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Meghan Lyden

Nepal celebrated the 60th anniversary of the conquest of Mount Everest on Wednesday by honoring climbers who followed in the footsteps of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Nepalese officials offered flower garlands and scarfs to the climbers who took part in the ceremony. They were taken around Katmandu on horse-drawn carriages followed by hundreds of [...]

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The Dutch photographer Marieke ten Wolde has made frequent trips to Tibet, in search not of vistas and costumes but of a society that is changing so fast she has had to consult her diary to remember if she had been there or not.

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diversity is everywhere in India, from its religions and languages to its economy, and climates. The second-most populous nation in the world, India is home to more than 1.2 billion people. Most are Hindu, but seven other religions -- including Islam, Christianity and Sikhism -- make up nearly 20 percent of the population. January 26 will be India's 62nd Republic Day, marking the date in 1950 when the country's constitution came into force. Collected here are recent photos from across the vast nation, offering only a small glimpse of the people and diversity of India. [41 photos]

Indian soldiers from the Border Security Forces atop camels stand at attention in front of the Presidential Palace during a ceremony in preparation for the annual Beating Retreat in New Delhi, India, on January 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

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The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small Himalayan country east of Nepal, nestled between China and India, with an estimated population of 700,000. Last month, Bhutan celebrated the wedding of monarch Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the fifth Druk Gyalpo ("Dragon King"), to 21-year-old commoner Jetsun Pema, now Druk Gyal-tsuen ("Dragon Queen") of Bhutan. The deeply traditional nation has been slow to adopt modern development; a country-wide ban on television and the Internet was only lifted in 1999, and only after the previous king abdicated power in 2006 did the nation have its first parliamentary elections. Bhutan, often rated as one of the happiest countries in the world, is the birthplace of the concept of "gross national happiness," an alternative to the more traditional measure of gross domestic product. The popular Oxford-educated king is now seeking to strengthen ties with other nations while preserving as much of Bhutan's independence and culture as possible. Collected here are recent images of people and places within the Kingdom of Bhutan. [38 photos]

The Paro Taktsang Palphug Buddhist monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest, in the Paro district of Bhutan, viewed on October 16, 2011. The first temple was built on this cliffside location in 1692. (Reuters/Adrees Latif)

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The world is filled with millions of exiled peoples, whose plights are as obscure as they are tragic. But the exiled Tibetan community in the Indian hill station of Dharamsala, which coalesced five decades ago after Beijing exerted its control over the high plateau, is an exception. Its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is far more famous than any living leader in China, the country that rules repressively over Tibet. From dilapidated offices with slow Internet connections, this displaced populace has orchestrated a Free Tibet cause that has turned what might otherwise have been a forgotten ethnic struggle into a chic crusade worthy of Hollywood’s concern. In August, photographer Sumit Dayal and I traveled to the scruffy Himalayan foothill settlement to meet some of the 150,000 Tibetans who live in exile worldwide and who have turned Dharamsala into a Little Lhasa.

For Dayal, the trip was a homecoming of sorts. An Indian whose family is originally from Kashmir, Dayal grew up in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, where his playmates included the children of Tibetan refugees. (Nepal has a Tibetan exile population of around 20,000.) Dayal’s grandmother, it turns out, lives just down the hill from the Tibetan community in Dharamsala. By the end of our stay, we joked that every time we turned a corner—there are not many in this tiny town, and the monsoons kept us huddled under the same cover—we would run into someone we knew. Even the dogs gave us familiar sniffs through the rain.

But despite its small size, Dharamsala is the nerve center of a remarkable operation to publicize the Tibetan campaign. The trouble is, no one quite knows how to change the bleak reality back home or how, even, to return. Generations of Tibetans have been born in exile, such as Lobsang Sangay, the new Prime Minister of the Tibetan government in exile. To them, Tibet is as distant as it was to the Western romantics who considered it Shangri-La.

Some of the recently arrived refugees we met had been jailed back in Tibet; each had a perilous tale of escape to India through Nepal. A good proportion of the newest arrivals are children, whose parents sent them through paid guides to Dharmasala for a good education—even if they know this means they may never see them again. Their gamble is this: for a proud Tibetan, life in an Indian hill station where sacred yak-butter sculptures melt in the heat, may be better than home.

Sumit Dayal is a freelance photographer based in New Delhi, India. More of Dayal’s work can be seen here.

Hannah Beech is TIME’s China bureau chief and East Asia correspondent.

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Kashmir is a scenic land of tranquil beauty. A longstanding dispute over control of the region ensures that life for Kashmiris is anything but tranquil. Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir, and a fortified Line of Control separates forces. China also administers part of the region. Two wars have been fought between Pakistan and India since borders were drawn in 1947, and the predominately Muslim area chafes under Indian control. In August mass graves were disclosed that likely held the bodies of "disappeared" civilians killed during insurgencies years ago. The disclosure was one of a series of incidents which keeps the region tense. The political dispute and attendant violence disturbs what should otherwise be a culturally vibrant, lushly beautiful idyll. Collected here are images from the last several months in Kashmir, a region of roughly twelve and a half million people. -- Lane Turner (47 photos total)
Indian tourists enjoy a traditional Shikara boat ride on Dal Lake in Srinagar, India on July 7, 2011. (Mukhtar Khan/AP)

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The Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu is one of Nepal’s holiest sites. Until the country was transformed into a secular republic in 2008, the temple’s deity — an iteration of the Hindu god Shiva — served for nearly three hundred years as the patron spirit of this Himalayan kingdom. Generations of Nepalese monarchs derived legitimacy from its shrines and pilgrims from across South Asia continue to flock to its stone steps.

Those living in its environs include a clutch of elderly people, “orphaned” and destitute, the sort of folk that temples across the region gave shelter and sustenance to for centuries. But on his explorations by the outskirts of Pashupatinath in December 2010, photographer Dan Giannopoulos found many of these elderly living in dire conditions. His pictures — stark and grim — capture a desperate scene. He says, “I found a number of residents on different occasions had been left immobile and agitated on the floors of communal areas, sometimes in the bright sunlight, dehydrated, sometimes in their own excrement, often covered in flies.

The elderly orphanage is nominally run by the government, which speaks volumes for why it’s in such a miserable state. Nepal, an impoverished country of 40 million, suffers from some of the world’s most dysfunctional politics. An internationally-monitored peace process started in 2006 with the aim of reconciling the country after a decade-long civil war that saw some 13,000 deaths. The authority of the Nepali monarchy was dissolved and Maoist guerrillas who had once lurked in hills and jungles entered the political process as one of the country’s biggest democratic parties. But political sparring, infighting and inertia have crippled Nepal. Three years after it was elected, the country’s legislature has yet to even agree upon a Constitution for the new secular republic. Coalitions and ruling governments continue to splinter and fall—the latest Prime Minister resigned his post Aug. 13.

All the while, the country’s economy lurches in the doldrums, propped up by aid handouts from increasingly exasperated foreign donors. Power and fuel shortages routinely grip Kathmandu, bringing daily life to a halt. Nepal’s growth rate remains middling, while countless Nepalese are forced to abandon their country for jobs in the Gulf states, India, and further afield in Southeast Asia. In 2010, over a fifth of Nepal’s GDP came from remittances sent back home by hundreds of thousands toiling abroad.

In this context, the plight of these forsaken elderly seems almost an afterthought. But, says Giannopoulos: “At the very least, on the most basic humanitarian level, the international community needs to ask questions of the current healthcare funding situation in Nepal.” The photographer intends to do his part, and is seeking avenues for funds and partnerships with NGOs to improve the lot of these marooned elderly, so the twilight of their years can be lived out with more grace than their circumstances provide.

Dan Giannopoulos is a member of Aletheia Photo Collective, an independent cooperative of photojournalists covering underreported socioeconomic and humanitarian issues. He is currently working on a long term project that focuses on the differences in the treatment of society’s elderly with particular emphasis on geographical and social divides in diagnosis and understanding of the degeneration in the mental faculties of the elderly.

Ishaan Tharoor is a writer-reporter for TIME and editor of Global Spin. You can find him on Twitter at ishaantharoor. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIMEWorld.

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