- GENERAL INFO
- FLORA & FAUNA
- AGRICULTURE & ECONOMY
- RELIGION & CULTURE
- GEU VILLAGE
Spiti Valley lies in the idyllic Himalayas of North India and is appropriately known as ‘the middle country’. Nestled between Nepal and Pakistan’s wild Northwest Frontier Province, and bordering on the ancient kingdom of Tibet, the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Kashmir make up India’s own Northwest.To this day, from one valley to the next people speak completely different languages and within the same valley up to 7 dialects may be spoken.The valleys of the Himalayas hold the treasures and secrets of ancient civilizations. Monastic traditions developed enormous architectural marvels and perhaps in no other society does religion play such a defining role in the political and economic development of the region. Desolate, high altitude deserts support monastery-cities perched precariously on sheer cliff faces. These fascinating edifices are a display of the rich cultures completely indigenous to the high valleys. A century ago, Rudyard Kipling in Kim called Spiti “a world within a world” and a “place where the gods live” – a description that holds true to the present day.
The harsh conditions of Lahaul permit only scattered tufts of hardy grasses and shrubs to grow, even below 4,000 metres. Glacier lines are usually found at 5,000 metres.
Animals such as yaks and dzos roam across the wild Lingti plains. However, over-hunting and a decrease in food supplies has led to a large decrease in the population of the Tibetan antelope, argali, kiangs, musk deer, and snow leopards in these regions, reducing them to the status of endangered species.
The lowest point in the valley is 11,000ft and many villages lie as high as 14,000ft. Though rich in space – a shade less than one square kilometer to every citizen- Spiti is poor in cultivatable land. Still agriculture is the main source of livelihood. Potato farming is common. Occupations include animal husbandry, working in government programs, government services, and other businesses and crafts that include weaving.
There is plenty of water in the rivers below and the glaciers above, but the searing flats are as dry as the valleys of the moon. There is no rain in summer as the mountains exclude the valley from most of the monsoon rains. The winter snow soon evaporates once the summer sun begins to scorch the valley.
With almost no rain but abundant snow-fall, Spiti is a land of fascinating contrasts – shocks of green alternating in a barren expanse of russet. It is a typical mountain desert area with an average annual rainfall of only 170 mm.
Spiti is home to a purely homogenous Buddhist society belonging to the Mahayana (Vajrayana) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Before the advent of Buddhism in Spiti, there was a popular animistic creed called Bon. In the 9th century AD Padmasambhava brought Buddhism to this valley and the people embraced this non-violent and compassionate religion. Spiti Bhotia are more similar to the Tibetans, owing to their proximity to Tibet.
A mummy of a Tibetan Buddhist monk, believed to be about 500 years old, has been found in India’s northern Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, It backed up its claim by publishing a picture of a wizened human sitting in a hunched, meditating position draped with a shawl. The mummy, identified as that of monk Sangha Tenzin, was found inside a tomb at Geu village in the cold and remote Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, about 6000 metres above sea level. Geu villagers have known about the mummy since 1975, when an earthquake struck the region and brought down a part of the tomb. The mummy is remarkably well preserved for its age. Its skin is unbroken and there is hair on the head. This was partly to do with the extreme cold and dry air of the region.
Tabo, is situated on the left bank of river Spiti. Flanked on either side by hills, it has one of the most important Buddhist monasteries regarded by many as only next to the Tholing Gompa in Tibet. The town surrounds a Buddhist monastery which, according to legend, is said to be over a thousand years old.
It belongs to the tenth century & also known as the Ajanta of the Himalayas. Tabo is the largest monastic complex of Spiti which has since been declared a protected monument under the aegis of Archaeological Survey of India.Tabo Chos-Khor Monastery was founded in 996 CE in the Spiti Valley, Himachel Pradesh, India by the great Tibetan Buddhist lotswa (translator), Rinchen Zangpo, the king of western Himalayan Kingdom of Guge. The monastery is surrounded by a high mud brick wall which encloses some 6,300 square meters. (over 1½ acres) and contains 9 temples, 23 chortens, a monks’ residence and an extension that houses the nuns’ residence. It soon became known as an important centre of learning and of the Kadampa School (which later developed into the Gelugpa School).However, in 1855 it was reported to have had only 32 monks.Above the monastery there are a number of caves carved into the cliff face and used by monks for meditation.There is a large and priceless collection of thankas (scroll paintings), manuscripts, well-preserved statues, frescos and extensive murals which cover almost every wall.
The monastery includes nine temples:
• The Temple of the Enlightened Gods (gTug-Lha-khang), or Assembly Hall.
• The Golden Temple (gSer-khang). Said to have been once covered with gold, it was renovated by Sengge Namgyal, a king ofLadakh in the 16th century. The walls and ceilings are covered with magnificent murals.
• The Initiation Temple (dKyil-kHor- khang). There is a huge painting of Vairocana surrounded by eight Bodhisattvas. The other walls are covered in mandalas. This is where monks receive their initiations.
• The Bodhisattva Maitreya Temple (Byams-Pa Chen-po Lha-khang). The image of the Bodhisattva Maitreya here is over six meters (20 feet) high. There are also murals showing Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse and the Potala in Lhasa.
• The Temple of Dromton (Brom-ston Lha khang) which is thought to have been founded by Dromton (1008-1064 CE) one of the main disciples of Atisha.
• The above are thought to be the earliest temples of Tabo and the following are later additions.
• The Chamber of Picture Treasures (Z’al-ma).
• The Large Temple of Dromton (Brom-ston Lha khang). After the Assembly Hall, this is the largest temple in the complex and contains many wall paintings. The wooden planks in the ceiling are also decorated.
• The Mahakala Vajra Bhairava Temple (Gon-khang) contains the protective deity of the Gelukpa sect. It contains fierce deities and is only entered after protective meditation.
• The White Temple (dKar-abyum Lha-Khang).
Dhankar Gompa (also Drangkhar or Dhangkar Gompa; Brang-mkhar or Grang-mkhar) is a Gompa, a Buddhist temple in the district of Lahaul and Spiti in India
The complex is built on a 1000-foot (300-metre) high spur overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers – one of the world’s most spectacular settings for a gompa. Dhang or dang means cliff, and kar or khar means fort. Hence Dhangkar means fort on a cliff. “A place in the mountains unreachable for strangers”. We get the best view of “khatpas”(hoodoos- rock formations shaped by snow erosion).On top of a hill there is a fort which use to be the prison in olden times. The strategic location of fort gives you panoramic view of valley, which required for the defense purpose.The Monastery has about 100 Lamas and is in position of Budhist scriptures in Bhoti language.
The town of Kaza, Kaze or Kaja is the sub divisional headquarters of the remote Spiti Valley .Spiti, which is a part of the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal,It is a high altitude desert having close similarities to the neighboring Tibet and Ladakh regions in terms of terrain, climate and the Buddhist culture. Kaza is known for its colorful festivals and the ancient Sakya Tangyud Monastery in a side valley, 4 km from the town. It is also popular with tourists and adventure seekers during summer months because of its central location and connections to rest of the valley and outside. This central location also makes Kaza an ideal base camp for trekking, mountaineering and tours directed to other parts of the valley
It is the biggest monastery of Spiti Valley and a religious training centre for Lamas.
In the architectural definitions given to various monasteries, Ki falls in the ‘Pasada’ style which is characterized by more stories than one and often plays the role of a fort-monastery.Established in the 11th century, it has ancient Buddhist scrolls and paintings. Also houses the largest number of Buddhist monks and nuns. No definite data can be ascribed to the construction of the gompa – that acted both as a monastery and as a fort. The importance of the monastery lies in it being one of those few monasteries of the state that have completed 1000 years of existence. In the year 2000, when the monastery completed its 1000 years, the grand Kalchakra ceremony was organised.
Kibber has a population of over 400 and is the 2nd highest permanently inhabited village connected by a motorable road till the road was extended to Tashigang. Kibber lies in a narrow valley on the summit of a limestone rock. Agriculture forms the backbone of the local economy and lush green fields are abundant. The village has around 80 houses, unique, given that they are made of stone instead of mud or adobe brick used extensively elsewhere in the Spiti valley.Kibber has a civil dispensary, a high school, a post office, a telegraph office and a community TV set in the village.
Chandra Taal (meaning the Lake of the Moon), or Chandra Tal .The name of the lake originates from its crescent shape.Situated in the Spiti part of the Lahul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh (India), Chandra Taal is a popular destination for trekkers and campers. Vast meadows on the banks of the lake are the camping sites. During springtime, these meadows are carpeted with hundreds of kinds of wildflowers.
The most surprising thing about this lake is that there is no visible source of this lake but there is a visible outlet of this lake which means that water to this lake comes from underground.The lake is situated on the Samudra Tapu plateau, which overlooks the Chandra River.
lofty mountain pathway that connects Kullu with Spiti and Lahaul. This pass is a popular picnic spot in summer. Adventure sports such as skiing, mountain biking and paragliding can be enjoyed at this placeDepending upon the snowfall in the upper regions, Rohtang Pass opens at any time during the month of May for travel and a seal in October.
In the Beas River valley it is an important hill station in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh.Manali and the surrounding area is of great significance to Indian culture and heritage as it is said to be the home of the Saptarshi, or Seven Sages. The water subsided the seventh Manu’s ark came to the rest on a hill side and the place was named Manali (2050 m) after him. The word Manali is regarded as the changed name of “Manu-Alaya” which literally means “the abode of Manu”. Legend has it that sage Manu stepped off his ark in Manali to recreate human life after a great flood had deluged the world. Manali is also often referred to as the “Valley of the Gods”. The Old Manali village has an ancient temple dedicated to sage Manu.