Lahaul Valley

Lahaul Valley 

Miles of high flatlands, several glaciers and high peaks, sudden surprises in patches of verdant green, eighteen Buddhist monasteries, a few secluded Hindu temples, mountain passes that carry on for miles, some high lakes and two large rivers the Chandra and the Bhaga, that combine to form the Chandrabhaga (Chenab) and a touch of mystery over the origins ofthe place-name and you have Lahaul. Some call Lahaul the ‘Himalayan Scotland’, and the locals say that the derivative of the word ‘Lahaul’ is Lho-yul, the Tibetan for ‘Country of the south‘ or of Lhahi-yul, ‘Country of the gods‘. Another possibility comes from the word La or mountain pass and this may mean the ‘Land with many passes’. Interestingly, the original name given to the area by its neighbours in Tibet and Ladakh was Garza or Garsha. The locals call their homLahaul Spiti valleye Swangla. One of the highest highways in the world passes through Lahaul, and connects Manali with Leh. This crosses four high passes the Rohtang La (3,980 m), the Baralacha La (4,982m), the Lachlang La ( 5,066 m) and the Tanglang la ( 5,360 m). The main mountain ranges of the area are sub-systems of the Himalaya. Some are the Pir Panjal that forms high wings on either side of the Rohtang Pass, the Shigri range towards Spiti and the Drilbu rises on the lower section where the rivers Chandra and Bhaga move towards their confluence. Named in honour of the patron deity of the area, the Gyephang (Ghepan ) peak is one of the most visible ones of Lahaul. Many of Lahaul’s peaks are still unclimbed and unnamed. Lahaul has three primary valleys the Chandra valley, the Bhaga valley and that of the Chandrabhaga, when both rivers combine into one. The last is commonly called the Pattan valley and is well cultivated and inhabited. Chandra and Bhaga rise on opposite sides of the Baralacha Pass. The town Keylong is the headquarters of the administrative district of Lahaul-Spiti. It has a marketplace, filling stations and basic medical facilities. The region is strange, exciting, primitive mountainous and delightful.

Rudyard Kipling said of the region “Surely the God live here this no place for men.” The route to Lahaul takes a traveler over Rohtang Pass (3980 ml), Koksar (1st village of Lahaul) Sissu, Gondla and crossing the river Chandra Bhaga at Tandi. (Lahaul history)

GETTlNG THERE

By Road : The distance is 115 km from Manali, 188 km from Kaza, 373 km from Leh, 435 km from Chandigarh and 690 km from Delhi. Heavy winter snows cut off road connectivity to the mregion at Rohtang Pass for six months from November to June. Buses, Taxis are available from Manali in season. HPTDC also plies regular coaches to Leh via Keylong during July — September. Nearest airport is Bhunter, 175 km from
Keylong.

CLIMATE:

Lahaul remains cut-off from outside the world till mid June due to heavy snowfall and closing of Rohtang Pass. There is little or no rain in monsoons. The climate remains dry and invigorating. The days are hot and nights are extremely cold. Heavy / Light woolens are recommended. Dressing in layers  works best. Both light and heavy clothing will be required.

TOURIST  ATTRACTIONS :

Chandra river flowing through Lahaul

Chandra river flowing through Lahaul

  • Sha-Shur Gompa (3 kms). Sha-shur in the local dialect means in the blue pines. This is very apt as good patches of blue pine can still be seen around the monastery. The Gompa was founded in the 17th C. AD by Lama Deva Gyatsho of Zangskar who was a missionary of Nawang Namgyal, the king of Bhutan. The lamas of the gompa are of the Drugpa sect (red hat sect). Deva Gyatsho remained in the monastery till his death. When he was being cremated, this is said, his heart did not burn and was enclosed in a black image of Gyatsho. A statue of Namgyal is also there in the Monastery. This gompa has the biggest Thanka paintings, over fifteen feet, and invaluable wall paintings depicting all the 84 Siddhas of Buddhism. In the month of June/July Chham is performed in the monastery which is the most popular Chham in Lahaul.
  • Kardang (3500 m, 5 kms). This which was once the capital of Lahaul has the most popular and the biggest monastery of the area. The monastery is situated on the left bank of the river Bhaga just above the village of Kardang.This is one of the most revered places of the Drug-pa (Red Hat) sect, it has a large library and is also the repository of some exquisite thangka_paintings, musical instruments and old weapons. Tayul (6 kms). This Gompa above the village of Satingri has the biggest statue of Padma Sambhava and his two manifestations as Singhmukha and Vajravarahi. The statue is 12 feet tall. The Gompa houses big library of Kangyur. Thankas in the  gompa depict various episodes from the life of Lord Buddha. ‘Tayu|‘ means the “place that is chosen”, and so it must be for local legend maintains that the main prayer wheel rotates on its own accord on certain occasions.
    Guru Ghantal Monastery (3020 m, 8 kms.). This monastery is situated on a hill above the Tupchiling village at the confluence of the rivers Chandra and Bhaga. This gompa was founded by Padma Sambhava and is more than 800 years old. This monastery has idols of Guru Padma Sambhava, Brijeshwari Devi and several other lamas.
  • Tandi (2673 m, 6 kms). This has the confluence of rivers Chandra and Bhaga and here form the Chandrabhaga River and as soon as it enters Jammu and Kashmir it is renamed as the Chenab River. The Bhaga River (a tributary of the Chandrabhaga or Chenab) originates from Surya taal. The other major tributary of the Chandrabhaga, the Chandra originates from the glacier close to the Chandra Taal lake in originates from the glacier close to the Chandra Taal lake in the Spiti district. The village Tandi is situated above the confluence of the rivers Chandra and Bhaga in the Pattan valley some 8 kms away from Keylong.
  • Gemur (18 kms). This is a small monastery, but is held in great sanctity and is well known for its ‘dance-drama‘ enacted every July.
  • Gondhla (16 kms. 3,160 m). This seven storey House of the Thakur of Gondhla, called the Gondhla castle or fort and attracts a large number of tourists. it is said that the fort was built in 1700 A.D. by Raja Man Singh of Kullu. The castle is an example of the indigenous timber bonded stone style of the Western Himalayas consisting of alternate courses of stone and wooden beams and cemented together with wet clay. Several weapons including bows, arrows, quivers, catapults, guns and canons beside other articles of antique value can be seen rusting in the apartment. ,
  • Sissu (3130 m, 28 kms). The monastery houses an image of Lahaul’s patron deity, Gyephang, while its marshy plains act as a stopover for migratory birds.
  • Khoksar (3140 m, 45 km). Khoksar Is the first village and gate way to Lahaul. This village is surrounded by high mountains and is avalanche-prone. Avalanches can be seen piled up even near the river bed. During winters Khoksar is the coldest inhabited place in Lahaul. The river freezes during winters and is covered with snow to afford regular passage for human beings as also for mule traffic.
  • Rohtang La (3980 m, 110 km). The Tibetan Roh means a ‘dead body‘ while Tang is a heap or pile. La is a mountain pass. In earlier times, many people died while crossing this pass. Legend has it that the gods has himself created the pass. The force of the lash is regarded to be responsible for the high winds still encountered there. A variation of the story comes from the epic, the Mahabharata where the strongest of the Pandava brothers kicked the mountain aside to enable his mother to cross.
    Kunzam La (4,550 m). This is one of the highest motorable passes. Goddess Kunzum keeps guard over this pass and wards off evil. This Pass connects Lahaul with Spiti over the Kunzam range and the majestic Shigri peak is visible from its crest. Chandra Tal (66 kms. 4, 270 m). 8 kms from the Kunzam Pass that connects Spiti and Lahaul, this lake is surrounded by snows and acres of scree and its deep blue-waters have a circumference of 2.5 km.
  • Jispa (28 kms, 3200 m) Attractively sited, this is a small village which also has religious significance. The village has a helipad, a post office, and a monastery. Travellers often stop for the night here; the village has a hotel, a mountaineers’ hut, and a campground. Jispa also has a small folk museum.
  • Darcha (37 km, 3400 m). Darcha is a picturesque village in Lahaul on the banks of Bhaga River on Keylong-Leh Road. The village is an ideal destination to experience village life and the breath taking landscape with the dry snowy desert beyond it.
  • Suraj Tal Lake (4880 m): This is known as the Lake of the Sun God and lies just below the summit of the Baralacha La and considered to be the highest lake in lndia and the 21st-highest in the world. this Lake is the source of Bhaga River which joins the River Chandra
    downstream at Tandi.
  • Baralacha La (75 kms. 4890 m). This means ‘ the pass with the cross-roads on the summit‘. And here meet the paths from Zanskar, Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul. It is eight kilometres long and is on the Manali-Leh route. This is also the watershed for the Chandra, Bhaga and Yunam rivers.
  • Sarchu. After the Tanglang La, this is the last point in Himachal on the route to Leh.
  • Shansha (27 kms). The deity Gyephang is regarded to have been born here and a shrine is dedicated to him.
  • Jalma (33 kms). This is considered to be the legendary abode ofmany of Lahaul’s deities.
  • Trilokinath (53 kms. 2,760 m). Its shrine is revered by both Hindus and Buddhists. It is the site of an important fair called ‘Pori’ held in August.
  • Udaipur (53 kms. 2,650 m). This has an ancient wooden temple of Tripura Sundari dedicated to Durga and has some rare carvings.

HOTELS:

THE CHANDRABHAGA – Deluxe Hotel
(Open from mid June to mid October)
The majestically built hotel is on the Manali – Leh road at Keylong, offering spectacular views of the Kardang monastery and the four high peaks covered with snow. The Hotel derives its name after the two rivers-Chandra & Bhaga that flow through Lahaul and joins each other at Tandi and further take its way with the name Chanderabhaga.
ADDRESS : The Chander Bhaga, Keylong, Distt. Lahaul &
Spiti (H.P.) Tel. : (01900) – 222247, 222393.