Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lahaul and Spiti

 Lahaul and Spiti
Lahaul and Spiti, the largest district in Himachal Pradesh, is a vast area of high mountains and narrow valleys bounded by Ladakh to the north, Tibet to the east, Kinnaur to the southeast and the Kullu valley to the south. Lahaul is often regarded as a midway point en route to Leh and the Indus valley, but has more to offer travellers. Spiti has only recently been opened to foreign tourists attracted to its isolated Buddhist gompas and villages. Lahaul is also a fascinating area for Buddhist art and culture. The monasteries of Lahaul and Spiti are rich repositories of ancient murals, thankas, wood carvings and golden images of the Padmasambhava. The people are charming, friendly and hospitable with their own traditional dances, ballads, folk tales and legends. 

The altitude varies from over 6,500 m in the high peaks to 2,740 m, where the Chenab River makes its exit from the region. The Lahaul region is at an altitude of 3000-3900 m, the air is much rarified and there are heavy snowstorms between September and May. Nevertheless, since the rains here are very scanty, it is an ideal place for trekkers, especially in the months between June and September. The Spiti valley is connected to Lahaul through the 4500-m Kunzam pass. Beyond the reach of the monsoon, the valley sees little rain in summer, when the sun is strong, and the nights cool. 

How to reach 

By Air 

Delhi is the most convenient city to access the Indian Himalayas, and there are flights to Shimla, Kullu, Leh and Chandigarh. The final 30-minute approach to Leh is regarded as one of the most spectacular flights in the world. 

By Train 

There are rail connections from Delhi to Shimla, Haridwar (near Rishikesh), Kathgodam (35 km from Naini Tal) and Ramnagar. It is easy to reach Manali from these places and then from Manali to Lahaul and Spiti. Between Kaza and Keylong, there are irregular bus services.

Lahaul and Spiti at a glance :

Lahaul and Spiti at a glance :

12,210 sq km.
Best time to visit Lahaul
Mid June to Late October
Best time to visit Spiti
August to October

Places of Interest
Suraj Tal , Guru Ghantal Monastery(3020 m) , Tashigang Gompa , Tilasangh Monastery , Kaza , Thang yug Gompa , Ki and Kibber , Tabo Gompa , Shashur Gompa , Dhankar Monastery , Kunzam , Keylong , Tayul Gompa(3900 m) , Khardong Gompa , Pin Valley National Park 

Suraj Tal 

Below the summit of the Baralacha Pass in the Lahaul division of district Lahaul and Spiti. The Baralacha la connects Manali and Lahaul to Ladakh and the lake which draws a considerable number of visitors - especially in summer - lies by its head. This is the source of the river Bhaga.

Guru Ghantal Monastery(3020 m)

This is on the right bank of Chandra river about 4 kms. above Tandi and is believed to be the oldest Gompa of Lahoul having wooden structure with pyramidal roofs, wood carving, 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.

Tashigang Gompa

Can be visited by taking diversion from Khab to Namgya and then trekking to the Gompa.

Tilasangh Monastery

1 km. trek from Ka, it is 12 km. short of Yangthang.


Kaza is the administrative centre and transport hub of Spiti subdistrict. Kaza's old town, around the new bus stand, is a maza of little shops, hotels and whitewashed houses. The new town across the creek, is a collection of tin-roofed government buildings.

Thang yug Gompa
It is located 13 kms. 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.

Ki and Kibber

Founded in the sixteenth century, the Kyi Gompa is the largest and the oldest monastery in the Spiti Valley, supporting a thriving community of lamas. It is located at a height of about 4116 meters above sea level. Ki, the oldest and largest gompa in Spiti, about 14 kms from Kaza, was built by Ringchen Zangpo and belongs to the Gelukpa order. The gompa is famous for its priceless collection of ancient thangkas, including Tibetan silk thangkas upto 800 years old and frescoes depicting the life of Padmasambhava. The Chaam festival, held in the month of June/July, is a much-awaited event of this gompa. 

Kibber or Khyipur is 11 km from Kyi Gompa, and is the highest settlement in the world (4205 meters) with a motorable road and electricity. The Ladarcha festival held here each July attracts Buddhists from all over the world. 

Tabo Gompa

Tabo Gompa is one of the most important monasteries in the Tibetan Buddhist world. It is 1,002 years old monastary. It was built in 996 AD. There are nine temples in the complex, at all ground level and dating from the 10th to the 16th century. The main assembly hall of the Tsuglhakhang is surrounded by 33 raised Bodhisattva statues and houses a four-sided statue of Sarvarvid Vairocana, one of the five Dhyani Buddhas.

Shashur Gompa

Shashur Gompa is 3 kms from Keylong. Dedicated to a Zanskari lama, it was built in the 16th century and is of the Gelukpa order. The 5m thangka is famous in the region. An annual festival, held every June or July is renowned for the mask dances performed by the lamas. 

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 King. On top of a hill there is a fort which use to be a prison in olden times. The Monastery has about 100 Lamas and is in position of Buddhist 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.


On the road from Kaza to Keylong is Kunzam, a mountain pass at an attitude of 4551 meters, with a temple of Kunzam Devi. One can also trek from here to the famous and beautiful moon lake Chandratal (4070 m). Asia's biggest glaciers, Bada and Chotta Sigri, can be seen from here. At Gondhla, one can visit the seven-storey castle of the Thakur of Gondhla. The Guru Ganthal gompa, in Tupchiling, 4 km away, is about 800 years old and an important site to visit. 

Keylong is the headquarter of the Lahaul sub-district. It is located in the fertile valley of Bhaga.

Tayul Gompa(3900 m)

Tayul Gompa is 6 kms. from Keylong and is one of the oldest monasteries of the valley having a huge statue of Guru Padmasamhava about 5m 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.

Khardong Gompa

The Khardong Gompa stands just opposite the Bhaga Valley from Keylong. This 900-year-old monastery belongs to the Drukpa Kagyud order and has some beautiful frescoes.

Pin Valley National Park 

Pin Valley National Park is located in Lahaul & Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. The region is a cold desert, which is adjoined to the Great Himalayan National Park in the southwest and Rupi Bhabha sanctuary in the south. The park extends from the latitudes 31°45'-32°11'N and longitudes 77°45'-78°06'E. The Pin Valley, south of the Dhankar gompa, has been declared as a national park


Conditions are generally cold and dry as the region has always been a cold desert. It receives heavy snowfall in winter, the rainfall being average. Best time to visit the park is from May to October. 

How to reach 

There are two approach routes to Pin Valley National Park. The first one is via Manali - Rohtang Pass - Kunzum La. This route is open from July to October. The second one is via Shimla - Tapri – Kaza. March to December is the best time to approach the park via this route. The nearest airport is at Bhuntar in Kullu district. Private operators operate flights to Delhi from here; therefore it would be wise to confirm flight schedules etc. in advance. Shimla at a distance of around 443 km is the nearest railhead. 

Where to stay

Bunkers have been constructed by the wildlife authorities in the Pin Valley National Park region which is a suitable way to stay there. Camping is the best way to spend night in the park. One can also avail accommodation at Kaza, the nearest town, which is also the administrative centre of Spiti.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


BSF officer killed in Kulgam encounter    

The sources said the second group of militants escaped after the encounter, but those holed up inside were believed to have been killed as both houses where they were hiding caught fire and were gutted.

BSF officer killed in encounter
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, December 10
A Deputy Commandant of the Border Security Force (BSF) and three others, including two militants, were killed in separate incidents in the Kashmir valley since yesterday.
A BSF spokesman told TNS here that Deputy Commandant Shamsher Singh was killed in a night-long encounter with militants at Khuri Batapora in the Kulgam area of Anantnag district last night.
He said security forces, on specific information, cordoned off Batapora locality yesterday afternoon. While search was being conducted, hiding militants opened fire on the search party at about 7.30 p.m.
The fire was retaliated which continued for about an hour, in which the officer was killed. The cordon was further tightened throughout the night, the spokesman said.
He added that the troops were again fired upon by the hiding militants this morning. One house was gutted in the exchange of fire between the militants and the security forces. The security forces have recovered an unidentified body from the debris of the house.
Two militants were killed in an encounter with the security forces at Lam in the Tral area of Pulwama district today. One of them was identified as Mushtaq Ahmad, believed to be an IED expert. Two AK rifles were recovered from the site of the encounter, the BSF spokesman said.
JAMMU: Indian troops killed five hardcore militants in the Surankot area of Poonch district on Monday. With this the toll of terrorists in Poonch district on Monday rose to 10.
Defence Ministry reports said on a tip-off troops cordoned off a militant hideout in the Surankot area.
As soldiers neared the hideout they came under heavy fire which was retaliated. All five terrorists were killed on the spot.
Earlier, the troops eliminated five foreign mercenaries in the Mandi area of Poonch. They were trying to cross into Pakistan.
Official reports said Indian troops spotted some movement on the LoC during the wee hours and asked the rebels to halt but they opened fire. The troops retaliated, killing five militants on the spot.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hony Captain(Retd) Bhim Chand,

During the Kashmir operations in 1948, Subedar Bhim Chand was ordered to take out a guerilla platoon and capture the last enemy positions in Leh tehsil. To reach his objective he had to use ropes, picks and shovels on the way and had to cross snow-covered peaks 22,000 feet high.

His platoon suffered 50 percent casualties from frostbite, but Subedar Bhim Chand was confident and determined to fulfill his mission. Finally on 27th December 1948, he made a surprise attack and captured enemy positions. The enemy ran away leaving behind six dead, three rifles, Bren magazines, blankets and other stores.

In this action the JCO showed great power of endurance, devotion to duty, magnificent capacity to organise and extraordinary determination to win his objective. For this he was awarded the VrC and the Bar to VrC.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Holy Mount Kailash is one of the most popular ultimate Hindu pilgrimage sites in Himalayan region dedicated to Lord Shiva where every devotee wants to go. Mount Kailash, which is believed to have been formed 30 million years ago when Himalayas were in their early stage of formation, is one of the most revered places in the Himalayas.Mansarovar and Mt. Kailash are two of the holiest pilgrimage areas to devotees of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Bonism and many other faiths. Each year thousands of devotees undertake the treacherous and rigorous journey through the mountains and plains of Nepal and China ( Tibet) to reach this sacred land.Mt. Kailash, 6,740 mtr. high peak is situated to the north of the Himalayan barrier, wholly within Tibet. It is the perfect mountain with awesome beauty, with four great faces. It is the spiritual centre for four great religions: Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, the Jain religion and the pre-Buddhist animistic religion - Bonpo. For the Hindus Mount Kailash is the earthly manifestation of Mt. Meru, their spiritual centre of the universe, described as a fantastic 'world pillar' 84,000 miles high, around which all else revolves, its roots in the lowest hell and its summit kissing the heavens. On the top live their most revered God, Shiva, and his consort Parvati. For the Jains, an Indian religious group, Kailash is the site where their first prophet achieved enlightenment. For the older, more ancient religion of Bon, it is the site where its founder Shanrab is said to have descended from heaven.Spread out on the Tibetan plateau beside Mount Kailash is the giant lake of shifting colors - Lake Mansarovar. Brahma, the creator, had a mind (‘Man’) for the creation of a lake (‘Sarovar’), hence its name ( Mansarovar). A pilgrimage to Mount Kailash and a bath in the Mansarovar is believed to bring about salvation (Moksha) and washed away all the sins of life. Over the centuries pilgrims have constantly journeyed immense distances to achieve enlightenment or cleanse themselves of sin, braving enormous distances, particularly harsh weather and bandit attacks. People have been visiting Kailash - Mansarovar for centuries. It used to be very hard journey in the past; today it is lot easy to reach to the heaven now!
This adventure begins with the drive across the Himalaya west into Tibet to Holy Lake Mansarovar. Here you will join the throngs of pilgrims who, for centuries, have converged on this remote southwestern corner of Tibet to circumambulate the sacred mountain, considered to be the center of the universe by Hindus and Buddhist alike. Kailash enjoys great popularity the folk religion of Tibet - it is the soul of the country and assures protection for all Tibetans. The fountain head of four great Asian rivers ( Indus, Sutlej, Bramhaputra and Karnali), few mountain reveals Kailash for its mystique, isolation and prominence, for 3 days you will walk with pilgrims around this. It is an experience of a lifetime...!
Mount Kailash - The abode of Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati : Mt. Kailash is claimed to be the apex of the Hindu religious axis, is also one of the holist mountains in Tibet . Lord Shiva resides in Kailash among the peaceful Himalayas. A mythological story says that Lord Shiva once built a house for himself but gave it away to a devotee who asked for it. Thus without changing his residence he settled in the mountain of Kailash. This is his abode where he stays with his whole family including his wife Goddess Parvati and children Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikiya and the other Shiv Ganas (group of Shiva Devotees) like Nandi and others. According to ancient religious texts, the abode of Lord Vishnu is called Vaikuntha, the abode of Lord Bhrama is called Bhramaloka and the abode of Lord Shiva is called Kailash. Of the three, one can only go bodily and return in this life from Kailash having experienced divinity. The Hindus, buddhist and Jains all alike travel to this place as pilgrims. A journey to Kailash mansarovar is considered as once in a lifetime achievement.
In the northern part there is a mighty mountain by the name Himalaya, the abode of perpetual snow, fittingly called the lord of mountains, animated by Divinity as its soul and internal spirit (or in other words, Divinity incarnate). Spanning the wide land from the eastern to the western sea, be stands as it were like the measuring rod of earth.At the direction of the king Prithu the self same mountain was used as a calf by all other mountains. While the Mount Neru (KAILAS) stood as an expert milker of cows and milched the Mother Earth (as if from a cow) the milk of shining gems and medicinal herbs of wonderful virtues and supreme efficacy (in order to adorn the Himalayas)
865 Kms from Delhi, stand Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar constituting one of the grandest of the Himalayan beauty spots. The perpetual snowclad peak of holy Kailas of hoary antiquity and celebrity, the spotless design of nature's art, of most bewitching and overpowering beauty, has a vibration of the supreme order from the spiritual point of view. It seems to stand as an immediate revelation of the Almighty in concrete form, which makes man bend his knees and lower his head in reverence. Its gorgeous silvery summit, resplendent with the luster of spiritual aura, pierces into a heavenly height of 6690 meters (22028 feet) above the level of the sea.

The Holy Mansarovar Lake The PARIKRAMA or circumambulation of the Kailas Parvat is about 54 kms. Mount Kailas is revered in Sanskrit literature as the abode of the all-blissful Lord Shiva and his divine spouse Parvati, the all-enchanting Nature (Prakriti) which from 32 kms. off is overlooking the Holy Mansarovar and the Rakshas TaI, in the south. The holy Mansarovar or manasa-sarovara is the holiest, the most fascinating, the most inspiring, the most famous of all the lakes in the world and the most ancient that civilization knows. It is a famous lake in the Hindu mythology. The lake is majestically calm and dignified like a huge bluish green emerald or a pure turquoise set between the two mighty and equally majestic silver mountains, the Kailas on the north and the Gurla Mandhata on the south and between the sister lake Rakshas Tal or Ravan Harda on the west and some hills on the the foothills of Mount Kailash, lies the magnificent lake of Mansarovar. The lake changes colour and mood with the passing hours and seasons: placid now, tempestuous the next. The reflection of the sun, the clouds, the stars and even, Kailash, keeps the beholder spellbound. The lake is large, being 88 kms in circumference and with a maximum depth of 300 ft. Its fascinating variety and beauty captures the heart and imagination of the viewers. The water of the lake can be freezing at certain times of the day and during certain seasons and pleasantly warm at others. Regardless of the temperature, most devout pilgrims have an opportunity to take a holy dip in the lake.
The first camp at Qihu, where the yatris spend two days is well-equipped and offers a stunning view of the lake. There you can bathe in the lake and offer puja. It is requested that damage to the pristine surroundings in any manner should be avoided and use of soap or detergent while bathing is prohibited. Those wishing to have a proper bath may visit the baths at hot water springs. Their charges are Yuan 20 per head.
The Parikrama begins with a drive through the vast plains of Barkha to Qugu, a distance of about 85 kms. There will be a brief halt at Hore, which has a basic market where one can purchase fresh fruit and vegetables. The camp at Qugu is located on the banks of the Mansarovar Lake. Yatris can, if they wish, perform their puja here.
The next day you return to Qihu, thus completing the Parikrama of Lake Mansarovar. You will spend one more day at Qihu to get in touch with the other half of your original group, and return to Taklakot together.
Moving Forward...
After a two-day stay at Taklakot to complete emigration and custom formalities, you have to cross back in to India via the Lipulekh pass.
The return journey from Lipulekh to Dharchula is via the same route taken on the onward journey except that from Dharchula, the yatris have to travel to Jageshwar instead of Kathgodam and then to Delhi.
Facilities on the Chinese Side
Taklakot is an important town in the area. Accommodation is provided at Purang Guest House for pilgrims, where regular rooms are available with cots, mattresses, comforters (razai), etc. Electricity and hot water for bathing is available at specific times. The toilet facilities are quite primitive. At Taklakot, the Chinese authorities provide vegetarian food of a Chinese flavour, such as bread, vegetable soup, noodles, boiled rice, etc.
The camps at Darchen, Deraphuk, Zongzerubu, Hore, Qugu and Qihu are basic structures and have several rooms, which are to be shared. Each room can accommodate 4 to 6 pilgrims. Mattresses, pillows and comforters are provided. There is electricity only at Darchen camp. Yatris have to prepare their own food in all these camps. The Chinese side will provide hot water and a stove for cooking.. Yatris are advised to carry some food items of their choice from India.
Medical Facilities
Two medical personnel provided by the State Government of Uttaranchal will accompany each group of pilgrims up to Gunji. Beyond Gunji, Indo-Tibetan Border Police will take over the medical arrangements upto Lipulekh Pass. Pilgrims are nevertheless advised to carry some basic medicines (Appendix – F). Please also ensure that you carry sufficient stock of special medicines that have been prescribed for you. During the Yatra, should the accompanying doctor and the Liaison Officer feel that a pilgrim is not fit to continue, their decision will be final. No refund at all is permissible in such cases. On the Chinese side there is no doctor to accompany pilgrims during the Parikrama of Kailash and Mansarovar.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Volcanic-like activity triggers scare in Lahaul-Spiti

mysterious explosion atop a mountain has sent a major scare across Rangrik village in Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh.

With the phenomenon, said to resemble a volcanic eruption, triggering massive landslides and waters to gush continuously, edgy villagers are reportedly left with no option but to trek uphill on Sunday to find a way of stemming the problem rather than wait for the district administration and scientists to heed their cry for help. With 120 houses and 700 villagers, Rangrik is 4,000 meter above sea level and 7 km away from main Kaza town. Fearing a tragedy might strike anytime without timely intervention, village headman Tandup Tashi told TOI, "We have already informed the district administration but nothing has been done so far, except for the assurance that Geological Survey of India has been informed. We can’t keep waiting for officials to come and inspect the site, so we have decided to climb the mountain on Sunday to check what actually happened and what can be done." Banking on a pair of binoculars to assess the situation soon after the "explosion" on July 27, Tashi added, "We saw that a ditch had been created from where water was gushing down. If steps are not taken to check the flow, the situation may become dangerous." But brushing aside fears of villagers, geologists said that in India, sporadic volcanic activity took place only on Barrel islands in Andaman and Nicobar. Pardeep Singh, senior GSI geologist added, "There can be several reasons for such a mountain explosion, including presence of hydro-thermal gases and sulphur. But reasons and factors will be known only after visiting the site." Trying to maintain calm, Chhering, who runs a private school here, "Initially, it looked like some volcano activity because there was smoke-like dust all around the mountain top, followed by bright sparks caused by rolling boulders colliding with one another." However, not ruling out danger to the village and 2-MW Rongtong hydel project nearby, Dr SS Samant, incharge-scientist, GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, said, "There is a risk to the village andproject if the landslides and flow of water are not stopped. It’s important to understand reasons behind the phenomenon."