‘Some places you fall in love with, coz they gave you an experience of a lifetime, and with some places you fall in love even before you had a chance to visit them’. This is pretty much my story with the tale of ‘Spiti’, a desert mountain valley located high in the Himalayas, a name that translates into ‘The Middle Land’ – The land between Tibet and India. Closed to the world for almost 30 years, opening its doors to some of the most daring wanderers only in 1992, my colleague and friend – Aastha, is one of the few people I know who has witnessed the unknown beauty of Spiti, and introduced me to a place which is haunting my mind since forever, almost like calling me to visit…
Left in isolation over generations, the place till date has managed to preserve the rarest of aspects of the Buddhist culture with some of oldest Buddhist monasteries and temples in the world still standing alive here. Looking at Aastha’s images made me get a glimpse of this world that remains intact inside our larger world, and sharing her experience in her very own words through this post, makes me go a step closer to my desire of exploring this familiar-unfamiliar land.
Spiti – one of the few unexplored places in the world added many moments of inspiration and true enrichment to my world of experience. A drive from the green hills into completely deserted spaces on high altitudes the land only grew to become wilder.
When we saw the Ki monastery from a distance it plainly looked like god was playing his version of lego. Situated on top of a mountain, it adds depth to the freakishly amazing but barren landscape of Spiti. In the middle of the cold desert the walk to the top of the monastery was combined with skin piercing cold winds that were quite worth it.The expanse of the snaking rivers shrouded around endless barren mountain land, stretched like the blue-grey veins in the monk’s hand (at Dhankar), is one such moment that I add to my bag of memories that already has a star-spangled Kaza night snuggled up with my family.
Seen from the top of the Dhankar monastery, the confluence of Spiti and Pin River is completely breath taking. A bird’s eye view taken from the Green Dhankar Valley left us all in complete awe of top of this monastery. Wrapped around with tattered yet colorful Tibetan prayer flags Dhankar had a lot to offer for the inspired mountain photographer.
Tabo is noted for being the oldest continuously operating Buddhist enclave in both India and the Himalayas. The muddy structures were completely baffling while they still shook when we stepped on them because of being frail from all the history they had on their back; they made me feel like I was in an amazing space that didn’t exist on our planet. I could not get enough of the intricate frescoes, manuscripts; well-preserved statues that were displayed on its walls depicting the inspiring tales from the Buddhist pantheon.
The rarest sight is of the big, bold mountain eagle. Flapping her wings and flying in a group of three against dry, raw mountains is the image I will probably never let out of my memory.