As it is clear from the name Lahaul & Spiti, the district comprises two different mountain tracts, one known as Lahaul and the other as Spiti. Hence the name of the district came into being with the formation of these two parts into a revenue district. The names, Lahaul & Spiti, have different origins. The present administrative center is Keylong in Lahaul. Before the two districts were merged, Kardang was the capital of Lahaul, and Dhankar the capital of Spiti. The district was formed in 1960 and is the fourth-least populous district in India (out of 640).
Kunzum la or the Kunzum Pass is the entrance pass to the Spiti Valley from Lahaul. It is 21 km from Chandra Tal. This district is connected to Manali through the Rohtang Pass. To the south, Spiti ends 24 km from Tabo, at the Sumdo where the road enters Kinnaur and joins with National Highway No. 5.
The two valleys are quite different in character. Spiti is more barren and difficult to cross. It is a typical mountain desert area with an average annual rainfall of only 170 mm.
l a h a u l & s p i t i
- The total area of Lahaul and Spiti is 13835 sq. km.
- The total population of this district is 31,528 (Lahaul=10,199, Udaipur=8,884, Spiti=12,445)
- The village of Spiti is also known as ‘little Tibet’.
- The Sex ratio is 916 women per 1000 men.
- The economy of Lahaul Spiti depends mainly on agriculture. The main crops are wheat, rice, barley, etc. Horticulture is also practiced in this district.
- Tehsils : Lahaul and Kaza.
- Sub Tehsil: Udaipur.
- Gram Panchayat : 41 (Lahaul = 28, Spiti = 13)
- Vidhan Sabha Constituency: Lahaul & Spiti, Lahaul, and Spiti is also a part of Mandi Lok Sabha constituency.
- Language: Hindi, Manchad Dialects, Bhoti, Sanskrit.
- Main River: Sutlej.
- The two units of the district i.e. Lahaul & Spiti, have separate historical backgrounds. In the distant past, Lahaul had been changing hands between the rulers of Ladakh and Kulu. In the second half of the seventeenth century with the disintegration of Ladakh kingdom, Lahaul passed into the hands of the Kulu chief.
- In 1840, Maharaja Ranjit Singh took over Lahaul along with Kulu and ruled over it till 1846 when the area came under the sway of the British.
- From 1846 to 1940, Lahaul formed part of the Kulu sub-division of Kangra district and was administered through the local jagirdars/thakurs.
- One of the Thakurs was designated as Wizier (Vajeer) of Lahaul & was invested with judicial and executive powers. Another Thakur was given the powers of a Revenue Officer.
- Accordingly, in 1941, a separate sub-tehsil comprising Lahaul & Spiti was formed and a naib-tehsildar was posted at Keylong thereby divesting the thakurs of their powers.
- The system remained in vogue till June 1960 when Lahaul & Spiti district came into being. Simultaneously, Lahaul was constituted into a separate tehsil, and, later on, it was formed into a sub-division.
- The Nono (King) of Kyuling was recognized as the hereditary Wizier of Spiti and was suppose to represent the British India Government.
- In 1941, Spiti with Lahaul was constituted into a separate sub-tehsil of Kullu sub-division which had its headquarters at Keylong. Later on, after the formation of Lahaul & Spiti into a district, in 1960, Spiti was formed into a sub-division with its headquarter at Kaza.
- In ancient Buddhist scriptures “Padma Thang Yiang” and “Mamkambum” there is mention of a country named Khasa or Hasha to the south of Ladakh and Zangskar. It is possible also that “Garzha” may be a corruption of Khasa or Hasha.
- Incidentally, the name Lahaul had been in use only in Kullu and by Indians whereas the local people, Kinnaurs and Tibetans called this area as Garzha.
- Between the 6th century B.C. and the 5th century A.D. the Saka and Khasa tribes after having been driven out from Central Asia by the Huns, crossed over to India. Many of these settled down in the valleys of Mid Himalayans between Garhwal and Ladakh. This is borne out by the numerous remains of their graves found in these valleys.
- There is a Nullah near Keylong known as Shaks which seems to have taken its name after the Saka tribe settled in the Bhaga valley.
- Before Hieun–Tsang visit, Lahaul was controlled by Kullu, Kunindas and Brahmpura (Chamba).
- The history of Lahaul & Spiti remained altogether different in the earlier period and was influenced by different forces. The impact of Kullu, Chamba, and to some extent Ladakh is visible in Lahaul whereas Spiti is influenced mostly by Tibet and Ladakh cultures.
- During the reign of Chet Sen in 7th century Spiti was annexed by Ladakhi king “Skyid-Lde-Ni-Ma-Mgon“.
- It is said that during the strong rule of Ladakh, Spiti was an integral part of the Ladakh and during the weak rule, it was an autonomous state.
- Lha-Chen Utpala (1080-1110 AD) Raja of Ladakh, invaded Kullu and Raja of Kullu promised to pay tribute as Iron and “Mdsos” called “Zo“. It is a crossbreed between Yak and Cow. Mdsos is not found in Kullu and King of Kullu use to bring Mdsos from Lahaul.
- King Utpala was responsible for the conversion of Marikula Devi temple into a shrine of Marachi Vajra Varah.
- Kullu and Chamba always aspired to make control over Lahaul and Spiti. One possible reason which strengthens this belief is that in early times both Kullu and Chamba had their capitals nearest Lahaul i.e. “Nast” and “Brahmapura” respectively.
- During Ladakhi Raja Utpala, Lahaul was not under the control of Kullu and Chamba, till 1532-1559 A.D. when Bahadur Singh became Raja of Kullu, who acquired Lahaul.
- It is said that when Kullu succeeded to acquire Lahaul, Chamba was in alliance with Kullu because the three daughters of Kullu Raja was married to Pratap Singh Varman (1564-1582) who was the son of Ganesh Varman.
- The image of Marikula Devi at Marikul-Udaipur was set up during the reign of Chamba king Pratap Singh Varman by Thakur Himpal.
- It is said that the architect who constructed Marikula Devi temple was the same who built the Hidimba Devi (Doongri) Temple in Manali during the reign of Bahadur Singh in 1553.
- In order to prevent the artist from ever making a duplicate of Hidimba temple, Kullu Raja ordered to cut the architect’s right hand but the gifted artist trained his left hand and executed an even finer piece of carving at Markul.
- Since the reign of Bahadur Singh, Kullu ruled over Lahaul till both Kullu and Lahaul were conquered by the Sikh.
- During the control of Kullu over Lahaul, there were petty chiefs who were called RGyalpos and Jo (village headman).
- In 1683, Ladakh was invaded by “Qalaaqs” (Mongols). The cause of the war was a conflict in Tibet between the two religious sects of “Dug–pa (Red-Hat)” and Gelugpa (yellow-hat). Ladakh took the side of Dugpas”. The Gelugpa invited the Mongols for their help and invaded Ladakh. Simultaneously Mangol invaded Lahaul as its Lamas were followers of “Dugpa sect”. This invasion is remembered in Lahaul as Sog–Po (Mongol invasion).
- The Mongol army stayed in Lahaul for two years acquired the fort of “Keylong” and was then annihilated by Glacier near “Tinan”.
- Bidhi Singh (1672-1688) of Kullu helped Mughals when they were invited by Ladakhis under the leadership of “Fidai Khan” against Mongols. For this assistance Mughals rewarded Bidhi Singh the annexation of the upper portion of the upper Lahaul.
- In Lahaul, “Thirot” remained the dividing boundary between Kullu and Chamba which was decided during the reign of “Bidhi Singh”.
- Raja Man Singh (1688-1719) of Kullu in about 1700 A.D. had boundaries with Ladakh fixed at “Lingti“.
- After Tibetan-Ladakhi and Mughal war of 1681-83 A.D., Spiti was nominally under Ladakh. Raja Man Singh took advantage of this and took control over Spiti and forced her to pay tribute.
- Man Singh built the “Gondhla fort” which was called “Rani-ki-Kothi”.
- During the time of Raja Tedhi Singh of Kullu when no goldsmiths were able to manufacture a golden parasol required to Raghunath Ji. Then a Goldsmith “Phuntson” was called from Lahaul.
- During the reign of Raja Pritam Singh (1767-1806), the Lahaul army under “Gepanglha” was supporter against Mandi at “Bajaura” and Mandi was defeated in the battle.
- When Moorcraft passed through Lahaul in 1820 he found that four villages i.e. Barkalanak, Mooling, Shipting, and Gus were still paying revenue to the state of Ladakh which was stopped by Britishers in 1862.
- In those days “Tandi” was the capital of Lahaul where administrators and representatives of Raja of Kullu govern from.
- William Morocraft and Treveck traveled Spiti in 1821.
- In 1840, the Sikh army subjugated Mandi state and Kullu Raja was captured who died in 1841 at “Shangri”. At that time along with Kullu, Lahaul also came under the direct control of Sikh.
- When Cunningham visited Lahaul in 1839, he found it already under Sikh, and Zorawar Singh governor of Ladakh controlled the trade between Lahaul and Ladakh. His tax system was found very oppressive by people.
- In 1841, Zorawar Singh attacked Tibet, but could not stand powerful against Tibet and was killed.
- In 1842, the Tibetan army moved towards Ladakh but they were defeated by forces of “Gulab Singh” in December 1842 and their general “Sukhang” was taken as prisoner.
- In 1846 by the treaty of Amritsar, between Gulab Singh and British granted hill area of Punjab to Gulab Singh but the area of Lahaul and Spiti remained under British control.
- The area lying below “Thirot” remained under Chamba, after the annexation of Lahaul to British territory. This area was known as “Chamba Lahaul” and the rest area was called British Lahaul.
- A Cunningham and Vans Angew fixed the boundary between Spiti and Ladakh and eastern Tibet, the mountainous and uninhabited territory to the east of Baralacha and north of the Parang passes being attached to Spiti in the autumn of 1846. The boundary runs from west of the Baralacha pass, crosses the Lingti plain, and passes eastward to the south of the Tsomoriri lake and then south to the Sutlej touching Tibet proper on the way.
- After the annexation of Lahaul and Kullu by Britishers, Lahaul was made part of the Kullu subdivision which was under the charge of an assistant commissioner who worked under the deputy commissioner of Kangra district whose headquarter was at Dharmshala.
- The highest officer of Lahaul was “Negi“, who was responsible to collect revenue. “Negi” had his headquarters at “Keylong” where he worked as an honorary Magistrate and Jurisdiction was extending throughout Lahaul. Negi was responsible for arranging ‘Begar’ and forced labour.
- Bali Ram was the first Negi of Lahaul appointed by the British government and Thakur Tara Chand of Khangsar was appointed the Next Negi.
- After this, the post remained hereditary till 1941, when a Naib Tehsildar was appointed.
- In 1849 “Major Hay” Assistant Commissioner of Kullu went to Spiti and took over the charge and hereditary Wazir of Spiti who was called Nono was granted a Jagir.
- In 1873, Nono was formally vested with honorary magisterial power.
- During the First World War of 1914-18, Wazir Amir Chand of Lahaul helped the British government took command in person as “Jamadar“. For his valuable services, he was given the title of ‘Rai Bahadur’ in 1917.
- In 1941, a sub-Tehsil of Lahaul and Spiti was created with headquarters at Keylong.
- In 1960, the government of Punjab converted the Lahaul-Spiti area into a district with headquarters at Keylong.
- In 1966, it was transferred to Himachal Pradesh.
ORIGIN OF NAME
- ACCORDING TO HIUEN TSANG: Hieun -Tsang noticed Lahaul as a country by the name of La-Hu-La and the area of Spiti was ruled by Sen King. One of the earliest known rulers was Samudra Sen. During the reign of Rajendra Sen; Kullu became a tributary to Spiti for a short period.
- ACCORDING TO BUDDHIST SCRIPTURES: In ancient Buddhist scriptures Padma thangyiang and Mam-kambum, there is mention of a country named Khasa or Hasha to the south of Ladakh and Zangskar. It is possible also that Garzha may be a corruption of Khasa \or Hasha. Lahaul is known by Tibetan meditation practitioners and adepts as Garsha Khandroling, Land of the Dakinis. Dakinis are energetic female spiritual guides often depicted as blissful and fierce dancers. Read more about Garsha Khanroling here : Lahaul: Garsha Khandroling, Land of the Dakinis
FAIRS, FESTIVALS AND DANCES
- LADARCHA FAIR: Previously, this fair used to be celebrated in Kibbar maidan in Spit in the month of July where traders from Ladakh, Rampur Busher and Spiti meet in this fair to barter their produce. Due to the closure of Tibetan traders, this fair is now being celebrated at Kaza.
- PAURI FAIR: This fair is celebrated during the summer in the 3rd week of August every year. In earlier times this was the most prominent fair of Lahaul. After the prayer and rituals, the fair begins. On the second morning, a traditional procession is taken out, which is headed by the Thakur of Triloknath riding on a decorated horse.
- TRIBAL FAIR KEYLONG: Tribal fair coinciding with Independence day is celebrated with great pomp and show from 14th to 16th August, at Keylong the headquarters of the district. It is being celebrated as at State level fair.
- TSHESHU FAIRS: Tsheshu fair is celebrated in Shashur, Gemara, Kyi, Kardang Tabo and Mane Monasteries in the months of June. A large number of devotees/ people gather on these occasions. Devil dance is performed by the Lamas bedecked in colorful dresses and wearing masks of different birds and animals.
- FESTIVAL OF LIGHT: A festival of lights known as Diwali is celebrated all over India in October every year. A similar type of festival is celebrated as Khogla in Pattan valley and Halda in other valleys of Lahaul in the second and third week of January. The date is fixed by a Lama while in Pattan valley it is celebrated to Magh Poornima coincide with (full moon).
- FAGLI: Fagli, locally known as Kus or Kuns is one of the most important festivals of the Pattan valley. It falls, after a fortnight of Khogla on Amavasya (Moonless Night) in the first/ second week of February.
- GOTHSI ( GOCHI): There is a festival of the Bhaga valley which is celebrated in February in the houses where a son was born during the preceding year. The villagers gather in the morning. A dough is made of Sattu ( roasted barley ) and is placed on a big plate. It is lifted by four men to the place of the village deity which is generally an idol of stone, a tree, or a bush. A young girl dressed in her best clothes and decked with ornaments accompanies them. The girl carries a pot of change ( Local drink). She is followed by two men, one carrying a burning stick of pencil cedar and the other pencil their cedar leaves tied together in a lambskin. After the worship of the village deity is over, the people disperse but the relatives and friends move into the group and visit all their houses where male children are born. Drinking and dancing go together, sometimes all through the nights.
- SISSU:This fair is a common fair celebrated all over the Buddhist Himalaya.
- BHUMSKOR: Celebrated in Lahaul, Bhumskor is a religious Agrigarian festival where the fields are blessed by the lama, and the ceremonies are held in honor of mother nature and respecting our dependency on the lands. People believe that if religious books are taken around fields, there will be a bumper crop.
- HALDA OR LOSAR: Losar, frequently known as Halda in the Lahaul region, marks the Tibetan New year. Celebrated in February, Losar is eminent for a lot of pomp and circumstance. Festivities are aplenty, with all monasteries partaking in the traditions, and one can witness ritual dances and vibrant imagery.
- OTHER FESTIVALS ARE:
- Gyago festival: This festival is a farewell to the old year celebrated at the end of December.
- Namga: It is a harvest festival celebrated in September.
- Chho Thang: In this festival, a Lama is called from Gompa and he reads Tanjiver consisting of 108 scriptures.
- Binger: Celebration on the birth of a son or the first daughter.
- Thon-Thon: This festival is held in April to celebrate the end of winter.
- Yave: It is a festival in which God Triloknath is worshiped by old men and women in the month of June.
- Gator festival: In the monastery of Kee, Tabo, Dhankar, and pin (Spiti). Every year, in the 4th week of September, Gator is celebrated. The Lamas conduct the worship of God Chaugayal succeeded by throwing saur into the fire while performing the Chham dance.
- Lachhang: The festival is celebrated for the welcome of the winter season. The local deity is worshiped with the hope that the winter would be happy and prosperous for the local people.
- Paklen: It is celebrated at the time of marriage.
- Shehni: In this dance both men and women take part.
- Ghure: In this dance, there is no arm linking. Dancers move in a group and circle.
- Garphi: It is the oldest form of dance; movement is neither regular nor arranged.
There are mainly three types of marriages prevalent in Lahaul.
- ‘Tebagston or Mothe biah’ that is an arranged marriage.
- ‘Kowanchi Biah’ that is arranged but performed very briefly.
- ‘Kunmaibagstan or Kuchi Biah’ that is a marriage by elopement.
Marriage Type in Spiti: There are mainly two types of marriages.
- Arranged marriage and
- Khandum marriage: Khandum means the choice is made against the wishes of their parents.
Divorce system in Lahaul-Spiti:
Kupachacha or Tshud – Thwagsti: This is a ritual performed in the case of divorce in Lahaul-Spiti, a simple woolen thread is tied to the little finger of both the companions is pulled apart in presence of some elder person and this decides the issue.
PLACES OF INTEREST
- Triloknath Temple: This temple was constructed in the 10th century. It is proved by a stone inscription which was found in the temple complex in 2002. It is described in this stone inscription that this temple was made by Dvanjra Rana which are beloved to be ancestors of present ‘ Rana Thakurs rulers of Triloknath village. They were believed to be helped by King Shell Varman of Chamba who got this temple constructed in ‘Shikhar style’ as there are ‘Laxmi Narayan’ temple complex of Chamba. King Shell Varman was the founder of Chamba town. This temple was approximately constructed at the end of the 9th century and at the starting of the 10th century.
- Shashur Gompa: Shashur Gompa is a small Olde worlde Buddhist shrine of the Drugpa sect built-in 16th Century. It is located 2km from the hill-town of Keylong. Surrounded by beautiful blue pine trees, it is perched at 6000 meters above the valley. The Gompa is known for its learning center as well as its excellent architecture.
- Kee Monastery: Overlooking Kaza from a height of about 13,500 ft, the Kee monastery is the largest in the valley and holds powerful sway over the most populous part of the valley around Kaza. From a distance, it resembles the Thiksey monastery near Leh in Ladakh. The irregular prayer chambers are interconnected by dark passages, tortuous staircases, and small doors. Hundreds of lamas receive their religious training in the monastery. It is also known for its beautiful murals, thankas, rare manuscripts, stucco images, and peculiar wind instruments that form part of the orchestra whenever Chham is enacted in the gompa in summer. Another interesting aspect of the gompa is its collection of weapons which may have been used to ward off marauders as also to maintain its control over people betraying a church-militant character. The gompa is approached by road from Kaza (only 12 km). However, it is only an 8.5 km trek from Kaza.
- Kibber Village: Kibber Village, situated in Spiti, is the highest motorable village in the world. It is atop an altitude of 4205 meters above sea level. Kibber is a godsend for sky-gazers and photographers because the altitude makes it extremely photogenic. Kibber, which is pretty close to Kee Monastery, also has many other monasteries. There is a wildlife sanctuary here which has many native animals, such as ibex, Himalayan wolf, snow leopard, etc.
- Tabo Monastery: Founded in 996 AD, Tabo is one of the earliest running Buddhist monasteries in the country. It is a protected monument and also is deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tabo Monastery has a lot of frescoes and carvings on its walls, which has helped it earn the name, “Ajanta of the Himalayas”. It has 9 temples, 4 decorated stupas, and cave temples. Tabo grew as an important center for learning and education during the early centuries. Tabo Monastery currently runs Serkong School, which has about 274 students.
- Hampta Pass: Hampta Pass emerges out of the green valleys of Kullu at right angles to a corridor. The corridor/overhang acts as a balcony from where you can enjoy the view of the world below. Therefore it is considered exclusive and incredible. It is located at an altitude of 4270 meters above sea level. Hamta Pass is a gateway of sorts to Chandratal Lake. This pass is frequented by the shepherds of lower valleys to seek high altitude grasslands in the summer.
ECONOMY OF LAHAUL AND SPITI
- Potato and other vegetables were first introduced by Moravian missionaries at Keylong in 1857.
- The Moravian mission was German in origin but became international in character and the funds exclusively came from England. Some of the missionaries had indeed done a valuable historical, archaeological and linguistic works in the district.
- Dr. A.D.H. Francke deserves a special mention who wrote some of the books on Lahul and its history and the development of language etc. His book “Antiquities of Indian Tibet” contains a wealth of information about Lahaul.
- Kuth cultivation was introduced in 1925.
- Zo and Zomo (Male and female respectively) is a progeny of a cross between cow and yak. It is believed that after six generations of the crossing of the cow with yak the progeny is back again to pure yak. Zomo milk has a very high-fat content.
- Lahaul -Spiti has earned the distinction of achieving the highest per hectare production of Potato relegating the Netherland to the second position.
- Rattanjot is found in Spiti valley.
- In 1869, a branch post office was opened at Keylong.
- The first regular school was started by the district board Kangra in 1919 with the Urdu medium.
- In 1935, a second post office was opened at “Lote” in Pattan valley.
- Seed farm, a research unit was established at Gorma in Pattan valley in 1960.
- In the year 1978 keeping in view the aspiration of the people and with the desire to streamline the administrative setup, an additional deputy commissioner was posted at Kaza.
- There is a Kuth and dry fruit Research unit at Keylong
FACTS and TRIVIA
- It is the only district that has seen a decrease in its population in the past 10 years. It went down to 31564 from 33224 in 2001 which is roughly -5.10% decrease.
- Bara Shigri is the largest glacier located in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India. It is the second-longest glacier in Himalaya after Gangotri, both are around 30 km long.
- Before the spread of Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism, the people were adherents of the religion ‘Lung Pe Choi’, an animistic religion that had some affinities with the Bön religion of Tibet.
- The Dalai Lama has expressed his desire to retire to Tabo since he maintains that the Tabo Monastery is one of the holiest.
- The Mummy of Sangha Tenzin, which is now kept on display in a temple in Gue, is said to be more than 500 years old.
- January is the coldest period of a year in Kaza town with an average temperature of -45 °C.Hikkim Village near Kaza is one of the highest year-round inhabited locations in India, with residences from 4330 to 4400 meters. It is also credited to have the World’s highest post office. The Pin code is 172114.
- Kee monastery is the highest altitude monastery in India at 4166 meters and is the second-highest in the world.
- The Lahaul Valley is one of India’s major disease-free seed potato-producing regions, with more than 90 percent of the produce going to states like West Bengal, Bihar, and Karnataka.
- Lahaul Spiti has the Highest irrigation intensity for the area under the plough in Himachal, which means most of the cultivable land is used for irrigation.
- Lahaul-Spiti has the Highest Per Capita Income in the State.
- Lahaul Spiti has the Highest coverage of Social security pensions in the State.
- One Himachal
- India Hikes
- Native Planet
- HP General Studies and
- Himachal Pradesh government site for lahaul and spiti.