In Loving Memory

Raka Gupta

Raka was the Co-Director of HICHS and gave seasoned advice and warmth to the Institute. She was artistic, dabbled in poetry, and was also a sculptor.  While accompanying her husband on diplomatic missions, Raka taught at different international schools. With her warmth, experience, and knowledge, she guided us all into making HICHS a better organization. Her memory lingers on and inspires us to make the better best. 

Our Core Team

Sonali Gupta

Dr. Sonali Gupta is an anthropological archaeologist, a lawyer,  the founding Director of the Himalayan Institute of Cultural and Heritage Studies (HICHS), India and  the newly established non profit , Himalayan Conservation and Preservation Society (HCPS) USA, along with Dr. Willeke Wendrich, Dr. Aghagia Rahimzadeh, Neeraj Vir and Dr. Parth Chauhan. HICHS is located in the beautiful and picturesque erstwhile princely state of Dhami, near Simla, Himachal Pradesh.  Sonali earned her BA and MA in history from the University of Delhi followed by a law degree. She practiced criminal law for six years after which she gave it all up for the love of archaeology. She completed her Ph.D. in Egyptian Archaeology (and is the first Indian to be an Egyptian archaeologist) from the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology (CIOA) at the University of California, Los Angeles. She simultaneously evolved as a researcher and practitioner of South Asian (Himalayan) and Southeast Asian anthropological archaeology focusing on various aspects of cultural transmission both tangible and intangible.
Dr. Gupta has taught at UCLA, the National Museum Institute, New Delhi, has been the Director of Public Programs for the CIOA.  She was also awarded a post-doctoral fellowship at the CIOA where she researched the Iban Textiles of Borneo.  Sonali also started the first ever non- invasive archaeological field school in India along with Dr. Parth Chauhan and has since completed six such field schools.  Sonali is invested in making HICHS a platform where the academic meets the non-academic and carrying out cutting edge research in and for the Himalayas.
She currently teaches Himalayan centric online courses for both HICHS and HCPS

Parth Chauhan

Dr. Parth R. Chauhan has been a part of HICHS right from its infancy.  He along with Dr. Sonali Gupta started the first ever non- invasive archaeological field school in India.  Dr. Chauhan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali. He completed his PhD in Archaeology from the UK, his MA in Ancient Indian History & Archaeology from India, and his BA in Anthropology from the US. He specializes in Indian prehistory and various sub-disciplines including stone tool technology and rock art and is currently carrying out research in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Himachal Pradesh. Dr. Chauhan brings with him his wide experience in archaeology making HICHS further enriched and wiser. He continues to be a co-director of major HICHS projects, and is also a core member of HCPS. 

Reena Solanki

Reena is the head of the Raka Wellness center. She has a B.Sc. in Nursing and has had six years of experience in nursing in hospitals and private care. She is a certified yoga instructor and gives online and on campus instruction at HICHS. Reena is an excellent nurse who under the Raka Wellness centre advocates for grass root level health care in villages in and around Dhami. Under her, basic health care like blood pressure and sugar tests along with physiotherapy, and yoga are available for the locals.  Reena has also been deeply involved with the Gram Dharohar- a sustainable Himalayan initiative 

Rudra Agarwal

Rudra is the youngest in the team, an ‘artist in residence’ and is the Go to person for rocks and gems of the Himalaya.  With his happy and naughty demeanor, he keeps HICHS on its toes.

Maheema Dutt

Maheema Dutt attained her Masters in Brand Management from the Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication, Pune. She is an Economics Honors graduate and also holds a degree in Education.

In the past, Maheema has worked for 360- degree marketing with Zee Cinema & Zee Classic TV Channels.

Her love for the mountains has her focused on Himalayan specific social media outreach. As a result,  she has filmed, written, directed and co-hosted a Web Series called WOW Himachal for a regional channel that brings out the art, culture and heritage of Himachal Pradesh.

When she is away from her home in the Himalaya, she spends her time exploring the art and culture of India highlighting various aspects through her social media handles

She is currently working with HICHS for Branding & Social outreach alongside her next venture, Pahadi Vibes, a sister Company of HICHS.

 

Sahil

Sahil is an artist by profession. Under the brand name Silent Chants, Sahil has diversified his product line and is creating souvenirs and works of art depicting Himachal.

Sahil has displayed his Art in exhibitions at various cultural enclaves in Simla,  Mumbai and Dubai graced by prominent celebrities. He is currently working with HICHS on various projects related to Himalayan Art.

Vanilla
Vanilla manages hospitality for the Mirpur Haveli, our HICHS Delhi Office and a popular air bnb and transit point for those looking for a Haveli experience with books in South Delhi.
Krishna
Krishna is the Logistics Head and Woodcraft expert at the Himalayan Institute of Cultural and Heritage Studies (HICHS). He has been with HICHS since its inception and has been instrumental in manifesting ideas into reality. Krishna is solution driven and an absolute asset to the Institute.

Projects

On the academic front, With the onset of the pandemic, we have had about 215 virtual lectures completed for our 'Saturday Vibe Talks' where scholars from around the world share their research on the Himalaya or on concepts relating to Himalayan archaeology, history, art history, literature, religion, geology, and anthropology via the Zoom platform. The lectures may be accessed on our HICHS YouTube channel.

A peer-reviewed Journal of Himalayan Institute of Cultural and Heritage Studies with articles contributed by all the scholars on our forum for the benefit of those who work in the Himalayas.

  • Himalayan Myth and Reality (HICHS &IFR).
  • Materiality and Memory (HICHS & IFR).
  • Transhumance in the Himalayas
    (Collaboration with Dr. Ania Kotorba, Flinders University- Grant from the Australian Government under the New Colombo Plan).
  • Agricultural Practices, Continuity and change, Kullu Valley
    Rajoli Ghosh, HICHS Research Scholar, 2021-2023.
  • Myths and Conservation in the Western Himalaya Supriya Tyagi, HICHS Research Scholar, Prayatnam Grant 2023-2024
  • Gram Dharohar- A Sustainable Himalaya project. Dr. Sonali Gupta, Reena Solanki, Supriya Tyagi, and  Krishna Singh
  • Kasauli History and Development  - A Scapes and JLPL luxury villa project  

Neeraj Vir,  has been a very important pillar, sponsoring our laboratory Jigyasa, named in the spirit of scientific enquiry. We have since procured a digital microscope, and other lab equipment.  Neeraj is also the sponsor of our previous Research Scholar Rajoli Ghosh and presently Supriya Tyagi under the Prayatnam Grant.  

Dr. Avneet Singh of the Max Planck Institute, Germany had generously sponsored the initial website work and digital research while also having sponsored Rajoli Ghosh as a HICHS Fellow in 2021.

Books have been generously donated by Dr. S.C. Malik, Kanchan Dhar, Jenny Wolkowicki, Joginder Rohilla, Mahima Mehra, Lalitha, Dr. Saif Mahmood and Dr. Zarina Bhatty.

Ketli Vibes, a classroom café- at HICHS, a platform for the exchange of intangible cultural heritage. We invite elders of the town to share local legends, tales, and myths.

Kath-Karma, a woodcraft space headed by Krishna Singh

Kumbh-Karma: to resurrect the art of pottery making in the region

Kala-Kshetra: a space for art headed by Sahil Sharma

Nirmal Bunai: knitting, and weaving

Pathshala: A library in memory of Dr. Jagdish Sharma & Dr. Jagdev Gupta

Jigyasa:  a well-equipped laboratory and library for researchers from around the world made possible due to Neeraj Vir, our sponsor.

Sanskriti: a free library for village children made possible due to Joginder Rohilla to inculcate reading habits, storytelling, art, and culture sessions.  

Our Advisory Team

Dr. Anjali Capila

Dr. Anjali capila has a Ph.D. in Community Resource Management and Extension from the University of Delhi. She is the Vice-President of Mountain India People’s Forum and has worked extensively with women in the Himalayan communities. She has taught at Lady Irwin College and given talks at various national and international forums. Her book, A River Sings documents the songs of the River Ganga as an anthropological study.

Dr. Capila has also co-authored a book on Community Perspectives on Education, Health and Livelihoods in Talla Ramgarh, Uttarakhand to be released shortly. She is an integral part of HICHS infusing life into the organization through her immense wisdom and experience.

Vijayluxmi Bose

Ms. Bose has an MS in Communication Studies from Emerson College, Boston, USA. She has about 30 years of experience in teaching communication, curriculum development, and delivery of health education. She has taught at Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi, Indira Gandhi National Open University’s countrywide classroom, and has been an external examiner and guest faculty for the University of Delhi. She has also co-authored a book on Community Perspectives on Education, Health and Livelihoods in Talla Ramgarh, Uttarakhand to be released shortly She brings with her great insight and wisdom guiding HICHS toward a better tomorrow. 

Dr Saif Mahmood

Dr Saif Mahmood is an Advocate of the Supreme Court of India with more than two decades of a rich and diverse experience in Indian law. Holding a doctorate in law with specialization in South Asian legal systems and a United Nations Certification in Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), he frequently appears before various Indian Courts and international and domestic arbitral tribunals. He has handled cases, alongside barristers and lawyers, in the High Court of Justice of England and Wales and the Dubai courts. He has been a Visiting Scholar in Law at the University of Oxford and is a well-known author and public speaker, he has had the rare honor of being cited by the Supreme Court of India.

Dr. Mahmood has successfully handled a wide-variety of legal issues, rendering cutting-edge legal advice to clients for the quickest possible resolution of their disputes. His expertise includes Corporate and Commercial disputes, International Commercial Contracts, Aviation, Infrastructure, Real Estate & Property, Media & Entertainment, Constitutional and Public Law, and litigation involving complex issues of interpretation of statutes and contracts – subjects on which he has handled a wide variety of cases, advised major clients and spoken at numerous conferences and seminars. He has also been consulted on important issues of Islamic Law in India and the Sub-continent and high-profile succession and estate matters.

A niche area that he consults in is Technology Innovation, Investments and Business Development in the India-UK-UAE corridor. He has a deep understanding of not just law and business but also of the Indo-UK-UAE cultural landscape, that helps him assist clients across these countries which helps him build ecosystems of clients who are motivated to enter the Indian market.

Neeraj Vir

Neeraj Vir is an entrepreneur, who over the last 25 years, has helped create groundbreaking technology products and solutions. An avid traveler, Neeraj has visited many countries and as a seeker has spent numerous hours reading various religious texts and philosophies, like Gnosticism, Kabbalah, Hinduism, and Buddhism, and learning esoteric practices like Yoga & Vipassana. He loves to read scientific and research studies that provide evidence of the existence of a higher force that influences creativity and spiritual evolution. Neem Karoli Baba, his teachings and life in the Central Himalayas as depicted in the books of Ram Dass has made a big influence in his life. 

Neeraj has been a big supporter of HICHS since its inception and has over the years sponsored materials and research at the institute by awarding scholarships. He is also a core member of the newly established non profit , Himalayan Conservation and Preservation Society (HCPS), along with Dr. Willeke Wendrich, Dr Sonali Gupta,  Dr. Aghagia Rahimzadeh, and Dr. Parth Chauhan.