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Lahaul and Spiti

The Barren Splendour

Lahaul and SpitiLahaul and SpitiLahaul and SpitiRohatang pass Rohatang pass KhoksarSissuGondhlaKeylongTandiSuraj Taal Chandra Taal Suraj Taal Chandra Taal KibberKunzum PassTrilokinath templeMonasteries of Lahaul and Spiti
  • General Information

    District: Lahaul & Spiti, State: Himachal Pradesh, India
    Area: 55673 Sq. Km.
    Languages Spoken: Himachali and local dialects
    Long Distance Code: +91-1906
    Importance: The barren gatewy to Tibet
    Best Time to Visit: May to July
  • Description

    The rugged and the highly located area, is nature's ever changing canvas. Known as the Land of Lamas, Lahaul and Spiti are the passes stretching straight into the cold desert of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. Closed for more than six months during the year due to heavy snow, the land sheds its colours and goes for a complete turnover in spring and summers. Brown barren slopes with icy rivers and cold winds are the common feature of Lahaul and Spiti. The sole access to the this land is the Rohatang pass near Manali., which according to legend was created by Lord Shiva for the people of Lahaul and Spiti to visit the valley of Gods beyond the pass. <br />There are very few patches of fertile land in this area, where the people live and have formed few villages, most are tribes. These tribesmen, despite the tough weather conditions which makes them fight hard for their livelihood, retain the inner warmth and are always smiling and inviting. The place has been mentioned in the old Buddhist scriptures and was probably inhabited by the Khasa who came from central Asia and settled here. Lahaul and Spiti were ruled by the Ladakh and the Kullu rulers in turns. Eventually this rugged land came under the reigns of the ruler of Kullu; Ranjit Singh who ruled till the British came in and overtook the whole area.<br />Mostly the people of this place are followers of Buddhism. There are beautiful and ancient monasteries and Gompas here where they follow their daily rituals and worship the lord. <br />With a varied topography, that is suitable for a hiker or adventure seekers. The rough terrain and absence of heavy rains, makes it suitable for mountaineering. The Gushing Rivers twisting and turning etching the hard rocks of the area provide good rafting adventure. The grandeur of these terrains and magnificence comes as a surprise at every nook and corner and is definitely awe inspiring, that can make anyone bow down to nature. <br />Due to the prominence of Buddhism in the area one can witness flags fluttering in prayer to the almighty. These colourful flags only add beauty to the barren terrains of the magnificent mountains.
  • Location

    The largest district in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, Lahaul and Spiti is known as the barren splendour of the Himachal. Bounded by Ladakh to the north, Tibet to the east, and the Kullu valley to the south, Lahaul and Spiti is the gateway to the Leh and Ladakh area of Jammu and Kashmir. Although the district is one made out of two subdivisions of Lahaul and Spiti, these two areas differ highly in their altitudes. The rugged region receives a scanty rainfall and therefore is favourite spot with the trekkers during the time when the monsoon lashes throughout the country. It also has many passes for the adventure seeker to try on.
Rohatang passSituated about 51 km from Manali town at an altitude of 4,111 meters (13,400 ft.) on the highway to Keylong, is the Rohatang Pass. This is the pass which separates the picturesque and green valley of Kullu and Manali to the stark contradiction of barren brown mountains and deep valleys of stones and rocks. Rohatang is the place where the majesty of the mountains is at its height in splendour. \r\nRohatang in Tibetan language means a heap of dead bodies. And true to these words, Rohatang definitely would take toll of humans and property, every year due to its harsh weather. The pass becomes hazardous due to frequent avalanches. Although there is face over to the pass in summers and spring when the pass reels under beautiful flowers and birds and rare variety of butterflies. \r\nThere is a beautiful lake to the left of the pass known as Doshohar Lake. The Sonapani Glacier and the Gyephang La peaks offer a splendid view. At the height of the Rohatang pass one can see a small stone enclosure and a water spring, believed to be the source of River Beas. \r\nBeing the only route to enter the arid region of Lahaul and Spiti, trekkers and hikers can often be seen on the pass. It is closed in winters due to heavy snowfall and is open from April to September.
KhoksarThe first human inhabitation that one comes across after entering the Lahaul sector, Khoksar is the first village at an altitude of 3140 meters. The village is prone to avalanches which can be even seen piled up near the river bed. The river freezes during winters and is feasible for a regular passage on the other side. Khoksar was on the old trade route from Indian Plains to the west Asia.\r\nIn summer though, the village leaves a traveler spell bound when alpine flowers bloom all over the place and the people irrigate with the springs that flow over.
SissuThe Sissu village situated on the banks of River Chandra is famous for its residing deity, Gyepang. The temple of Gyepang is found in Sissu and the people of Sissu worship it as the protector of the whole community. The beautiful Sissu falls cascading down is a beautiful sight and also the dense forests of willows and poplars which do not allow the sunrays to penetrate through. With a bounty of various flowers and plants, this village looks straight out of a picture postcard during the summer months.
GondhlaGondhla situated at a distance of 18 kms from Keylong at an altitude of 3160 meters the district headquarters along the right bank of the driver Chandra. Gondhla is the largest hamlet in the valley. Gondhla is famous for the Thakurs who are the heads of the village and their ancient residence which was built in 1700 A.D. and still is being used by the descendants who built them. It was actually built by Raja Man Singh who married the daughter of the Thakurs to take the area under his wings.
KeylongKeylong is the district head quarters of Lahaul and Spiti. Situated at an altitude of 3156 meters Keylong is the main centre on the trade route between the Rohatang and Baralacha passes above the Bhaga River. It is an oasis in this cold desert. Being the most commercialized place it also has many facilities and a regular market. The Khardong Monastery is 4 km from here contains barrel like prayer drums, paintings, ancient weapons, musical instruments and life size statue of Lord Buddha. There are three Monasteries in the radius of few kilometer; Tayul, Khardong and Shashur which are also worth a visit.
TandiTandi which is hardly 8 kms from Keylong is one of the most picturesque places of the valley, with abundant natural beauty and the mythological stories to go with it. It is situated on the confluence of the Chandra and the Bhaga Rivers which offer a splendid view. \r\nThere are many stories about the name and the confluence of the Rivers in Tandi. The Pandav brothers along with their wife, Draupadi, started ascending to the heaven from this route. Draupadi slipped from this very place and died and could not reach heaven in the human form. Since then the place has been known as Tan Dehi, meaning in Human form and the word Tandi is the version of the same. \r\nAnother story about the confluence of the two rivers says that Chandra and Bhaga were the children Moon and Sun respectively, who wanted to get married. Both f them took their own route and reached Tandi and were eventually married. The confluence reminds one of this legendary love story thus enhancing its beauty.
Suraj Taal Chandra TaalThese two beautiful lakes are on the Baralacha la, are supposed to be the origins of the Bhaga and the Chandra rivers respectively. The Baralacha la means pass with cross roads on summit on the Spiti and Leh road. The Suraj Taal is the lake dedicated to Sun god from where the origins of Bhaga Rivers can be traced down. The crystal clear waters of the Lake freeze and is full of snow all around in winters. But in summers the deep icy blue waters of the lake reflect the magnificence of the mountains and the nature around. Situated in a natural amphitheatre, this lake presents the exuberance of natural beauty. \r\nThe Chandra Taal which is the origin of the River Chandra is also a natural lake situated at the height of 14000 feet. It is situated in a broad grassy plain which was a glacier earlier. A small little island in the middle of the lake known as the samudari tapu is supposed to be the dwelling place of a mermaid and therefore is unreachable. The Chandra Taal is favourite with the shepherds of this region as there is ample grass on which the herds can be fed on. Ducks and cranes are also found in abundance on this lake and definitely make a gorgeous sight. The icy cold water is so clean and clear that one can even see the stones underneath the water.
KibberLocated at an altitude of 4205 meters, it is the world's highest inhabited village. Situated in the narrow valley of Spiti surrounded by mountains is locally known as Khyipur.
Kunzum PassWhat Rohatang is for Lahaul, Kunzum is to Spiti, the sole passage through which one can reach Spiti is through the Kunzum Pass which is at an altitude of 4590 meters. The panoramic view of the second longest glacier in the world, the Bara-Sigri glacier can be thrilling and spell bounding from this pass. There is a temple at the top of Kunzum pass dedicated to Goddess Durga.
The Murkala Devi temple is believed to have been built during the reign of Ajaya Verman. Though hardly anything of that era survives, the temple has been repeatedly built in the same way since then. This is the only wooden temple built in the traditional form of this region and is worth a visit.
Trilokinath templeThis unique temple is a beautiful blend of the Buddhist Monastery and Hindu temple and therefore is sacred for both alike. It is said that this ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva was given a touch of Buddhism in its d├ęcor by Padmasambhava. Although there is no proof pertaining to that legend, it is yet a sacred place and people throng to this place to tale the blessings of Avalokiteshwar Trilokinath.
Monasteries of Lahaul and SpitiEither due to the proximity to the Tibet or due to the trade route from India to Tibet, Lahaul and Spiti has many monasteries and Gompas. The people of this place ardently follow the Buddhists religion. Few of the important monasteries are as follows.\r\n\r\nKye Monastery: \r\nIt is situated 12 kms. North of Kaza and serves the western population of Spiti. It is the oldest and biggest monastery of the valley and located at (4116 m) above Kye village. It houses beautiful scriptures and paintings of Buddha. It is also a training centre for Lamas some books of high aesthetic value in its possession.\r\n\r\nDhankar Monastery:\r\nDhankar is a big village and an erstwhile capital of central Spiti. A huge fort on atop the hills used to serve as a prison in the olden days. It is the living place of 100 lamas and has some Buddhist scriptures in the Bhoti Language. The principal statue in this monastery is that of the 4 complete figures of Buddha, seated back to back in Dhyan or meditating pose. It has relics in the shape of paintings and sculptures.\r\n\r\nTabo:\r\nOne of the most important monasteries in the region, the Tabo monasteries also the oldest, established in 996 A.D. It has some beautiful rock paintings comparable only to the Ajanta frescoes of Maharashtra. Tabo holds the distinction of being the largest monastic complex in Spiti and is the brainchild of the great translator and teacher, Rinchensang Po. \r\n\r\nGuru Ghantal monastery:\r\nLocated on the confluence of the Chandra and the Bhaga rivers, the Guru Ghantal Monastery, is probably the oldest centre of Buddhist pilgrimage. The archaeological evidences found at this site indicate that it had been a significant Buddhist as well as Hindu pilgrimage site in the distant past.