There’s more to temples in India than the deity who adorns the walls and grants so much power to temple that culminates into fan following later. So many time we have heard such phrases – Lord Krishna’s Maha Mandir; Mata ka bhavya Mandir or Shivji’s temple etc etc. The temple gets its identity and popularity from the deity it houses.
Though on our trips usually do not visit temples a lot but if some temple is known for commendable history to boast of as well as incredible architecture to induce awe we can’t keep it off our list 🙂
On our road trip to Spiti, we observed almost all the temples and monasteries had beautiful rather inspiring doors, sharing few glimpses via this post 🙂
‘There’s a 550 years old Mummy of a Monk preserved in the village!!’
This piece of information was more than enough to leave us totally intrigued, curious and super excited to visit Gue Village in Spiti.
We bid goodbye to Kaza on April 29th and embarked on our return journey to New Delhi. However, we still had three more destinations to cover – Gue, Nako and Sangla. So far, so good!! And we had a huge 1100 kms distance to cover until we reach home so had to stay positive and strong.
However, Spiti is one region where the flurry of surprises never ends; you cannot predict what you’ll encounter next. This fact serves like a natural morale boost for explorers like us and therefore though the journey was challenging we carried on with panache.
Going to Gue!!
Gue, is a high altitude tiny hamlet located at a distance of roughly 40 kms from Tabo village. The road is beautiful and mostly well maintained.
The day we were traveling we did not see a single vehicle moving towards Gue barring ours!! However, got used to this feeling 🙂 We observed change in the pattern and color of rocky mountains as we approached the village. The mountains adorned copper color as if they were meticulously painted.
When we reached the Village….
The village had an eerie silence; the wind gave special effects reminding us of the movie ‘Hills Have Eyes’!!! When we entered the village we could not spot a single soul!! We were looking for someone to confirm the way to Monastery that houses ‘Mummy’.
However the huts / houses, Tibetan flags, scripted / inscribed stones made us comfortable. The inscribed stone thing is very peculiar to Tibetan culture; I’m going to cover the carving culture exclusively in another post. I believe the stones are hand scripted. The place looked beautiful and there were many things that distracted us from directly going to the Monastery.
We could observe bright and colorful Monastery perched on top from a distance and assumed this must be the one. We kept ascending with the road to reach there.
When the Monastery premises felt peculiar…
The wind pressure increased, it became little frosty too and somehow we both felt so dehydrated up there!!
We both were feeling something, I’m not sure if this was just a psychosomatic discomfort but the moment we reached the premises we felt quite different, there was something in the stillness of the place.
Looking for the ‘Mummified Lama’
There was no one around and the Monastery was locked!! It was so disheartening, after traveling so far we did not want to miss visiting the Monastery (read taking a close look at the mummified Monk)
Unlike other monasteries we visited so far, this one seemed fairly new!! And yes it was. The structure was painted with bright red, blue and green colors, totally aesthetically appealing. One particular thing about the ‘Monastery’ was firstly the shape was unlike what we have seen at other places and secondly the dragon-like faces at the four corners. Moreover, I wish I could understand what was written on the walls there.
So, after peeking through all over two floors of the Monastery like structure and waiting for someone, we still had no luck L the circumstantial evidence reflected the interiors were still in the making. The structure was vacant and there were cartons lying in the corners.
Just when we were about to get moving (reluctantly though), the little cemented room in proximity caught our attention. It looked like a watchman or security personnel’s room. It had glass windows, so we decided to sneak peek in search of some luck. And voila!!!!
Also featured in “Tangy Picks” on Blogadda
Our visit to Tabo village had left us excited and yearning for more. After visiting the Tabo Gompa and taking a short walk in Tabo village we were ready to continue our 11 days Trans Himalayan voyage.
We began driving towards Kaza around 11 am (though our next stop was Dhankar); thankfully the road was straight and real smooth. The sun out there was bright enough to give us serious tan however the wind was chilly. And it was super windy!!!
Beautiful! Beautiful! Journey
Spiti River was accompanying us religiously; it looked so pristine and blue. We couldn’t hold back our excitement and decided to go closer and feel the water. We really wanted to stay more but the ruthless Sun and our restless Baby boy pushed us to drive further.
It’s hard to miss the road to Dhankar; it’s beautiful and quite evident.
This is the ‘BEST’ part of visiting Dhankar. The magnificent views that your eyes witness will fill your heart with excitement beyond ordinary. There are many turns on this road and the views keep changing with every turn leaving one with great expectations.
As an encore the car keeps shaking most of the time owing to strong wind.
Places to be visited
One peculiar thing about Spiti Valley is that it’s not really about sightseeing but more about enjoying the journey, adrenaline rush and spectacular nature.
Mostly at all the destinations you will find a Monastery (Gompa) and/or a Fort accompanied by amazing history and legends.
Dhankar- The Intriguing History!!
Dhankar stands tall at an altitude of 12,774 feet. Dhang/dang means cliff, and kar/khar means fort. Hence, the fort on a cliff is popularly known as ‘Dhankar’. The confluence of Spiti & Pin Rivers from this height is incredible!!!
Dhankar houses a 16th century old fort monastery; however one can see the new monastery now in the tiny village of Shichilling. The old monastery complex is also known as Lha-O-pa Gompa; it has five different halls and includes a number of multi-storied buildings. Don’t miss out on the Lhakhang Gompa – the Monastery of the followers of Lha-O, famous lama who was born in 1121. The highlight of the monastery is the a statue of Vairochana or Dhayan Buddha with 4 figures seated back to back.
Dhankar served as the ancient capital of the Spiti Valley Kingdom in the 17th century. The Nonos, the former rulers of Spiti, chose this strategic high altitude village for competent control. The legends say that the monastery has also served as a prison in the former era.
The monastery is associated with Gelukpa order of Tibetan Buddhism and has around 150 lamas residing in it.
The monasteries in Spiti Valley are mostly locked (at least in April they most certainly are) but the Monk usually opens it up on request for the visit. And sometimes the Monk will happily give you a tour explaining all the details about idols, scriptures, artifacts. We were not so lucky at Dhankar but at Tabo Gompa we met a super friendly Monk who spent so much time clarifying our doubts about Buddhism and Tibetan religion and culture.
Dhankar Gompa / Monastery is declared as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world by World Monuments Fund in 2006. The ceilings and walls mostly made of wood are in dilapidated condition yet the beauty is eternal.
If you liked reading about Dhankar, then this might interest you too –
“Not everybody trusts paintings but people believe photographs” – Ansel Adams
This image was captured in Ki village, Spiti Valley near Key Gompa / Monastery in India.
Latest update on Rohtang Pass Tourism
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has now allowed to carry certain non-polluting tourism activities at Rohtang Pass thereby uplifting the imposed ban in May 2016 indicating following –
- Non-polluting activities include renting of local dresses, photography, paragliding (at Solang and Marhi) and snow-scooters (at Beas Nala Sagu Fall and Gulaba)
- Also, not more than 50 All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) shall be permitted to run in above mentioned areas subject to verification.
At an elevation of 13,059 feet (3978m), Rohtang Pass is a mountain peak near Manali. It enjoys unparalleled popularity amongst tourists. It lies on the eastern Pir Pinjal range of Himalayas and connects Kullu Valley to Lahaul Valley.
‘A four member bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar allowed activities like renting of local (Pahari) dresses and photography at Rohtang Pass. It allowed paragliding at Solang Nullah and Marhi and snow-scooters (four stroke) at Beas Nala Sagu Fall, and Gulaba.‘
In July 2015, NGT imposed a ban on tourism-related activities at Rohtang Pass and its adjoining areas to curtail the damage to ecosystem caused by movement of vehicles and large scale tourism activities, including horse riding, snow biking, paragliding, tyre-tube gaming and snow scooters at Rohtang, Solang and Marhi.
Recently, on May 17th 2016, the Deputy Commissioner, Kullu (Hans Raj Chauhan), formally launched online permit issuance system for Rohtang Pass. Only 1,200 vehicles are allowed to cross Rohtang on a daily basis as per the NGT order. The permits would be available to tourists three days in advance thus saving time and undue hassles.
It’s appreciable that Government is taking stringent actions to save environment and limit receding of the glaciers at Rohtang Pass, however it is equally important that we, individually travel responsibly and take care of every place that we visit.
If you want your kids to relish the beauty of Himalayas, then preserve and conserve today.
At an elevation of 12,774 feet (3894m); Dhankar is a scenic village that lies between Tabo and Kaza. The entry to the village is hard to miss!! The meaning of the word ‘Dhankar’ is fort on a cliff.
Dhankar was the traditional capital of Spiti Valley ruled by the Nonos in 17th century. The fort and the monastery has deteriorated over the years and mostly ruined. However the monastery is being built to replace the old one.
Will share more pictures of this beautiful place soon 🙂
Tabo Monastery was built in 996 AD (more than a millennium back!!) covering about 6,300 sq. m , it’s one of the oldest surviving monasteries in the world. We covered Tabo as part of our 10 days road trip from New Delhi – Spiti – New Delhi.
The premises are covered by mud structures crafted beautifully to form particular shape, as we entered the main temple, intrigued and curious , we just kept gazing at the temple!!! The main complex is manifestation of eternal Indo-Tibetan art and culture. Take a virtual tour of the oldest and divine monastic complex here – Totally Tabo -ed!!!
This shot was captured at the Bhimakali Temple in Sarahan. The innocent dog was just strolling through the premises spreading smiles to all strangers 🙂
Sarahan, could be the answer to your search for the offbeat and scenic hill station in Himachal!!!
This article is part of the series ‘The road that leads to Spiti Valley‘.
Finally! Spiti it is !!
I’m as much excited to write this post and share the captivating pictures with fellow travelers and readers. The best part about the ‘Road Trip to Spiti Valley‘ is that the surrounding views change in every few minutes leaving you with a feeling of surprise and appreciation for nature.
The 10 day long enduring road trip that we did to Spiti Valley seemed totally worth once we crossed Nako!!! From the Kinnaur route, one enters Spiti Valley via Sumdo.
The road is a bit rock strewn at intervals but mostly it’s a smooth ride. In April’16, lot of work was going on the roads till Tabo, I’m assuming by now the roads must be in perfect condition.