Translated, ‘Spiti‘ means the ‘middle country‘ – a name obviously given as a result of its ties with both lndia and Tibet. With freckles of green over a dry, weather-beaten face, Spiti is a cold desert where the monsoon rain never comes. It is characterized by stark beauty, narrow valleys and high mountains. 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 river Spiti that flows with cold snow-melt through the region is formed at the base of the Kunzam range. It flows eastward to meet the Sutlej at Khab in Kinnaur. En route, it is fed by several streams – Pin, Chiomo, Gyundi, Rahtang, Ulah, Lungze, Mane, Surahl, i-ianze, Tagling, Thumpa Lumpa, Kaza, Lingti, Parechu and Tabo. Spiti’s mountains form a part of the middle and the greater Himalaya and several peaks cross 6000m, while the mean elevation of the area is 4570m. The local people have divided it into four units – ‘sham’, the lower region, ‘Pin’, which lies by the Pin river, ‘bhar’, the middle tract and ‘tud’ the high territories. Kaza, the sub-divisional headquarters of Spiti, is situated on the left bank of the Spiti River. The village is overlooked by steep ridges. Kaza makes an ideal base camp for all treks and tours within the valley. Guides, porters, pack animals and most importantly permits for treks can be obtained in Kaza. Kaza has one of the two Sa- kya- pa sect monasteries. The other monastery is at Hikkim. Opposite Kaza on the right bank of the Spiti river is Kyuling from where the nono of Spiti ruled over his subjects. Rani Damyanti, a descendent of this ruling, family, now resides in Kaza preserving all the stately charm of theyester years. The highest villages in the world which are connected by motorable road are Kibber, Gete, Langza, Hikkim and Comic.
- Ki (Key, Kye) Gompa (12 kms. 4116 m). On the left bank of the river Spiti, the Ki gompa, is built on a spur that extends from high hill. This regarded as the largest in the sub-division and is a collection of rooms and a labyrinth
of corridors that do not follow any deﬁned plan, but seem to have grown over the years. Portions of the structure are three stories high, while others are lower. No definite date can be ascribed to the construction of the gompa –
that acted both as a monastery and as a ton. Some scholars believe this to have been built by Dromton (1008 – 64 AD). This is a repository of rare thangka paintings, and several ancient musical instruments – trumpets, cymbals and drums. lts libraiy holds the manuscripts of the sacred Tangyur texts. Apart from the cells occupied by the monks, the gompa has a large du-
khang, assembly chamber lined by religious paintings and other chambers for worship and gathering. The chamber of the incarnate abbot, the zim-chung is the highest point in the building.
- Kibber (Ki village to Kibber- 8 km. 4205 m). Situated in a narrow valley on the summit of a limestone rock this is the highest permanently inhabited village of the region connected by a motorable road. There is a monastery in
Kibber which is named after Serkang Rimpochhe of Tabo. The lama breathed his last in Kibber in 1983 and when he was being cremated a water source erupted from that spot. Even today the source is being used by
the villagers. There is a traditional trade route from Kibber to Ladakh over Parang La. The Spitians go to Ladakh to barter their horses for yaks or to sell for cash. The trek to Ladakh takes minimum 3 night halts. Permits are required for this trek. lt also acts as the base for several high altitude treks.
- Dhankar (3370 m, 24 km). 7 km from the turn-off at Schichling on the Tabo-Kaza highway. ln local parlance, a ‘dhankar’ is a fort – and that is what this monastery once was. Perched high over the valley, this is a superb example ofSpiti’s traditional architectural skills. This was once the castle ofthe ruler of Spiti, the Nono -_and today, Dhankar is a repository of Buddhist scriptures in the Bhoti script.
- Pin Valley. At Atragoo, 10 km from Schichling village, a side road leads to this valley formed by the Pin River, a tributary of the Spiti. The valley lies below the Kungri glacier and has several monasteries – the most important one is at Gungri, and has three blocks. This houses old relics and paintings and is the main centre of the Nyingma-pa sect in Spiti. It is built in three detached blocks and is said to date back to the times of Padmasambhava. The Pin Valley is a National Park, and is home to a variety of rare animals like the snow leopard, the ibex, the bharal and the thar. It has good treks – the main route connects the Kullu valley over the Pin Parbati pass and the other is through the Bhaba Valley. Tabo (3050 m, 47 km). Founded in 996 AD, the Tabo gompa has exquisite wall paintings and stucco statues – and is often called the ‘Ajanta of the Himalaya’, after the almost legendary art-treasure site in Maharashtra. In terms of area, this is the largest monastic complex in Spiti, and the old section has nine temples, 23 chortens, a monks‘ chamber and a nuns’ chamber. There are several caves and contemporary structures that form a part of the Tabo complex. In Trans Himalayan Buddhism, Tabo’s sanctity is next onlyto Tibet’s Tholing monastery.
- Lingti Valley. Through a deep gorge, the Lingti stream, another one of the Spiti’s tributaries, flows down from the north. lt offers some strenuous treks.
Losar(4040 m). This is the last habited village which is situated near the confluence of Peeno and Losar rivers. The views of Spitl valley and river from the top of the village are breathtaking. Yak and horse riding are major
attractions of this village.
- Kunzum La (4551 m, 76 km): One of- the highest motorable passes. Goddess Kunjum keeps guard over the pass and wards of the evil.
- Chandertal Lake (4270 m) : This beautiful lake is known as Moon Lake and is a popular destination for trekkers and campers. The lake is accessible on foot from Batal as well as from Kunzum Pass from late May to early October. There is also a motorable road from Batal which is 13 km away from Chandra Taal, but before August, its condition can be bad. The road from Kunzum Pass is accessible only on foot, and it is about 8 km from here.
THE SPITI – Deluxe Hotel
(Open June to October)
Named after the Spiti River and complimenting the Spiti valley, the hotel has been started recently. The hotel offers as excellent accommodation for exploring the artistically and culturally rich monasteries around Kaza.
ADDRESS : The Spiti, Kaza, Distt. Lahaul & Spiti (HP) –
172114. Tel. (01906) 222752. E-mail : email@example.com