Nature has endowed Lahaul and Spiti with interesting, charming, fascinating, and attractive landscapes. Its valleys, mountains, glaciers, rivers, posters, forts, gompas, and ancient buildings of the once ruling dynasty are the principal objects of study.
The snow-capped peaks provide ample opportunities to excite the energetic hikers to undertake expeditions and face the challenge of climbing the high mountains.
The geologists find enough material of value for research work. The tourists and travelers find the charm in the irresistible scenic beauty of nature, existing legends, folklores about the local people, their customs, myths, convention belief, old monuments, and religious structures.
The district is famous for its old monasteries, not only for their religious backgrounds but for archaeological and historical importance and as well as centres for tourist attraction and places for pilgrimage.
The gompas are rich treasurers of cultural heritage and centre of study in Buddhism.
They have presented ornate paintings of saints, demons, and evil-looking beasts. The important monasteries in the Lahaul region are Kardang, Sheshur, Gemur, Bokar, Guru Ghantal whereas in the Spiti area Tabo and Kye monasteries are famous.
TrilokNath and Marikula are the famous temples of Udaipur sub-tehsil. All these monasteries date their history as old as 600 AD to 800 AD.
The Kardang and Tabo monasteries trace their origin during the days of Padma Sambhava of Udyana who propagated Buddhism in the valley.
Triloknath temple traces its history even earlier to that when it was a Hindu temple and even today continues to be a holy place for both Hindus and Buddhists. A brief description of the monasteries and temples is given below:
1. Kardang Monastery:
- It is situated on the left bank of Bhaga river opposite Keylong and was built in the late medieval times.
- It was rebuilt by reverend Lama Norbu in 1912 AD and has four chapels.
- The images of Tara, Padam Sambhavasterd installed and a chosten a silver casket containing the relics of Lama Norbu are enshrined.
- The image of Togdan Sakyo Sri, the teacher of Lama Norbu and the grand teacher of Lama Hishe Rangdol has been enshrined.
- It is a treasure of good Buddhist manuscripts and decorated with beautiful fresco paintings depicting the life of Budha and Buddhist tantriodieties.
- The Rev Franche has opined in the “History of Western Tibet” that inscription at Kardang is very old and relates to the 12th century.
2. TrilokNath temple:
- It is situated on the left bank of Chandra Bhaga river at a distance of 12 kms. from Udaipur and 45 kms. from Keylong.
- It is one of the rare temples which is worshipped equally by Hindu and Bodh.
- The devotees from distant places come to pay their homage to the diety of this unique temple.
- Originally it was a Shiva temple and was given Buddhist shrine look by Guru Rinpoche by installing the six-armed image of ‘AVALOKITESHWAR’ the popular Bhodhisatwa with white marble and seated in lotus position during the eighth century.
- A black stone statue of Lord Shiva called Triloknath Shiva with his six arms which used to occupy the seat of prominence before installation of the present one has again been placed in the sanctorum after its resurrection from the hind room where it was lying for the centuries.
- A large number of people including Sadhus and other religious personalities attend it for getting the blessing of Lord Triloknath.
3. Margul or Marikula:
- It is unique for its exquisite wooden carvings. Margul is the local name of the village where this temple is situated.
- It was named Udaipur after Udai Singh, the ruler of Chamba in the 17th century when the area was annexed to Chamba state.
- It is known for temple of Margul or Marikula Devi with eight hands standing over a slain buffalo demon with trident piercing into the head of the demon.
- The image is made of Ashtha Dhatu which neither rusts nor tarnishes.
- The beautiful statue has been placed on a rectangular pedestal with several steps and inscriptions in different languages.
- The Buddhists venerate Marikula Devi as DorjePhagmo (Vajrarati) and a large number of Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims visit this temple.
- It was established in the 17th century and lies on the hill beyond Keylong.
- Shashur in local parlance means ‘blue pines’ and this is a Drukpa sect monastery and is famous for thankas, idols and Tibetan paintings.
- The shrine has a chamber of horrors and also has the images of Buddha and other dieties.
- The presiding diety is a colossal image of the Buddha.
6. Guru Ghantal Monastery:
- It is situated on the right bank of Chandra Bhaga river and perhaps the oldest monastery in Lahaul area dating back to 10th century with wooden structure of pyramidal roofs which exibit interesting wood carving.
- The monastery now enshrines a black stone image of goddess Kali called Varjeshwari Devi (DorjiLhama) and wooden image of Buddha which according to local tradition was installed by a Lama RingchenZangop from Kinnaur some eight hundred years ago.
7. Kee Monastery:
- It is the oldest and biggest monastery in Spiti valley which is located at a height of 4,116 metres above the mean sea level.
- It is a seat of Lotsa Rinpoche (Rattan Badra) an incarnate who has a deep impact on the people within the jurisdiction of Zanskar, Spiti and Sutlej valleys.
- This monastery has few religious Buddhist works of Kangyur and Tangyur and has a rich collection of Scrolls, idols and musks.
- It is famous for its murals and highly valued books.
- It is also seat for religious training to newly introduced Lamas.
- Kye monastery is located over hillock providing wonderful view of Spiti valley on account of its panoramic view.
- It has been chosen as motif of this book appearing in the inner page with full description.
8. Tabo Monastery:
- It is an ancient monastery located at the left bank of river Spiti at an elevation of 11,200 ft. above the mean sea level was founded by the famous Buddhist Scholar RingchenZangpo in the eleventh century.
- It preserves a very big collection of scriptures, pieces of art, wall paintings and stucco scripture with the life span of thousand years is Ajanta wall paintings.
- It is known as the Ajanta of the Himalayas on account of these exiguity pieces of art.
- Lifesize statue of various incarnations made of clay are fixed in the walls in the old monastery and metal statues of various deities have been placed in the newly built monastery.
- This monastery has been replaced by the newly built monastery.
- This monastery is considered by many as next of ThulingGompa of Tibet.
- A millennium was celebrated in 1996 in this monastery.
Passes in District Lahaul-Spiti
- A worth noting passes in this region of religious and tourist interest are the Baralacha pass situated at 4,891 metres above the mean sea level and is nearly 8 km. long and consists of a high neck of land connecting the central mountains with the main Himalayas and roads from Zanskar, Ladakh, Spiti, and Lahul meet on the top of it.
- It is the source of three rivers namely Bhaga on the north-west, Yunum on the north, and Chandra on the South-east.
- Kunzum pass provides the main avenue of approach from Lahul to Spiti and the source of the Spiti river.
- Its height is 4,554 meters from the mean sea level. Rohtang Pass, the main gate between Lahul and Spiti and Kullu is situated at the height of 13,050 ft. above the mean sea level claims the lives of human beings and pack animals every year as it is notorious for its blizzards and snow storm which overtake the travelers on or near its crest.
- To the left of this pass is the lake of Sirkund or Dashir, a number of people visit the small glacial lake from Kullu, Lahul and Spiti and other parts of the State.
- River Beas rises near the crest of Rohtang and Beas Kund invites spiritually inclined tourists for a bath in its ice-cold water.
Lakes in District Lahaul-Spiti
Suraj Tal, Chandra Tal, Neel Kanth, Mane lakes are situated at the heights of 11,400 ft. to 15,500 ft. above the mean sea level.
Suraj Tal Lake:
- Suraj Tal is a pretty lake situated on the Baralacha pass at a distance of 65 Kms. from Keylong.
- It is situated at a height of 15,500 ft. above the mean sea level and river Bhaga originates from here.
Chander Tal Lake:
- Chander Tal is an Ox-Bow lake spread over in six furlongs in length and three furlongs in breadth and has an outlet into the Chandra river.
- It is blue in colour and situated at a height of 14,200 ft. above the mean sea level amidst the huge grassy bowels covered with Himalayan flowers during the summer and provides a resting place for migratory Siberian ducks.
Neel Kanth Lake:
- Neel Kanth Lake is situated at an elevation of 14,000 ft. and is approachable from village Nainghar.
- It is a glacial lake formed at the base of Neel Kanth peak and considered as sacred abode of Lord Shiva and people go there for pilgrimage from July to September and offer Trishul and scarves in honour of Lord Shiva.
- Interestingly, the females are not allowed to travel beyond Naingahar village for religious and other practical reasons.
- Mane lake is a glacial lake situated at a distance of 16 kms. from Kaza at the height of 15,000 ft. on broad flat mass of land punctuated with murrains.
- The surrounding mountains of the lake offer a saga of the site.
The Marikula Devi temple in Udaipur and Tabo monastery in Spiti have been undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India.
All the ancient monasteries, forts, old buildings of ruler dynasty, and villages of historical backgrounds have the significance of archaeological importance. The following are the places of historical importance :
- It is situated at a distance of 16 kms. from Keylong at a height of 10,300’ above the mean sea level.
- An annual fair is held in the month of July when Lamas perform dance and enjoy in commemoration of their victory over a cruel demon king of Tibet in a battle who lost his life which paved way for establishment of Lamistic Tantric Buddhism in Tibet.
- The village monastery is of historical significance and a large number of visitors witnesses the fair at this place.
- The eight storied residences of the Thakur of Gondhala was being used as a fortress at the time of wars between the small hill potentates which were more frequent in an earlier times.
- Now, this building is in dilapidated condition.
- This village is situated on the right bank of river Chandra at a distance of 30 kms. from Keylong.
- One of the famous and most powerful deities named Gyephang (Ghepan) is believed to have been born at this place.
- A shrine dedicated to this deity lies in the village.
- It is situated at a distance of 32 kms. from Keylong between Keylong-Koksar road at the height of 10,300 ft. Bits of fishable water on Wamphere hold snow trout.
- The Department of fisheries has tried to breed carps fish in the pond.
- On the other side of the village, there is a big waterfall that provides a panoramic view of water cascading down with a gushing sound.
- Keylong is district headquarters and situated at the height of 10,500 ft. above the mean sea level on the left of the Bhaga river.
- The Moravian Missionaries nurtured this place as the main center of their activities covering all the neighbouring villages.
- It is locally known as Khyipur and one of the highest villages in the world situated at a height of 13,400 ft. and distinguished for its houses built of stone instead of mud which is the predominant material in Spiti valley.
- A tract from here branches off to Pranglapass which provides an opening to Tibet.
- Ladarch trade fair was used to be held here in the past.
- The peculiarity of this village is that it has stretched on a vast rocks mass of land and is accessible through the steep ascent of about 13 kms. From a bridge on the Spiti river at Rangrik.
Situated at an elevation of 12,300 ft., this village at one time was the capital of Spiti.
On the top of the hill is a large structure known as Dhandar Fort which is a monument of ancient architecture and below stands a notorious dungeon cell without doors which the Nono used as a prison.
The main tourist attraction apart from the monasteries, temples, historical archaeological places, passes, lakes are Keylong, Udaipur, Kaza, Losar, Kibber, Jispa, Patseo, Sissu, Jahalma, Darcha, Shausha, Gete, Koksar Miuar and Nain Gahar valleys of Lahul division and Pin valley of Spiti division.
Snow water lakes at Neel Kanth in Nain Gahar valley, Chander Tal in Chandra valley below Kunzum pass, Suraj Tal near Sarchu on Baralacha pass and lakes of Mano, Dhankar, etc. are pure and unpolluted that one can see their bottom at the great depths.
Shingri, Samundari, Mulkila, Gangstand, Neel Gahar, and Black glaciers perhaps the biggest in Asia attract a lot of foreign tourists.
The district has a great potentiality for trekking and mountaineering adventures.
There are trekking routes from JispaPatseo-Baralacha, Baralacha-Lingti, Manali-Rohtang-Hante, Jispa-Rarik-Chhika-Shingola-Zanskar, Rarik-Chhika-Barsi, Nalla-TaraSalamola-Miyar, Jobrang-Kugti pass-Bharmour-Dharamsala, Chhatru Chhotashingri-Sguraguma pass-Parvati Valley and Udaipur-Pangi-Killar-Kishtwar.
The trekking of these passes takes about 3 days to a month period. The lure of climbing attracts the mountaineers and the mountaineering institute at Manali conducts the climbing courses to scale the Mulkila Peak (21,380′) Lady of Keylong (18,930′), Ghephangla (19,259′), Shigri-I (20,495′), Shigri-II (19,510′) and Shigri-III (21,165′) in the district.