutan since the capital cities were already high enough to avoid extreme heat.

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