Sunanda Devi often referred to as Nanda Devi East is one of the two adjacent peaks of the second highest mountain in India, the other being Nanda Devi. It is the highest mountain entirely within the country. Another higher mountain Kangchenjunga is on the border of India and Nepal and therefore not entirely within India. It was the highest known mountain in the world until computations on Dhaulagiri by western surveyors in 1808. It was also the highest mountain in India before Sikkim joined the Indian Union. It is part of the Garhwal Himalayas, and is located in the state of Uttarakhand a newly created northern hill province of India. The graceful peaks of Nanda Devi and Sunanda Devi are visible from almost everywhere in Kumaon. The first ascent to the Sunanda Devi peak in recorded history appears to be in 1939 by J. Bujak and J. Klarner. The elevation of Sunanda Devi is 7,434 m (24,390 ft) and its coordinates are 30°22′33″N 79°58′14″E.
Sunanda Devi is the lower eastern summit of the twin peaks of Nanda Devi a two-peaked massif, forming a 2 kilometres long ridge, oriented east-west. The west summit is higher, and the eastern summit earlier called Nanda Devi East is now also referred to as Sunanda Devi . Together the peaks may be referred to as the peaks of the goddesses Nanda and Sunanda. These goddesses have occurred together in ancient Sanskrit literature, Srimad Bhagvatam or Bhagavata Purana (Gita Press has a two-volume English and Hindi translation) and are frequently worshipped together in the Kumaon division of India as well as elsewhere.Regarding certain mountains as sacred and associating them with specific gods and goddesses is a practice prevalent in other parts of Asia as well e.g. the volcanic Mount Fuji in Japan appears to have been named after the fire goddess. The first published reference to Nanda Devi East as Sunanda Devi appears to be in a recent novel (Malhotra 2011) that has the Kumaon region as backdrop. An annual festival celebrating the two goddesses is popular in Kumaon.
The Himalaya have also been personified as the god Himavat, the God of snow, who is mentioned in the Mahabharata. He is father of Ganga and Saraswati, that became rivers, and Parvati an avatar of the great Mother Goddess Durga, who married Shiva and the goddesses Nanda and Sunanda who too are avatars or close spiritual associates of the goddess Durga.
A four-member Polish expedition led by Adam Karpiński climbed the Sunanda Devi peak in 1939 from Longstaff Col which is the standard route on the peak. The summit party was Jakub Bujak and Janusz Klarner. Another attempt to reach the Sunanda Devi peak in 1951 resulted in the death of two members of a French expedition in 1951. Tenzing Norgay who first climbed Mount Everest was a part of the support team. He and Louis Dubost climbed Nanda Devi East to look for the missing pair. Tenzing Norgay later stated that it was the most difficult climb of his life, even more difficult than Everest.
Since then the peak has been reached by an Indo-French group in 1975 and perhaps also an Indian Army expedition in 1981 but the mountaineers in this last case did not survive to tell the story. The standard approach to the south ridge route is from the Milam Valley to the east, that passes through Lawan Glacier and onwards to Longstaff Col. The trek goes through the picturesque villages of Munsiyari, and Bhadeligwar.
Marco Dalla Longa led a large Italian expedition of twelve members to Sunanda Devi Summit in 2005. They approached the peak from Munsiary and the Milam valley. Camps were set up to 5400m. The Italian team made good progress on Nanda Devi East, through the Central Pillar on the East face. They were proceeding towards the summit when a long spell of bad weather from 9 September to 18 September made them sit up at the higher camps. Then tragedy struck the Italian team on Nanda Dev. Expedition leader Marco Dalla Longa died suddenly. He died by a coma stroke on 24 September. The team’s doctor suspected cerebral oedema. Marco was young and fit, with no health problems reported during the expedition up to that time.The entire expedition was evacuated by air from 27 September to Munsiary and to Delhi by air the next day.
Nanda Devi and Valley of flowers National Parks
Nanda Devi National Park along with the valley of flowers are some of the most spectacular wilderness areas in the Himalayas. It is dominated by the peaks of Nanda Devi and Sunanda Devi of India’s second highest mountain which is approached through the Rishi Ganga gorge, one of the deepest in the world. No humans live in the Park which has remained more or less intact because of its rugged inaccessibility. It has a very diverse flora and is the habitat of several endangered mammals, among them the snow leopard, serow, Himalayan musk deer and bharal. Nanda Devi National Park lies in eastern Uttaranchal State, near the Tibetan border in the Garhwal (western) Himalaya, 300 km northeast of Delhi.
- Aitken, Bill. (reprinted 1994). The Nanda Devi Affair, Penguin Books India. ISBN 0-14-024045-4.
- Malhotra, Ashok (2011) Nude Besides the Lake, Createspace ISBN 978-1463529390
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sunanda Devi.|