River of Stars

-a dispatch from the grief process

I haven’t felt like writing here much this past week. Today I saw something really impressive though that triggered a whole cascade of memories and thoughts.

A photographer has created images of some of the world’s most well known cities showing what their night sky would look like without light pollution.

Rio in the dark.

Tokyo in the dark.

Paris in the dark.

There’s a whole bunch more you can see here http://imgur.com/gallery/Yrb9S

This is beautiful.

If you’ve ever been in remote mountains or out in the desert anywhere you’ve seen what the night sky really looks like. It’s fabulous.

In the villages in the Himalaya in Uttarakhand local people call the Milky Way "assi ganga" which means literally sky ganga or river of stars. This may be Garhwali dialect, not Hindi. The Hindi word for sky generally is “aakaash” (आकाश)

There is a small tributary of the Bhagirathi River (the main tributary of the Ganga) that is also called Asi Ganga which mythologically has the same origin as the "Sky Ganga" according to local people. This Asi Ganga is just a little north of Uttarkashi on the way to Gangotri and the Gangotri glacier which is the origin of the Ganga (Ganges River). I have been many times to the Asi Ganga and to Gangotri, including climbing the glacier to Tapovan and Shivling base camp, with Manoj. Whenever we went to Uttarkashi, which was at least twice a year, we’d picnic by the Asi Ganga.

So these night skies are wonderful. I wonder if I will ever see them again.

We should ban electric light from midnight onward. At least.

In Mussoorie (India, where I have lived for much of the time for the past 10 years with Manoj) they turn off the street lights at night. The timing depends on whether it’s tourist season or not. When it’s not tourist season, like in the winter, they go off at about 11PM. In tourist season they don’t go off until about 1AM.

Here’s a couple of my pictures of Mussoorie, Uttarakhand in the foothills of the Indian Himalaya in winter when we used to live on the hill above the Mall Road.


That’s looking to the west and down to the Doon Valley in the distance.


This is looking towards the east along Mall Road towards Gun Hill.

I will miss this place so much.

But it’s not the same now.

2 comments on “River of Stars

Comments are closed.