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Tabo in Spiti Valley

 

The mystic Spiti Valley

 

The mystic beauty of the Trans-Himalayan regions of Spiti (locally pronounced as 'Piti' ), Lahaul, Ladakh and Tibet continue to leave one and all speechless. The only audible sounds breaking through the cold ice of this serene valley are those of the river water crashing against the rocks, the howling of the wind and the twitter of an occasional bird.

 

 

 

 

Spiti, most rightly known as the 'Valley of Monasteries', forms one of the Trans-Himalayan frontier regions of India on the north-west with a population of 9591 in the area of 8,000 sq km. Administratively, this valley forms the Spiti sub-division of Lahaul & Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. It is bounded by Ladakh region on the north, Lahaul sub-division and Kullu district in the west and south-east respectively, and by Kinnuar district on the eastern side. Spiti Valley is thus located in one of the most elevated, harsh and inhospitable snow deserts, between latitude 31*-35" and 33*-0" due north and longitude 77*-37" and 78*-35" due east in the Trans-Himalayan region with perpetual aridity and extreme cold, where even time seems to have frozen into stillness. Spiti region abounds in fossils of primordial aquatic life, known as ammonites. This high altitude desert and home to the endangered snow leopard presently under study in the adjacent Pin Valley National Park.

 

Panoramic view of the Tabo MonasteryThe climatic condition of the valley is similar to that of  Ladakh region, i.e. arid and arctic. The great Himalayan ranges separate it the warm and humid region of Lahaul and Kullu.

 

Spiti valley is accessible to the outside world only in the fair weather conditions during the summer. For rest of the year it remains isolated as the roads to this region are disrupted due to thick layers of snow.

Although situated at a higher altitude, it is quite wide and  open, yet very rugged and perilous, having geo-climatic conditions similar to the upper region of Ladakh.

 

The people are largely Buddhists and followers of the Geluk-pa sect. They are warm and hospitable. Religion plays a major role in everyday life as piles of mani stones, prayer flags and strategically placed chortens testify. The repetition of the mantra "Om mani padme hum" (literally, 'Behold the jewel is in the lotus'), is constant; it is said to bring good fortune and wash away all sins. A single crop of barley and buck wheat is cultivated in a year -- which hardly suffices the requirement. The people are therefore obliged to seek other vocations like rearing of live stocks and other traditional symbiotic trading to earn their living.

 

The Tabo Monastery is living up to its age - old tradition of being a learning centre by setting up a school that offers high level, modern education to the young generation in the valley.