Himachal Pradesh

Spiti beckons

Print edition : December 25, 2015

The stark trans-Himalayan landscape, shortly after the Sutlej enters India from Tibet at Shipki La in Himachal Pradesh. As one drives along the Sutlej, after Nako one enters the realm of the Spiti river, and at Sumdo, Spiti itself. Photo: DEB MUKHARJI

The Spiti river as it winds down from the valley, before its confluence with the Sutlej. Photo: DEB MUKHARJI

Dhankar village and monastery overlooking the confluence of the Pin and the Spiti. Not long ago the village was the seat of the ruler of Spiti. Dhankar was a seat of learning and home to precious relics and was, along with other monasteries in the region, subjected to depredations even as late as the 19th century. Photo: DEB MUKHARJI

Rocky outcrops silhouetted against the quiet autumn flow of the Spiti. Photo: DEB MUKHARJI

Spiti is a treasure trove for geologists. The layered rock faces carry the memory of millions of years since they were raised from the depths of the Tethys sea (Mesozoic era) and record "every geological age from the Precambrian to the present in pristine formations". Photo: DEB MUKHARJI

Between Tabo and Kaza, the Pin (left) joins the Spiti, now in a wide valley. The track along the Pin leads to the Pin-Parbati Pass—and to Kullu on the Beas. Photo: DEB MUKHARJI

The Tabo monastery in Spiti is among the most revered in the Buddhist world. Built in the 10th century when Spiti was a part of the kingdom of Guge in Tibet, Tabo was a great centre of learning. Described as Spiti's pride, Tabo has one of the most significant art treasures in the Buddhist world, its vibrant frescoes likened to those in Ajanta. The Dalai Lama has performed the Kalachakra ceremony twice at Tabo. Here, a view of the original monastery built of mud. Photo: DEB MUKHARJI

Monks in front of the chorten in the newly built monastery in Tabo. Photo: DEB MUKHARJI

Kibber village at over 14,000 feet (4,267 metres) had the distinction of having the highest post office in the world until recently when it was overtaken by a neighbouring village. Kibber has a variety of wildlife and is on the difficult trekking route to Ladakh, leading to Tso Muriri. Photo: DEB MUKHARJI

A time for meditation at Key, a monastery where the Dalai Lama has performed the Kalachakra ceremony. Photo: DEB MUKHARJI

At Langja, over 14,000 feet (4,267 m) and among the highest villages anywhere, a rooftop stocked with fodder for cattle for the winter and spring. Langja, situated high over the left bank of the Spiti, has a population of just over 100 and a variety of wildlife, including the Himalayan ibex and the snow leopard. Photo: DEB MUKHARJI

The Gutor festival in autumn is the year’s highlight in the life of the monastery and nearby villages. Celebrated with great pageantry, the day-long festivities aim at casting away evil spirits. Women from Tabo and nearby villages join in a dance. The festival is not confined to monks and there are traditional group dances by men, women and children. Photo: DEB MUKHARJI

When monks emerge from their prayer at the main temple after the morning festivities and proceed for the final act, the burning of the effigy of evil, devotees bow and seek benediction. Photo: DEB MUKHARJI

Monks perform the traditional Cham dance in front of the Tabo monastery during the festival. Photo: DEB MUKHARJI

Key (Ki) monastery with its impressive background is the most widely known image of Spiti. Built in the 11th century, Key, a repository of murals and statues, has also had its share of depredations.

A massive statue of the Buddha keeps watch over Langja.

Prayer flags and "katas" tied to the chorten marks Kunzum la on a grey autumn morning. Kunzum marks the boundary between Spiti and Lahaul. Photo: deb mukharji

A novice offers tea to visitors at Key monastery. Photo: deb mukharji

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