|S P I T I
|The surface of the region of Spiti, 7589 sq.km in size, presents lofty mountain ranges with narrow gorges formed by the rivers and streams. The gorges are at an average elevation of 5500 metres with the depth upto 2500 metres which gives a remarkably dangerous sight. Situated in the arid zone, Spiti has very little vegetation. Since it receives an average of only 177 mm of rain per year it is a typical mountain desert with high velocity winds blowing all year round making the cool climate of Spiti prohibitive.
Without the influence of man Spiti‘s landscape would have remained completely barren, as may be obtained from inaccessible places where only shrubs of juniper and some thorny bushes make up the vegetation. But man‘s skillfull and intelligent ways of leading the melting waters of the glaciers onto his fields made it possible to cultivate small strips of land for barley, peas and buckwheat and plant modest trees like willows and poplars. It is these green spots that to the visitor create the beautiful impression of change between the grey and brown landmasses typical for the Himalayan arid zone and that form the background for the impressively rich culture of the Buddhist dominated countries of the Indo-Tibetan border countries.
|The valley of Spiti is dotted with 30 Tibetan monasteries, reaching from the most ancient ones (Dhankar, Gungri, Tabo, Lhalung (8th to 12th century) to the biggest ones, such as Kye monastery near the capital Kaza, and the highest ones in the village of Kibber (4200 metres a.s.l.) .
|Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo
Most of the important cultural sites of the Western Himalaya are attributed to a person who was born in Northern Kinnaur in the middle of the 10th century. This man was to become one of the most important figures of Tibetan Buddhism and is still highly respected in Northern Kinnaur and the adjacent Spiti: Rinchen Zangpo, the Great Translator (958-1055 AD). His achievement was the so-called Second propagation of Buddhism in Tibet, after it was repressed for nearly two centuries. Patronized by the Western Tibetan king Yeshe O who himself had become a monk he achieved the final conversion of practically the entire Tibet to the Buddhist faith by translating more than 160 of the main religious texts, all of which have become essential manuscripts in the canonical scriptures of Tibetan Buddhism and are still studied today, and by building a great number of monasteries and temples in Western Tibet.
|Spiti owns a population of about 9500 people of Tibetan stock which leads to an average of only 1.2 persons per square kilometre. In this land where app. only one third of the whole area may be cultivated to offer man a place for existence, an amount of thirty Buddhist temples and monasteries may be judged as a lot and tells of the deep religiosity of its people. An analysis about the amount of people in monkhood undertaken in 1845 A.D. showed that every eighth person in Spiti was either a monk or a nun (comparingly in Ladakh only every 30th person). Thus percentage-wise Spiti at that time had the highest amount of clergy-members in the entire Tibetan world...
The highlights of Spiti are:
• Tabo Monastery
• Dhankar (the ancient capital of Spiti)
• Lhalung Monastery / Lingti Valley
• Pin Valley with the stone-breaking ritual of the Buchan Lamas
• Kye Monastery
• The landscape...
All these highlights and more are the subject of three books by Peter van Ham:
BUDDHA´S MOUNTAIN DESERT
The Secret Tibetan Heritage in the Himalayas
THE FORGOTTEN GODS OF TIBET
Early Buddhist Art in the Western Himalayas
ON THE PATHS OF THE BUDDHA
2000 kms through the Western Himalayas (in German language)
KINNAUR, LAHAUL, CHANGTHANG, NUBRA