5 THINGS OR PLACES IN SPITI VALLEY THAT YOU MAY NOT KNOW OF
Evi chomo (grandmother nun in Tibetan) as she is referred to, has been living in her cave in Gangchumik above Pooh for over 35 year. Evi is from Pin valley and at the age of 61 donated her land (in Pooh village) to the villagers and went into her solitary life. A living example of the spiritual life devoted to realize the Self and a strong indication of what the Buddha dharma means to people in this valley.
Evi meets locals and others who seek her blessing and she does not speak hindi. From Pooh village its a 3hour trek to her cave. If evi is in her sadhana then it is not possible to meet her.
There is an unmistakable aura around her and evi is helped by nuns who stay with here and take care of her. Travel is the most rewarding when it broadens your perspective and inspires you. Feel for yourself Evi’s presence.
Before Spiti and the Tibetan plateau adopted Buddhism the prevailing religion there was Bon. Bon is a Tibetan religious tradition or sect, being distinct from Buddhist ones in its particular myths, although many of its teachings, terminology and rituals resemble Tibetan Buddhism. Bon teachings feature Nine Vehicles, which are pathway-teaching categories with distinct characteristics, views, practices and results.
Traditionally, the Nine Vehicles are taught in three versions: as Central, Northern and Southern treasures. The Central treasure is closest to Nyingma (Mahayana buddhist sect) Nine Yānas teaching and the Northern treasure is lost.
TiIl about 40 years ago there were people in Spiti following the Bon religion and even now traces of Bon religion are found everywhere in Spiti. In the rock art, blue sheep horns on stupas, the stupas themselves, the devtas in the villages, the dresses in the cham dance etc.
Spiti’s rock art is a gift from the past. It is a message from Spiti’s ancient peoples to today’s, which should not be forgotten or dismissed through our neglect or lack of understanding. There are two types of ancient rock art in Spiti: petroglyphs and pictographs. Petroglyphs are drawings engraved, pecked or abraded on a stone surface, usually a boulder.They are primarily found in Spiti’s southeast.
The ancient rock art in the Spiti River watershed gives us insight in the lives and cultures of the different peoples that immigrated to and visited region over the last 3,000 years. The many blue sheep, ibex, wild yak, deer, tigers, snow leopards, eagles and other animals reveal the important place animals had in ancient peoples’ lives. Stylistic differences in the representation of these animals trace different communities. Some of the animals, for example deer, are not found in Spiti. Hunting blue sheep is a common motif. Horses and riders are not uncommon. Bon, the religion of Zhang-Zhung, the cultural-political association that dominated Spiti before its conquest by Tibet in the 7th century, has left its symbols on many petroglyphs and pictographs: the sun and moon, the Shupka tree, the left turning swastika, etc. More recent inscriptions in Lentsa and various forms of Tibetan script, old and new, along with engravings of Buddhist stupas, record the influx of Buddhism into the region and its peoples’ ongoing commitment to the practice of Buddhism.
The rock art can be found in Tabo, Sumra, Lari and Pooh amongst other sites. They date back from 800 to 2000 years.
TASHI GANG CAVE
About 45min walk from Tashi gang towards Langza is a mediation cave with rock carvings of Guru Padmasambhava, Tara and other Buddhist deities. The carvings are gorgeous and have been made by monks using the cave. Most people in Tashi gang (1.30hrs from Kaza) know about the cave and may be willing to guide you there. Scholars from India and abroad have been studying these carvings. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Spiti is a wonder hidden in the Trans Himalayan range and discoveries of such sites only highlighten this.
Tashi gang is a small village but significant nevertheless. Many Bon and Buddhist archaeological finds have been made there. An academic paper on the painting in the lakhang in Tashi gang will be presented at the first international conference on Spiti at the oxford university in May 2016.
Believed to be from the 12th century this cave has frescos similar to Tabo. The cave is believed by many archaeologists to be older than the 12th century but unfortunately only 1 cave survives out the original 4.
The Komic cave is about 30min walk from the village. Depending on your luck and perseverance the locals may or may not take you to the cave. Spitians are known to hold on secretly to their history and for good reason do not trust outsiders easily. The paintings in the cave that survives include that of a mandala and the Maitreya buddha.
Spiti valley has had people living for 3000 years and while the Kinnaur road was made after the 2nd Indo-China war and the Manali-Kaza road in the 60’s, visit to the Komic and Tashi gang cave will make you realize that despite the harsh conditions a civilisation has thrived here for an incredibly long time.
Karanbir, the author of this post runs a bliliant little hotel in Kaza, Spiti Valley. We have know him for many years as he went to school with my sister and later on was an automotive journalist befor he took off for a few years to travel South America. He started Hotel Deyzor in 2013, 2 years after in 2015 he has started working toward setting up a social enterprise in Spiti. Karan now stays there 7 months a year. Website for his Kaza hotel is – http://www.hoteldeyzor.com