Lahaul and Spiti
The Trans Himalayan District of Lahaul and Spiti comprises two subdivisions of the same names with headquarters at Keylong for Lahaul and Kaza for Spiti. The Buddhist monasteries punctuate the ethereal beauty of the area. Rohtang Pass at the height of 3980m is the gateway to the stark and forbidding landscape. Across Rohtang are the high bare hills, steep ridges, deep ravines and cliffs of naked rocks patched by refreshing greenery around villages on the banks of running streams. Lahaul, a derivative of Tibetan Lho-yul ‘ country in the south’ or of Lhahi-yul ‘country of the gods’ provides a mix of Buddhism and Hinduism with eighteen gompas and many temples, two of which at Trilokinath and Udaipur are known for exquisite carvings.
Keylong: Green fields all around and a small township is Keylong, the district headquarters of Lahaul where sits the Deputy Commissioner and district officers of other Departments. One English traveler is supposed to have said that Keylong is “a rough cut emerald in a bronze and silver setting”.
Gramphu: On the way to Keylong from Rohtang, 67km from Manali, is the bifurcation point of Keylong and Kaza.
Khokasar: First village of the valley as one descends from Rohtang La. Flat roofed houses and herbage attracts the attention.
Sissu: Lahaul’s patron deity, Gyehpang resides here in a monastery. Its marshy plains are stopover for migratory birds. It is 21km from Keylong towards Rohtang.
Gondhla: The most distinctive feature of this village is the eight storied timber and stone tower that was once the residence of the local “Thakur” chief.
Tandi: This is the place 6km away from Keylong, where the river Chandra and Bhaga meet.
Trilokinath: It is place worshiped by both the Buddhists and the Hindus. Hindus worship the deity in the temple, situated at a distance of 53km from Keylong, as that of Shiv and the Buddhist as that of Avalokiteshwar.
Udaipur: Raja Udai Singh of Chamba established the village in the 1695. It has an ancient temple dedicated to Durga called Mrikula with worth watching woodcarvings. Buddhist worship it as “Dorje Phang Ma”.
Bara Lacha La: This pass which is cross roads on the summits is 75km from Keylong. It is on Manali- Leh road. It is also the watershed for the Chandra Bhaga and Yunam Rivers.
Suraj Tal: This beautiful lake is the source for Bhaga River. It is 75km from Keylong.
Chandra Tal: Only 6km from Kunzam Pass, it is wide lake and pours water on river Chandra.
Spiti though a sub division of Lahaul and Spiti district, deserves a separate mention because of its ruggedness and the environs that are totally different from rest of Himachal Pradesh. Its ranges appear to be painted in shades of russets, pink and purple. Spiti is cold desert of the State and falls in the rain shadow zone- no rains but abundant snow. It has strong Buddhists traditions and has thirty gompas. It is the place “where the Gods live and a world within a world”. Spiti can also be reached from Shimla via Kinnaur.
Kaza: The headquarters of the District, 412km from Shimla, servers as the base for excursions in the area. A rest house and a few private guest houses besides the HPTDC hotel fulfill the need of the tourists visiting Spiti.
Ki(Key) Gompa: It is 12km from Kaza. Perched on a hilltop, it is one of the most visited monasteries. It was built in the 14th century and has the largest collection of Kangyur, the ancient Buddhist texts.
Dhankar: It is 24km from Kaza. The monastery once was a fort and dhankar, in local dialect, means a fort. Here once lived Nono, the ruler of Spiti. Buddhist scripture in Bhoti are available here these days.
Tabo: It is 47km from Kaza. Its exquisite wall paintings and stucco statues have given in the acronym”Ajanta of Himalayas”. Founded in 996 AD, it has been declared as the World Heritage site by UNESCO. This largest monastic complex in Spiti has an old section comprising nine temples, twenty three chortens, a monk’s and a nun’s chamber separately. Tabo’s sanctity is next to Tibet’s Tholing monastery in Trans Himalayan Buddhism.
Atrangu: A village on Kaza-Kinnaur route opens the path to Pin Valley formed by the pin river. The “chowmutrhi” horse of this valley especially of Sugnam and Kungri panchayats are very famous and are sold immediate during the Lavi Fair held at Rampur (Shimla district) held on November 11-14 every year. This valley is a National Park for a variety of rare animals. The Lingti Valley is on the left of Pin and offers some strenuous treks.
Kibber: It is 20km from Kaza. Its importance is because it is the permanently inhabited highest village connected by motor able road. This road has further touched the village of Gete at 4995m where there are only six living families.
Source: Department of Tourism & Civil Aviation, Himachal Pradesh