Monday, October 31, 2016

Spectacular Spiti : Ancient centers of learning - Tabo and Dhankar

(Page 6)

Day 7 - Aug 11th , 2016

We thought of staying for another day at Mudh. However, considering the odds and risks of mountain roads, we decided to depart from Mudh.

As planned, we departed from Mudh village by 9.30 AM. Our next destination was Tabo, one of the oldest monasteries in the Spiti valley. The drive took almost 3 hours from Mudh to Tabo. The terrain was almost the same as it was from Kaza to Mudh. But after crossing the bridge, the terrain is filled with rocks and pebbles. 

Rakeshji was skeptical about driving to Tabo, as the route was not that good as per him. However, the locals suggested us to proceed to Tabo.

Enroute Tabo, we found a herd of Bharals(Blue sheep). These animals were highly camouflaged and that made it very difficult for us to sight them.

The bharal or Himalayan blue sheep or naur (Pseudois nayaur) is a caprid found in the high Himalayas of India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, and Pakistan.

Tabo Monastery

We reached Tabo by 12.30 PM. The old monastery was closed for lunch, and we had to wait until 2 PM for it to reopen.

In the meanwhile, we visited the new monastery and other places surrounding the monastery.

Satish uncle entering the Tabo monastery

"Ajanta of the Himalayas", as the Tabo Chos-Khor Monastery is popularly known, was founded more than a millennium back in 996 A.D., The Year of the Fire Ape by the Tibetan Calendar.

It stands on the barren, arid, snow covered, cold and rocky desert of the Tabo valley at a dizzying height of 3050 m. Untouched by the tribulations of humanity, a heaven in its own sense, it has preserved the glorious heritage, traditions and culture of Buddhism through the passage of centuries, withholding its institution with utter purity.

The Tabo Gompa, or Buddhist monastery, is second in importance only to the Tholing Gompa in Tibet in the entire Himalayan region. It was developed as an advanced centre for learning by the great teacher and translator Lotsawa Rinchen Tsang Po, the king of western Himalayan Kingdom of Guge -- also known as Lha Lama Yeshe O'd or Mahaguru Ratnabhadra

 The Chos-Khor at Tabo remained one of the most important Buddhist establishments during the time of Lotsawa after the Chos-Khor at Tholing, the capital town of Guge. It is known that the Chos-Khor at Tabo commanded great importance, and hosted for a considerable period, many great scholars and translators in the Buddhist history studies. 

New monastery

To date, it is the preserver of the Buddhist Legacy and is one of the most important Gompa of the entire Tibetan Buddhist world.

There are small stupa like structures which can be seen around the old monastery which are built by bricks and mud. In the surrounding hills, there are many caves which dates back to ancient times. It is said that many Lamas perform meditation there.

Dhankar Monastery

Our next destination was Dhankar monastery. We had seen this place while going to Mudh. It was nestled on the high cliffs of the Spiti mountains. As and when we went near the place, I was baffled with the amazing architecture it possessed. 

Confluence of Parvathi (L) and Spiti (R) rivers

The confluence of the Parvati and Spiti rivers can be seen from Dhankar. Both the rivers emerge from high mountains, and merge together to form Spiti river.

Dhankar village is situated at an elevation of over 3,800 metres in the Spiti Valley. It is connected to the rest of the valley through a motorable road, which is good for small vehicle only.

Dhankar is just like another small village in the cold desert of  Spiti Valley. Untouched and away from tourists exploitation , the population of this village is very less

This Monastery was built using traditional materials like mud, stone and timber. It is dark inside and small steps are leading from one place to another. To prevent complete darkness, there are small windows in the walls, from where sunlight approaches.  There are many prayer hall inside the monastery.

The cliff base of the monastery is highly vulnerable to erosion caused by the cold wind and incessant rain. This monastery is reducing its stability due to soil erosion and other natural calamities. World Monuments Fund declared this monastery as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. A nonprofit group, Dhankar Initiative, is attempting to revoke the loss.

In the recent times, due to the deteriorating condition of this majestic monastery, a new monastery is being built in the village which is very near to the old monastery

Other places of interest in Dhankar are the Dhankar lake and the Dhankar fort. As we were short of time, we could not visit these places.

We then returned back to Kaza via a small village called Shichling. Enroute, we got an opportunity to see another Red fox crossing the road. The road conditions were pretty good, and is well connected from Dhankar to Kaza.

We again checked in to the same hotel we stayed earlier (Hotel Spiti valley) and departed early the next morning back to Manali.

Day 8 - Aug 12th , 2016

For us to reach Manali before dark, we had to depart from Kaza as early as 6 AM.  As we were aware of the road conditions, we did not want to take any risk.

Our breakfast was at Losar, which comprised of Alu Paratha and my all time favorite maggi. Myself and Bhargav purchased few shawls from the neighboring shop.

We reached Manali by 5.30 PM after visiting the Beas kund temple at Rohtang pass. The clouds had filled the valley, and this made the visibility very low.

Manali as seen from a heart shaped cloud

We then checked in to the same hotel as we stayed on Day 2 ("Hotel Anupam"), and then retired for the day after strolling the Manali mall road.

Day 9 - Aug 13th , 2016

We visited Solang valley and Naggar before departing from Manali.

Solang Valley :

Solang Nala (Valley) derives its name from combination of words Solang (Nearby village) and Nullah (water stream). It is a side valley at the top of the Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh, India 14 km northwest of the resort town Manali on the way to Rohtang Pass, and is known for its summer and winter sport conditions.

The sports most commonly offered are parachuting, paragliding, skating and zorbing.

There is a Rohtang tunnel project that is currently going on in the Solang area, which connects you to Rohtang from Solang at a reduced distance.

Mahamaya Jogini falls :

Just 5 kms from the Manali bus station is the famous Jogini falls. It is nestled in thick forests and mountains of Manali. This is a short 1-2 kms trek from the parking area to the base of the falls.

There is a temple that is dedicated to Goddess Mahamaya Jogini (another form of Goddess Parvathi) at the base of the waterfalls. Hence the falls has got its name.

Naggar : 

Naggar is a small sleepy hamlet which is close to Manali in the Kullu district of Himachal pradesh. We visited the famous Roerich house there, which contained old artifacts and things used by Roerich. The house contained his paintings and an old vintage car used by him.

We departed Manali by a volvo bus at 5.30 PM, and reached Delhi by 7.30 AM the next day.

Day 10 - Aug 14th , 2016

Spent the whole day in Delhi by visiting Palika bazaar , Connaught place etc.,

Day 11 - Aug 15th , 2016

Took the early morning flight back to Bangalore and reached home by 11.30 AM.  

Useful information / Tips to the travelers :

1. Both Dhankar and Tabo has a lot of home stays which range from 300 INR

2. Usually the home stays offer you food (with an additional cost). The food options are limited with just Indian and Chinese dishes.

3. Do not expect luxury here. This place is only for travelers and not for tourists. 

4. The best time to visit Tabo and Dhankar is from June to September. 

5. The road conditions to Tabo is not good compared to Dhankar. It becomes difficult to visit Tabo if there are frequent rains, as it is prone to landslides.

6. Mobile signals are very weak

7. Electricity is very scarce , so charge your batteries when available.

8. Do not litter the place, keep the Himalayas clean

9. Tabo is around 50 kms from both Mudh and Kaza.

10. The bus connectivity is weak. It is suggested to travel by private vehicles to save time.

Thanks for viewing
This marks the end of my Spiti series

Pin valley
(Page 5)

Spectacular Spiti : Pin valley

(Page 5)

Day 6 - Aug 10th , 2016

Early morning visit to the Sakya monastery at Kaza was completely refreshing and energizing. The Buddhist hymns and prayers created a sense of divinity and generated positive energy amongst us. Few of us meditated at the prayer hall for some time, before proceeding to Pin valley.

We checked out from our hotel by 6.30 AM, and headed towards Mudh village which is supposedly the last village in the Pin Parvati valley.

The initial stretch from Kaza to Mudh takes you through many small villages along the Spiti river. 
The terrain is rugged but complemented with beautiful rock formations enroute. 

Once the bridge is crossed, you enter the Pin valley. Parvathi river welcomes you from this point onwards.

The very sight of this arch increased our thrill and excitement. The journey from Kaza to Mudh is truly amazing. It is filled with colorful mountains , valleys , villages , people , flora and fauna. Before visiting this place, myself and Bhargav had read some blogs to know more about this place. But the beauty of this place was even more beautiful than we had read. 

Parvathi river
The valley is home to many colorful villages, which are on the banks of the Parvati river.

Some of these villages are completely dis-connected with the outer world. 

Enroute Mudh, we got an opportunity to visit Peas farms and eat some sweet and delicious peas. These were totally different from what I had eaten before. The sweetness of these peas was incomparable.

We reached the lovely village of Mudh by 11.30 AM and checked into a hotel called "Snow valley". It is just opposite to the famous Tara homestay in Mudh. This particular hotel offered amazing views of the neighboring mountains and valleys. 

View from our room
It is run by a person called Mr. Ramesh, who is a hospitable person. The rooms are pretty decent and economical as well. Most homestays at Mudh shares the bathroom with two or three rooms. However, this particular hotel had a private bathroom.

There was a small glacier that was seen from our room's window. It looked very near to us, and we decided to trek towards it. Ramesh told us that the lunch would be ready by 1.30 PM, so we thought to utilize the time and proceeded towards the glacier. However, except CG and Dheeraj, no one were willing to join us. Hence only three of us continued our trek to the unknown glacier.

Our initial assumption was that it would take around half an hour to climb and another twenty minutes to descend. But after we started to trek, our assumptions were totally wrong. The glacier was not that near as we thought, and it took us almost 75 minutes to reach there. A lot of adventure went in to conquer the glacier amidst slight drizzles.

Dheeraj and CG

The terrain was completely filled with rocks. There was no path, and we had to make our own route.

After reaching the glacier, our happiness knew no bounds. Though the water originating from the glacier was muddy, we did not hesitate to drink it. It was a different feeling and experience that we seldom get to enjoy.

We returned to our home stay by 1.30 PM, and the physical stress was vanished by the hot lunch we ate.

Post lunch, we had a small drive for about six kilometers along the right banks of the Parvati river. Believe me, the place that we saw during this time was really a dreamland. 
It was as if watching a suspense film, wherein each and every scene was totally dramatic.

Riot of colors

I have never seen such a colorful place before. I really felt that god has painted this beautiful landscape using all the colors in his palette.
Pin valley
This place is home to some endemic animals such as Himalayan Ibex , Blue sheep and the Snow leopard.

Mudh village, as seen from a distant point in the Pin valley.

Each and every mountain has a different color to offer its viewers. The different shades of every damn color on this earth can be seen here.

When I was roaming around the mountain of Gods , along the Parvathi river in the pristine valley of a blessed village, I noticed something unique. So unique that I stopped for a while and gasped at the glory of the golden gardens.

The rhythmic movement of clouds and the aroma of fresh air made me dance in the ether of space.

All I could see was the various forms and colors of the mystical ornaments worn by the magical mountains that were very well complemented by the harmony and tranquil in the air. 

I could see nothing but the intertwined gems of ruby , emerald , turquoise and sapphires that were spread across acres and acres of the majestic playground of heaven.

An abstract painting by the almighty

 Lungs of the mountains

 Grazing in the garden of Gods

I am really in short of words to explain this beautiful place. I would highly recommend my viewers to visit this place atleast once.

Typical homes at Mudh village

Peeping monk

The evening snack was comprised of Hot Maggi , Pakodas , Momo and ginger honey tea. The company of these delicious items made the sunset even more beautiful.

 Glowing mountains of the Pin Valley

I thought of shooting star trails and milkyway after the sun went down. However, the weather played a spoilsport. Just after the sunset, the clouds started to cover the sky, and we could see no stars.

We played cards and sang songs before calling it a day. The dinner was finished in no time, and we hit the bed soon. I was thinking about all the experiences of Spiti valley and had no idea when sleep conquered me. It was really a blissful day for all of us.

Early in the next morning, we set off to see a small waterfall beside our home stay. It was almost half a kilometer from the place where we stayed.

Post breakfast, we headed back towards Kaza.

Useful information / Tips to the travelers :

1. There are very few hotels which provide you with accommodation

2. Usually the home stays offer you food (with an additional cost). The food options are limited with just Indian and Chinese dishes.

3. Do not expect luxury here. This place is only for travelers and not for tourists. 

4. The best time to visit Mudh is from June to September.

5. Transportation to Mudh is limited. Very few government buses ply from Kaza. If you are having a private vehicle, then absolutely fine.

6. No Mobile signals.

7. Electricity is very scarce , so charge your batteries when available.

8. Do not litter the place, keep the Himalayas clean

9. "Snow Valley" is the name of the home stay where we stayed. It is decent and economical as well.

10. Mudh is approximately 50kms from Kaza, which almost takes 2.5 hours to reach.

11. There is a one day trek from Mudh to the Ibex valley (Tara homestay will help you in arranging). 

Thanks for viewing
How does the oldest monasteries of the Spiti valley look like ?? Click on the below link to know more

Kaza and beyond
(Page 4)
Tabo and Dhankar
(Page 6)

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