Lahaul

Lahaul Valley

Height-3350 m
Miles of high flatlands, several glaciers and high peaks, sudden surprises in patches of verdant green, eighteen Buddhist monasteries, a few secluded Hindu temples, mountain passes that carry on tor miles, some high lakes and two large rivers -the Chandra and the Bhaga, that combine to form the Chandrabhaga (Chenab) — and a touch oi mystery over the origins of the place-name and you have Lahaul. Some call Lahaul the ‘Himalayan Scotland’, and the locals say that the derivative of the word ‘Lahaul’ is Lho — yul, the Tibetan for ‘Country of the south’ or oi Lhahi —yul, ‘Country of the g

Lahaul Valley view
Lahaul Valley

ods‘. Another possibility comes from the word La or mountain pass and this may mean the ‘Land with many passes’. Interestingly, the original name given to the area by its neighbours in Tibet and Ladakh was Garza or Garsha. The locals call their home Swangla.

One of the highest highways in the world passes through Lahaul, and connects Manali with Leh. This crosses four high passes — the Rohtang La (3,980 m), the Baralacha La (4,982m), the Lachlang La (5,066 m) and the Tanglang la (5,360 m). The main mountain ranges of the area are sub — systems of the Himalaya. Some are — the Pir Panial that forms high wings on either side of the Rohtang Pass, the Shigri range towards Spiti and the Drilbu rises on the lower section where the rivers Chandra and Bhaga move towards their confluence. Named in honour of the patron deity
oi the area, the Gyephang (Ghepan) peak is one of the most visible ones of Lahaul. Many of Lahaul’s peaks are still unclimbed — and unnamed. Lahaul has three primary valleys – the Chandra valley, the Bhaga valley and that of the Chandrabhaga, when both rivers combine into one. The last is commonly called the Pattan valley and is well cultivated and inhabited. Chandra and Bhaga rise on opposite sides ofthe Baralacha Pass. The town Keylong is the headquarters oi the administrative district of Lahaul — Spiti. lt has a marketplace, filling stations and basic medical facilities. The route to Keylong from Manali takes the traveller over the Rohtang Pass (3,980m). Khoksar is the first village of Lahaul. Then come Sissu and Gondhla; you cross the river Chandra- Bhaga at Tandi.

GETTING THERE

By road the distance is 115 km from Manali, 188 km from Kaza, 373 km from Leh, 435 km from Chandigarh and 690 km from Delhi. Heavy winter snows cut on‘ road connectivity to the region at Rohtang Pass for six months from November to June. Buses, Taxis are available from Manali in season. HPTDC also plies regular coaches to Leh via Keylong during July – September. Nearest
airport is Bhuntar, 175 km from Keylong.

CLIMATE

Lahaul remains cutoff from the outside the world till mid June due to heavy snowfall and closing oi Rohtang Pass. There is little or no rain in monsoons. The climate remains dry and invigorating. The days are hot and nights are extremely cold. Dressing in layers works best. Both light and heavy clothing will be required.

 

ATTRACTIONS

  • Sha  Shur Gompa (3 kms): Sha- Shur in the local dialect means ‘in the blue pines‘. This is very apt as good patches of blue pine can still be seen around the monastery. The Gompa was founded in the 17th C. AD by Lama Deva Gyatsho of Zangskar who was a missionary of Nawang Namgyal, the king of Bhutan. The lamas of the gompa are of the Drugpa sect (red hat sect). Deva Gyatsho remained in the monastery till his death. When he was being cremated, it is said, his heart did not burn and was enclosed in a black image of Gyatsho. A statue of Namgyal is also there in the Monastery. This gompa has one of the biggest Thanka paintings, over fifteen feet, and invaluable wall paintings depicting all the 84 Siddhas of Buddhism. In the month of June/July Chham dance-drama is performed in the monastery which is the most popular Chham in Lahaul.
    – Kardang (3500 m, 5 kms): This was once the capital of Lahaul has the most popular and the biggest monastery of the area. The monastery is situated on the left bank of the river Bhaga
    lust above the village of Kardang.This is one of the most revered places of the Drug – pa (Red Hat) sect, it has a large library and is also the repository of some exquisite thangka
    paintings, musical instruments and old weapons.
  •  Tayul (6 kms): This Gompa above the village of Satingri has a huge statue of Padma Sambhava and his two manifestations as Singhmukha and Vairavarahi. The statue is 12 feet tall. The Gompa houses big library of Kangyur. Thankas in the gompa depict various episodes from the life of Lord Buddha. ‘Tayul’ means the “place that is chosen”, and so it must be for local legend maintains that the main prayer wheel rotates on its own accord on certain occasions.
  •  Guru Ghantal Monastery (3020 m, 8 kms): This monastery is situated on a hill above the Tupchiling village at the confluence of the rivers Chandra and Bhaga. This gompa was founded by Padma Sambhava and is several centuries old. This monastery has idols of Guru Padma Sambhava, Brijeshwari Devi and several other lamas. – Tandi (2673 m, 6 kms): This has the confluence of rivers Chandra and Bhaga and here, they form the Chandrabhaga River; as soon as it enters Jammu and Kashmir it is renamed the Chenab. The Bhaga River (a tributary of the Chandrabhaga or Chenab) originates from Surai Tal. The other major tributary of the Chandrabhaga, the Chandra originates from the glacier close to the Chandra Tal lake in originates from the glacier close to the Chandra Tal lake in the Spiti district. The village Tandi is situated above the confluence of the rivers Chandra and Bhaga in the Pattan valley some 7 kms away from Keylong.
  • Gemur(18 kms): This is a small monastery, but is held in great sanctity and is well known for its ‘dance – drama’ enacted every July.
  • Gondhla (16 kms. 3,160 m): This has the seven storey house of the Thakur of Gondhla, called the Gondhla castle or fort and attracts a large number of tourists. It is said that the fort
    was built in 1700 A.D. by Raia Man Singh of Kullu. The castle is an example of the indigenous timber bonded stone style of the Western Himalayas consisting of alternate courses of stone and wooden beams and cemented together with wet clay. Several weapons including bows, arrows, quivers, catapults, guns and canons beside other articles of antique value can be seen here.
  • Sissu (3130 m, 28 kms): The monastery houses an image of Lahaul’s patron deity, Gyephang, while its marshy plains act as a stop over for migratory birds.
    Khoksar (3140 m, 45 kms): Khoksar isthe first village and gateway to Lahaul. This village is surrounded by high mountains and is avalanche — prone. Avalanches can be seen piled up even near the river bed. During winters Khoksar is the coldest inhabited place in Lahaul. The river freezes during winters and used as a regular passage by humans and mules.
  • Rohtang La (3980 m, 110 kms): The Tibetan Roh means a ‘dead body‘ while Tang is a heap or pile. La is a mountain pass. in earlier times, many people died while crossing this pass. Legend has it that the gods have created the pass. The force of the lash is regarded to be responsible fort he high winds still encountered there. A variation of the story comes from the epic, the Mahabharata where the strongest of the Pandava brothers kicked the mountain aside to enable his mother to cross.
  • Kunzum La (4,550 m): This is one of the highest motorable passes in the area. Goddess Kunzum keeps guard over this pass and wardsoff evil. This Pass connects Lahaul with Spiti overthe Kunzim range and the majestic Shigri peak is visible from its crest.
  • Chandra Tal (66 kms. 4, 270 m): 6 kms from the Kunzam Pass that connects Spiti and Lahaul, this lake is surrounded by snows and acres of scree and its deep blue — waters have a circumference of 2.5 km.
  • Jispa (28 kms, 3200 m): Attractively sited, this is a small village which also has religious significance. The village has a helipad, a post office, and a monastery. Travellers often stop
    for the night here; the village has a hotel, a mountaineers‘ hut, and a campground. Jispa also has a small folk museum.
  • Darcha( 37 km, 3400 m): Darcha is a picturesque village in Lahaul on the banks of Bhaga River on Keylong — Leh Road. The village is an ideal destination to experience village lite and the breath taking landscape with the dry snowy desert beyond it.
  • Suraj Tal Lake (4880 m): This is known as the Lake of the Sun God and lies lust below the summit of the Baralacha La; it and considered to be the highest lake in lndia and the 21st highest in the world. This lake ls the source of Bhaga River which joins the river Chandra downstream at Tandi.
  • Baralacha La (75 kms. 4890 m): This means ‘the pass with the cross—roads on the summit‘. And here meet the paths from Zanskar, Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul. lt is eight kilometres long and is
    on the Manall — Leh route. This is also the watershed for the Chandra, Bhaga and Yunam rivers.
  • Sarchu: After the Tanglang La, this is the last point in Himachal on the route to Leh. Shansha (27 kms): The deity Gyephang is regarded to have been born here and a shrine is dedicated to him.
  • Jalma (33 kms): This is considered to be the legendary abode of many of Lahaul‘s deities.
  • Trilokinath (53 kms. 2,760 m): its shrine is revered by both Hindus and Buddhists. It is the site of an important fair called ‘Pon” held in August.
  • Udaipur (53 kms. 2,650m): This has an ancient wooden temple of Tripura Sundari dedicated to Durga and has some rare carvings.

HOTELS

The Chandrabhaga – Deluxe Hotel
(Open from mid June to mid October)
The majestically built hotel is on the Manali – Leh road at Keylong, ofiering spectacular views of the Kardang monastery and the four high peaks covered with snow. The Hotel derives its name after the two rivers – Chandra & Bhaga that flow through Lahaul and joins each other at Tandi.
ADDRESS: The ChandraBhaga, Keylong, Distt.
Lahaul & Spiti (HR) Tel: (01900) – 222247, 222393.