Siachen – “Land of Wild Roses”

Siachen – “Land of Wild Roses”


Descending from 19,000 feet to 12,000 feet, over a length of 70 km, Siachen glacier (“land of wild roses”) is the worlds highest battleground since the year 1984. India controls its entire glacial length, adjoining peaks and the three passes, which are the gateway between Karakoram and  Ladakh. On the other hand, Pakistan controls its western glacial valley. It is estimated that the two nations, collectively have over 6,000 soldiers stationed at these formidable heights, manning over 150 posts, costing over US$500m annually. The military stand off leaves no scope for Pakistanis to ascend or for Indians to descend.



Map of Siachen glacier region

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The military stand off at Siachen region


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Isolated military posts in the Karakoram range at Siachen base camp


Having reached Nubra Valley from Leh, we followed Nubra river upstream, leading us to Siachen Glacier base camp. Here we were welcomed by the Sikh Light Infantry.


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A soldier of the Sikh Light Infantry at Siachen base camp


On the western side of the Siachen Glacier, the Karakoram mountain range nestles the valleys of Baltistan, which is in the Pakistan Administered Kashmir. While Pakistan and India fight over this territory, it is a faintly remembered fact that if not for the strategic game changing role played by the Sikh Empire in the Karakorams, it would today be a part of Afghanistan. For nearly a century, the region of Baltistan, Karakoram and Kashmir were under the Durranis, the rulers of Afghanistan. This region was then known as the eastern frontier of Afghanistan. Under the expansive policy of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Lion of Punjab, the Sikh Empire having ousted the Afghanis from Punjab, in 1819 AD took over Kashmir. Thereafter the Sikh Empire turned its attention towards Ladakh and included it under the Lahore Darbar in 1834. After the demise of Ranjit Singh, the Lahore Darbar turned its attention towards Baltistan (West of Siachen in the Karakoram range), which they conquered in 1840 AD. The boundaries of the Sikh Empire now extended from Peshawar in the West to river Sutlej in East (where British India started) and from Multan in South, to Kashmir, Ladakh and Baltistan in the North.


The Sikh rule in Kashmir lasted from 1819 AD till 1846 AD and in Baltistan from 1840 AD till 1846 AD. Though the rule in the Baltistan, Ladakh and Kashmir region lasted a short period but it was a point of deflection for the regions history. Ranjit Singh was a liberal ruler, in whose cabinet there was a representation in high posts from both Hindu and Muslim community. His Prime Minister was Dhian Singh, the Dogra Hindu King of Jammu, whom he trusted the most. Dhian Singh’s brother, Gulab Singh, a Dogra Hindu was a commander in Ranjit Singh’s army. After the demise of Ranjit Singh in 1839 AD, Gulab Singh deceived the Sikh Empire by secretly joining hands with British to cut off the military supplies to Sikh Army fighting the British at river Sutlej in 1846 AD. In exchange, for helping win over Sikhs, Gulab Singh Dogra was awarded an independent title of Kashmir and Baltistan by the British. The Sikh Empire was thereafter annexed into British India Empire in the year 1849 AD.


Reflecting back, the Sikh Empire’s conquest over Kashmir, Ladakh and Baltistan is the reason why these territories finally found a place in the map of British India after 1846. If not for the conquest, this region would today have been a part of Afghanistan. Thereafter, during independence of India in 1947 AD, the region of Kashmir and Baltistan became disputed between Pakistan and India, leading to the current military fiasco in the Karakoram range.


While the contribution of Sikhs in forming the modern history of this region is now a less known fact but the annals of history are well aware of the sacrifices made by the Army of Lahore Darbar in the formidable Karakoram region.


At the war memorial in Siachen Glacier, I was pleased to find a plaque reflecting the verses of Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh Guru. A reminder to the soldiers of the Sikh Light Infantry that the righteousness of life is to be privileged to die in the battle field.


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Siachen Base Camp : Verses by Guru Gobind Singh, 10th Guru of Sikhs, remind the Sikh Light Infantry of their duty


Having spent a few hours at Siachen base camp, briefly stepping on the receding glacial snowline, we headed back to Leh. Being a military zone, the region has no provision for a night stay.


The most impressionable sight during this journey was the shape of mountains along the Nubra river. This part of the Karakoram mountain range, I believe is the world’s steepest, with mountains rising literally ninety degrees from the ground, converging into pin-pointed peaks. When I say “pin-pointed”, believe me the top of these peaks offer stiff competition to the sharpness of pin tips.


In this isolated region, the power of perception and connection takes a quantum leap. As I tried to photograph the Creators magnificence in these strange peak formations, I was reminded of the verse by Saint Kabir,


Why search elsewhere?
Searching elsewhere, life ends.
In search, I returned after ascending the mountain
and found Him in my body castle



Siachen peaks along Nubra river

 Pointed peaks of Karakoram range

Siachen peaks along Nubra river

  Pointed peaks of Karakoram range


Siachen peaks along Nubra river

  Pointed peaks of Karakoram range


Siachen peaks along Nubra river

  Pointed peaks of Karakoram range


Siachen peaks along Nubra river

  Pointed peaks of Karakoram range


Siachen peaks along Nubra river

  Pointed peaks of Karakoram range


  1. rajit punhani

    wonderful ! when was this ? reminds me of my days in ladakh some time ago; nubra valley itself has so much to offer esp the unique double humped camels; and of course these photos of siachen are exclusive !!

  2. Hemani

    Beautiful photography Amardeep… Can’t imagine what it must be like to be there. Also the correlation between Siachen and Kabir’s baani… I wonder how close you must have felt to the creator that this came to your mind..

  3. adarsh

    Wow, its simply magnificent, excellent pictures….the range is so huge, wonder what it must have felt to be there n capture such exclusive shots.

  4. Karamjeet Singh

    Truly ! very exclusive shots of remote and forbidden mountains of Siachen.How did you reach those heights in itself must have been wondrous and thrilling.No doubt the ecstasy felt by you is supported by the Shlok of Bhagat Kabir in the Adi Granth.Mapping gives a vivid picture of the terrain.Nice job,Good luck!

  5. Surupa Chatterjee

    Loved the connect between the ranges and Kabir… expected…..magnificent abode of gods…….pristine , tranquil , privilege of a few…..

  6. It was the “Land of Wild Roses” before it became the highest battlefield of the world. It was the Armageddon of storms but the human megalomania made it the combat zone between two potential nations of the world. We believe that Pakistanis or Indians feel pride that this frozen pool exists in their area but not sure whether they like this to be the bone of contention among them. By now, it would have become a necropolis of hundreds of soldiers. What if we make it a real Peace Park?

  7. Rekhi

    Very good pictures, as always.

  8. sarita

    Awesome description and photography!! Need some info on how to reach there…do we need prior permission as its a military base camp? Also how long does it take from Leh?

  9. Gurmeet Singh Ranghar

    Like the hard fought battles of the recent past and those few centuries ago that carved kingdoms and territorial claims…..going back eons…the first battle when the tectonic plates grappled each other to create the pinpoint peaks we admire today…..His divine creation, scripted in the verse of simple physics.

  10. Gurmeet Singh Ranghar

    Great work Amardeep….you create the perfect blend of all tools….

  11. Meenu Kochhar

    Amar your writings are as beautiful as the pictures are. One day I want to be able to do what u r doing !!!!

    • Susilendu Bhattacharya

      The images & the picturesque description are mindboggling.

  12. Bhavneet Singh

    Photography is Great. But in one photo it portraits O Lord Shiva Grant me this boon that. Here Shiva is dedicated to One Eternal Lord. THE Creator of Shiva.

  13. Raj Mehta

    Very nice write up and pics…Excellent reference to the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh…Compliments.

  14. Jagjeet Kaur

    Very interesting Amardeep and awesome pics

  15. Pinaki Ray

    Amazing work sir! And loads to learn from you! Everytime I meet you and read your article my respect grows more and more!
    God bless you!

  16. Alwyn Loh

    wah i’d love to come visit here someday

  17. Kuldip Singh

    Ironic that sikhs took this place in 1832 and still guard it today !!! Good job , pakistan would only give another huge chunk of j & k state to china like they have before.

  18. Azadjeet Singh

    Amazing pictures and story

  19. Sharat Kolke

    Wonderful pictures with information to match.
    Thanks for sharing!

  20. Sanjit Singh Bal

    Good one Amardeep. Hope you are well.

  21. Sanay Khatau

    Very interesting read

  22. Rajinder Singh

    It is miraculous,
    Study described as deep as the height of the pin point Karakoram ranges.

    Warm Wishes

    Rajinder Singh

  23. Arjit Mahal

    Amardeepji – You combine history with pictures and a perspective that is a beautiful art-form in its own right. Great work – please keep it up. PS: I know a lot about Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Raj, but I learned more through your write-up.

  24. Salman Rashid

    Excellent, as always, Amardeep. You are doing priceless work. More strength to you, your keyboard and your camera

  25. kishore kumar biswas

    Splendor of nature . Magnificent and sublime. Glorious history the place has. Amardeep’s snaps show us the awesome natural beauty of that place. Wonder that is now only the battleground of ” Ego ” of two nation.Silly mortal roar of ego in the atmosphere of immortal beauty. In the background of such Divine presence how silly human ego looks.
    Still one has to regard the souls rendering their duties there to the nation.
    Another pictorial feature magnificent as usual by Amardeep.
    Regards to him.

  26. some parts of the world will always remain unexplored to be sighted and explored by visionaries like you. A splendid book not only on heritage but also on unkown facts of history.

  27. Dr Kunal Kumar Das

    You caught my imagination. Beautiful captivating photographs. Please keep me posted more such adventure oriented stories.



  29. Rishav Kaushal

    It’s land of wild roses

  30. I would very much like to know if either Guru Gobind Singh or the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak ever chanted the name of Allah too and prayed for his grace – like the verse above in which Guru Gobind Singh prays Lord Shiva.

  31. Nice pics of the mountain range, thanks for the perspective

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