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Lahaul & Spiti

LAHAUL VALLEY

Lahaul and Spiti are two remote Himalayan Valleys of H.P. lying on the Indo-Tibet border. Strange, exciting, primitive, these valleys are unsurpassed in mountain scape, in the rugged beauty of their rocky escapements and the splendor of their snow covered peaks.

Lahaul is marked by a central mass of uniformly high mountains and massive glaciers. The two rivers, Chandra and Bhaga which rise on either side of the Baralacha La, flow through the narrow Chandra and Bhaga valleys. Lahaul is a land of fascinating Buddhist art and culture. The monasteries of Lahaul-Spiti are rich repositories of ancient murals, thankas, wood carving and golden images of Padmasambhava. The valley lies at a height of 2745 metres above sea level. Summer in this valley is cool and pleasant with green grass and alpine flowers. There are little monsoon in both these valleys and this enables climbers & trekkers to enjoy a long and unbroken season in perpetual sunshine to explore the wilderness and grandeur of the inner Himalaya. This unique feature makes Lahul-Spiti as an ideal destination for tourists and trekkers in the month of July, August and September. Keylong is 115 kms. from Manali and is the District Headquarters of Lahul-Spiti District.

GENERAL INFORMATION

AREA 13835 sq. kms.
POPULATION 33,224
ALTITUDE 3340 m (Keylong)
CLOTHING Light woollen in Summer
Heavy woollen in Winter.

TEMPERATURE Maximum:26.8 C Min 1.38 C Summer
Maximum:6.1 C Min (-)19.38 C Winter

VISITING SEASON June to October
LANGUAGES Lahauli, English, Hindi, Bhoti are understood and spoken by the people engaged in tourism trade.
RELIGION Hinduism & Budhism

APPROACH

Road: Lahaul is connected with road from all parts of the country. Manali is the point where buses from various stations come. From here, one can take bus/taxi to any destination in Lahaul-Spiti, Pangi & Leh during the months between June to November depending upon opening and closing of Rohtang pass (3979 m), the gateway to this valley. National highway 21 is passes through this valley enroute to Leh.

WHAT TO SEE

GONDLA(3160 m): It is 18 kms. from Keylong on the right bank of Chandra river. The location of royal houses of the village is interesting. In the month of July a fair is held when Lamas dance & enjoy. The Gompa of this village has historical significance and the fair attracts a large number of visitors. The residence of the Thakur of Gondla is an eight storey building of its own kind in the entire Lahaul valley. It is worth a visit. This is called Gondla castle or fort and was built in 1700 A.D.

TANDI: Tandi is 8 kms. short of Keylong and is situated at the confluence of Chandra & Bhaga rivers. A legend says that there were two lovers, Chandra being the daughter of the Moon and Bhaga the son of the Sun god. To perform there eternal marriage, they decided to climb to the Baralacha La & from there they ran in opposite directions. Chandra being active and smart easily found her way &reached Tandi after covering the distance of 115 kms. Soon Bhaga was found coming with great struggle through the narrow gorges to Tandi where consequently both met and the celestial marriage was performed. Bhaga covered about 60 kms. distance which was very difficult.

GURU GHANTAL MONASTERY(3020 m): This is on the right bank of Chandra river about 4kms. above Tandi and is believed to be the oldest Gompa of Lahaul having wooden structure with pyramidal roofs, wood carving and preserving the idols of Padmasambhava & Brajeshwari Devi. On the full moon night in mid-June a festival called "GHANTAL" is celebrated by Lamas & Thakurs together.

KEYLONG (3340 m): Keylong is the district Headquarters of Lahaul Spiti on the main road to Leh over Rohtang. It is an oasis of green fields and willow trees, water streams surrounded with brown hills and snow capped peaks. There are hotels, tourist bungalows and rest houses to stay.

KARDANG MONASTERY(3500 m): It is about 5kms. from Keylong across Bhaga river. It is believed to be built in 12th century. The Monastery has a large library of Kangyur and Tangyur volumes of Budhist scriptures in Bhoti. Kardang village was once the capital of Lahaul.

SHASHUR MONASTERY: Situated on a hill about 3 kms. far from Keylong towards north on the same slope. During June/July this monastery attracts lot of visitors when Lamas perform devil dance. It was founded in the 17th century a.d. It belongs to red hat sect and is located among the blue pines. The paintings are represent the history of 84 Buddha's.

TAYUL GOMPA(3900 m): Tayul Gompa is 6 kms. from Keylong and is one of the oldest monasteries of the valley having a big statue of Guru Padmasamhava about 5 m high and houses library of Kangyur having 101 volumes. In Tibetan language Ta-Yul means the chosen place. There is an interesting story behind this.

SISSU(3120 m): It is on Keylong-Koksar road over 30 kms. from Keylong. There is a big waterfall here. This is the seat of God Geypan, who is worshipped in the entire valley.

KOKSAR(3140 m): It is 21kms. beyond Rohtang pass in Lahaul and is the coldest place in Lahaul. HRTC workshop, Rest House, police assistance and eating places are available during the season.

JISPA: It is 20kms from Keylong on the bank of Bhaga river having a rest house and mountaineer hut. There is a big camping ground. Sufficient trout fish is available in the river.

GEMUR: It is 18 kms. from Keylong in Bhaga valley where devil dance is held during July in the Local Gompa. The place is situated on Manali-Leh highway.

DARCHA(3360 m): It is 24 kms. from Keylong on Leh road where a camping ground is available. From Darcha trekkers start their trek to Padem, via Shingola as well as Baralacha/Phirtsela. There is a police check-post for assistance. Beyond this point there are hardly any trees. Yotche and Zanskar Nallahs meet Bhaga river here from different directions.

BARALACHA LA(4883 m): It is about 73 kms. from Keylong on Manali Leh road. The name means pass with cross roads on summit (roads from Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul join at the top). There is no road yet from Spiti. Only a path exists. This is also the point of origin of Chandra, Bhaga and, Yunam rivers. They flow to three different directions through the Chandra, Bhaga and Lingti valleys.

SARCHU: It is the last border point between Himachal and Ladakh, where HPTDC put up a tented colony for the convenience of the touristsduring summer season. It is situated at a distance of 116 kms. from Keylong.

SHANSHA: This is on the right bank of river Chandra-Bhaga (Chenab) at a distance of 27kms. from Keylong on Udaipur road. The Geypan, a powerful deity of Lahaul is believed to be born here. A shrine dedicated to the deity has also been built in this village.

TRILOKINATH TEMPLE: Trilokinath means the Shiva. A Temple is situated in the village which is about 4 kms. short of Udaipur on the left bank of Chenab river. Devotees from far off places come to pay their respects at this unique temple. This Shiva temple was given a look of Budhist shrine by Guru Padmasambhava by installing the 6 armed image of Avalokiteshvar. It is now sacred both to Hindus and Bhudhists alike and attracts many pilgrims from both these communities. In August, a big festival named Pauri is held for three days when people including the sadhus and followers of various religious sects gather to receive the blessings of Lord Trilokinath.

UDAIPUR(2743 m): In olden times this village was known as Markul and so the name of local goddess is Markula Devi. The temple here is unique and famous for its wooden carving on its roof and ceiling. Its name was changed by Raja Udai Singh of Chamba. This place is situated near the confluence of Chenab and Mayar Nallah. This place is therefore a starting point for Mayar valley and further on to Zanskar and other peaks. This is a green area rather the whole Chenab valley is greener than the Lahaul valley. It has a rest house and some hotels and is a good resting place.

Some years back the road was only upto this point and from here the trekking expeditions to different areas used to start. Now the road is under construction beyond this place and the bus is goes upto Tindi. This road has now been connected up to Killar, which is the meeting point of another roads; one from Kishtwar(J&K) and from Chamba over the Sach pass.

SPITI VALLEY

Spiti is the sub division of Lahaul & Spiti district with its hqrs. at Kaza. It is called "Little Tibet" because it has almost the same terrain, vegetation & climate . Spiti also means "Middle Country". It lies between Tibet, Ladakh, Kinnaur, Lahaul & Kulu. From Shimla via Kinnaur there is a motorable road which remains open upto Kaza for 8 to 9 months. About 10kms. ahead of Pooh, satluj enters India near Shipki la & Spiti river joins it at Khab. The road then goes to Sumdo via Hangrang valley. From Sumdo Spiti valley starts. The Spiti river flows fast through deep gorges at some places. The valley is not wide but there are villages and some fields where people grow barley, buck- wheat, peas & vegetables. It has an area of 4800 sq. kms. Some inhabitants have adopted Budhism as there faith and Bhoti is the spoken language. The people are simple and honest. The main Spiti valley is split into eastern and western valleys. They are connected with Ladakh & Tibet on eastern side & Kinnaur and Kulu on western side through high passes.

MONASTERIES

There are a large number of gompas in this valley but it has also some important and famous monasteries, a brief description is given.

KYE MONASTERY: It 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 Budha and other goddesses. Lamas practice dance, sing and play on pipes and horns. Many Lamas get religious training here. It has murals and books of high aesthetic value.

THANG YUG GOMPA: It is located 13kms. above kaza serving western part of central Spiti. Situated in a secluded place in the narrow gauge of Kaza Nallah, it generally has a Lama from Tibet. Above this there is a long plateau which leads to Shilla peak.

KUNGRI GOMPA: It is situated in the Pin valley about 10 kms. from Attargo where Spiti river has to be crossed to enter Pin valley. It is serves the population of Pin valley.

DHANKAR MONASTERY: It is situated about 25 kms. east of Kaza and serves eastern part of central Spiti. Dhankar is a big village and erstwhile capital of Spiti Kingdom. On top of a hill there is a fort which use to be the prison in olden times. The Monastery has about 100 Lamas and is in position of Budhist scriptures in Bhoti language. Principal figure is a Statue of " Vairochana" (Dhayan Budha) consisting of 4 complete figures seated back to back. It has relics in the shape of paintings and sculptures.

TABO MONASTERY: It is another big gompa for serving the population of eastern side. It belongs to the tenth century and is located 50 kms. from kaza. It is a famous gompa next to Tholing Gompa in Tibet. It has about 60 Lamas and a large collection of Scriptures, wall paintings etc. Murals of this gompa have a great similarity to that of the Ajanta paintings.

APPROACH

There are two routes to enter Spiti.

From Manali via Rohtang Pass to Kaza, the hqtr. of Spiti. Manali is connected by Air, Rail and Road. From Manali, there is a regular bus from July to October.

From Shimla via Kinnaur. Shimla is connected by Air, Rail & Road. From here by buses to Kaza from May to October.

WHAT TO SEE

KUNZUM PASS(4590 m): As Rohtang pass is a gateway to Lahaul so Kunzum pass is the gateway to Spiti from Kulu & Lahaul. After crossing Rohtang pass and driving 20kms, one has to turn right from Gramphoo. While going to this pass, the panoramic view of Bara-Sigri glacier (second longest glacier in the world) is enthrilling and inspiring.

There is a temple at the top of this pass dedicated to goddess Durga. After seeing this pass one can drive to Batal for a night stay in the Rest House. The view from the top is breathtaking. On one side is the Spiti valley and to the other are numerous C.B.(Chandra-Bhaga ) range peaks. On way back from Gramphoo one can either return to Manali (71kms.) or can go to Leh via Keylong , Darcha, Baralacha la, Sarchu, Tanglang la by road. From Tandi (8kms. short of Keylong) one can also drive to Pangi valley along the Chenab river to Udaipur, Trilokinath and Tindi and thereafter by trekking to Killar. From Killar to Chamba/Dalhousie/Delhi or to Kishtwar- Jammu-Delhi.

LOSAR(4080 m): It is situated near the confluence of Losar and Peeno streams. this village is worth a visit being the first big village and because of its Location. Yak and horse riding are other charms to add to its beauty and unique experience.

KAZA(3800 m): 224 kms. from Manali, 197kms. from Keylong and 425kms. from Shimla. Kaza is a Sub Divisional Hqtr. of Spiti Valley. It is situated at the foot of the step ridges on the left bank of Spiti river. There are PWD rest houses and a private hotels for the staying. Once it was the hqtr. of Nono, the chief of Spiti. It has all modern facilities and is connected by road with Manali & Shimla except in the winter months.

KIBBER(4205 m): It is locally known as Khyipur, one of the highest villages in the world at an altitude of 4205 m above sea level in a narrow valley surrounded by mountains from all sides. Rest Houses available for the visitors. Gette village, at a short distance away from kaza, is the highest in the world with a height of 4270 m.


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