Lahaul and Spiti district


The Lahaul and Spiti district in the Indian States and territories of India, state of Himachal Pradesh consists of the two formerly separate districts of Lahaul tibetan Garzha () and Spiti (; or ). The present administrative centre is Kyelang in Lahaul. Before the two districts were merged, Kardang was the capital of Lahaul, and Dhankar Gompa, Dhankar the capital of Spiti. The district was formed in 1960, and is the fourth least populous district in India (out of List of districts in India by population, 640). It is the least densely populated district of India, according to the Census of India 2011.


''Kunzum la'' or the Kunzum Pass (altitude ) is the entrance pass to the Spiti Valley from Lahaul. It is from Chandra Tal. This district is connected to Manali, Himachal Pradesh, Manali through the Rohtang Pass. To the south, Spiti ends from Tabo, Himachal Pradesh, Tabo, at the Sumdo where the road enters Kinnaur district, Kinnaur and joins with National Highway No. 5. Spiti is barren and difficult to cross, with an average elevation of the valley floor of . It is enclosed between lofty ranges, with the Spiti river rushing out of a gorge in the southeast to meet the Sutlej River. It is a typical mountain desert area with an average annual rainfall of only . The district has close cultural links with Ngari Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region.

Flora and fauna

The harsh conditions of Lahaul permit only scattered tufts of hardy grasses and shrubs to grow, even below . Glacier lines are usually found at . Due to changes in climate, nowadays people are able to grow some vegetables in the Lahaul valley e.g. cabbage, potato, green peas, radish, tomato, carrot and all types of leafy vegetables. The main cash crops are potatoes, cabbage, and green peas. Some of the most common species of flora found in The Valley of Spiti include ''Causinia thomsonii'', ''Seseli trilobum'', ''Crepis flexuosa'', ''Caragana brevifolia'' and ''Krascheninikovia ceratoides''. Then there are over 62 species of medicinal plants found here. The valley is inhabited by snow leopards, foxes ibex, Himalayan brown bear, Musk Deer, musk deer, and Himalayan blue sheep. Snow leopards are protected within the Pin Valley National Park and Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary. The Lingti plains are home to animals such as yaks and dzos. Over-hunting and a decrease in food supplies has led to a large decrease in the population of the Tibetan antelope, argali, kiangs, musk deer, and snow leopards in these regions, reducing them to the status of endangered species. The locals of Spiti do not hunt these wild animals due to their religious beliefs.


According to the 2011 census of India, 2011 census, the Lahaul and Spiti district has a Demographics of India, population of 31,564. This gives it a ranking of 638th in India (out of a total of Districts of India, 640). The district has a population density of . Its Family planning in India, population growth rate over the decade 2001-2011 was -5%. Lahul and Spiti has a sex ratio of 903 Women in India, females for every 1000 males, and a Literacy in India, literacy rate of 76.81%. At the 2011 census, % of the population in the district spoke Kinnauri language, Kinnauri, % Pattani language, Pattani, % Bhotia language, Bhotia, % Hindi, % Nepali language, Nepali and % Tibetan languages, Tibetan as their first language. The language, culture, and populations of Lahaul and Spiti are closely related. Generally, the Lahaulis are of Tibetan people, Tibetan and Indo-Aryans, Indo-Aryan, while the Spiti Bhot are more similar to the Tibetans, owing to their proximity to Tibet. The district has a Himachal Pradesh state legislative law in place to curb antique looting by travellers given past incidences. In the pre-independence era, the ethnic tribal belt was into the British Lahaul and the Chamba Lahaul, which was merged with Punjab post-1947. This is the second-largest district in the Indian union. The language spoken by both the Lahauli and Spiti Bhots is Bhoti Kinnauri, Bhoti, a Tibetic languages, Tibetic language of the Lahuli–Spiti languages, Western Innovative subgroup. They are very similar to the Ladakhi and Tibetan people, Tibetans culturally, as they had been placed under the rule of the Guge and Ladakh kingdoms at occasional intervals. Among the Lahaulis, the family acts as the basic unit of kinship. The extended family system is common, evolved from the polyandry, polyandric system of the past. The family is headed by a senior male member, known as the Yunda, while his wife, known as the Yundamo, attains authority by being the oldest member in the generation. The clan system, also known as Rhus, plays another major role in the Lahauli society. The Spiti Bhot community has an inheritance system that is otherwise unique to the Tibetans. Upon the death of both parents, only the eldest son will inherit the family property, while the eldest daughter inherits the mother's jewellery, and the younger siblings inherit nothing. Men usually fall back on the social security system of the Himalayas, Trans-Himalayan Gompas.


The lifestyles of the Lahauli and Spiti Bhot are similar, owing to their proximity. Polyandry was widely practised by the Lahaulis in the past, although this practice has been dying out. The Spiti Bhot do not generally practice polyandry anymore, although it is accepted in a few isolated regions. Divorces are accomplished by a simple ceremony performed in the presence of village elders. Divorce can be sought by either partner. The husband has to pay compensation to his ex-wife if she does not remarry. However, this is uncommon among the Lahaulis. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood. Potato farming is common. Occupations include animal husbandry, working in government programs, government services, and other businesses and crafts that include weaving. Houses are constructed in the Tibetan architectural style, as the land in Lahul and Spiti is mountainous and quite prone to earthquakes.


Most of the Lahaulis follow a combination of Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism of the Drukpa Kagyu order, while the Spiti Bhotia follow Tibetan Buddhism of the Gelugpa order. Within Lahoul, the Todh-Gahr (upper region of Lahaul towards Ladakh) region had the strongest Buddhist influence, owing to its close proximity to Spiti. Before the spread of Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism, the people were adherents of the religion 'Lung Pe Chhoi', an animistic religion that had some affinities with the Bön the religion of Tibet. While the religion flourished, animal and human sacrifices were regularly offered up to the 'Iha', a term that refers to evil spirits residing in the natural world, notably in the old pencil-cedar trees, rocks, and caves. Vestiges of the Lung Pe Chhoi religion can be seen in the behaviour of the Lamas, who are believed to possess certain supernatural powers. The Losar festival (also known as Halda in Lahauli) is celebrated between the months of January and February. The date of celebration is decided by the Lamas. It has the same significance as the Diwali festival of Hinduism, but is celebrated in a Tibetan fashion. At the start of the festival, two or three persons from every household will come holding burning incense. The burning sticks are then piled into a bonfire. The people will then pray to Shiskar Apa, the goddess of wealth (another name Vasudhara) in the Buddhist religion.


The natural scenery and numerous Buddhist monasteries are the main tourist attractions of the region. The dangerous weather in Lahaul and Spiti permits visitors to tour only between the months of June to October, when the roads and villages are free of snow and the high passes (Rothang La and Kunzum La) are open. It is possible to access Spiti from Kinnaur (along the Sutlej) all through the year, although the road is sometimes temporarily closed by landslides or avalanches.

Buddhist monasteries

Spiti is one of the important centers of Buddhism in Himachal Pradesh. It is popularly known as the 'land of lamas'. The valley is dotted by numerous Buddhist Monasteries or Gompas. Kye Monastery: Kye Monastery is one of the main learning centres of Buddhist studies in Spiti. The monastery is house to some 100 odd monks who receive education here. It is the oldest and biggest monastery in Spiti. It houses rare paintings and scriptures of Buddha and other gods and goddess. There are also rare 'Thangka' paintings and ancient musical instruments 'trumpets, cymbals, and drums in the monastery. Tabo Monastery: Perched at an altitude of 3050 meters, Tabo Monastery is often referred to as the 'Ajanta of the Himalayas'. It is located 45 km from Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, the capital of the Spiti region. This monastery garnered interest when it celebrated its thousandth year of existence in 1996. The Tabo Monastery was founded by scholar Richen Zangpo. The monastery houses more than 60 lamas and contains the rare collection of scriptures, pieces of art, wall paintings -Thankas and Stucco. There is a modern guest house with a dining hall and amenities. Kardang Monastery: Kardang Monastery, is located at an elevation of 3,500 metres across the river, about 8 km from Keylong. Kardang is well connected by the road via the Tandi bridge which is about 14 km from Keylong. Built in the 12th century, this monastery houses a large library of Buddhist literature including the main Kangyur and Tangyur scriptures.

Adventure activities

To-do-Trails: The Spiti Valley is popular with trekkers due to the challenging nature of its treks. These treks take people to remote areas including rural villages and old Gompas, as well as wildlife trails. High altitude treks allow travellers to cross passes such as Parangla Pass (connecting Ladakh with Spiti Valley), Pin Parvati Pass, Baba Pass, Hamta Pass trek, Spiti Left Bank Trek. Popular trekking routes in the area include Kaza-Langza-Hikim-Komic-Kaza, Kaza-Ki-Kibber-Gete-Kaza, Kaza-Losar-Kunzum La and Kaza-Tabo-Sumdo-Nako. Skiing: Skiing is a popular activity with tourists in Spiti. Yak Safari: Yaks are used to see the flora and fauna of trans-Himalayan desert.


Lahaul Valley,Himachal Pradesh,India.jpg, waterfall near udaipur town in Lahaul Valley Mountain peaks, Lahul.jpg, Mountain peak Kunzum Pass between Lahaul & Spiti.jpg, Kunzum Pass between Lahul and Spiti

See also

*List of highest towns by country



* Ciliberto, Jonathan. (2013)
"Six Weeks in the Spiti Valley"
Circle B Press. 2013. Atlanta. * Handa, O. C. (1987). ''Buddhist Monasteries in Himachal Pradesh''. Indus Publishing Company, New Delhi. . * Hutchinson, J. & J. PH Vogel (1933). ''History of the Panjab Hill States'', Vol. II. (1st ed) Lahore: Govt. Printing, Punjab, 1933. Reprint 2000. Department of Language and Culture, Himachal Pradesh. Chapter X Lahaul, pp. 474–483; Spiti, pp. 484–488. * Kapadia, Harish. (1999).
Spiti: Adventures in the Trans-Himalaya
'. 2nd ed. New Delhi: Indus Publishing Company. . * Janet Rizvi. (1996). ''Ladakh: Crossroads of High Asia. Second Edition''. Oxford University Press, Delhi. . * Cunningham, Alexander. (1854). LADĀK: Physical, Statistical, and Historical with Notices of the Surrounding Countries. London. Reprint: Sagar Publications (1977). * Francke, A. H. (1977). ''A History of Ladakh''. (Originally published as, A History of Western Tibet, (1907). 1977 Edition with critical introduction and annotations by S. S. Gergan & F. M. Hassnain. Sterling Publishers, New Delhi. * Francke, A. H. (1914). ''Antiquities of Indian Tibet''. Two Volumes. Calcutta. 1972 reprint: S. Chand, New Delhi. * Banach, Benti (2010). 'A Village Called Self-Awareness, life and times in Spiti Valley'. Vajra Publications, Kathmandu .

External links

Official Website of the district
{{Authority control Lahaul and Spiti district, 1960 establishments in Himachal Pradesh Districts of Himachal Pradesh Tourism in Himachal Pradesh