- HIMACHAL PRADESH
centuries the trans Himalayan tracts of Spiti, Lahaul and
Ladakh have been enveloped by a grand mystic aura. Behind
this veil of geographical isolation and mystery lay wonders,
that are unfathomable even today. In the insurmountable heights
of Spiti, lies the Buddhist gompa, monastery of Tabo, established
in 996 A.D. It was the Tibetan year of the Fire Ape and the
founder was the great teacher Rinchensang Po, also known as
Mahaguru Ratnabhadra. With its exquisite murals and stucco
images, Tabo is often called 'The Ajanta of the Himalayas'.
Spiti (locally pronounced 'Piti') or the 'middle country',
has its sub divisional headquarters at Kaza. The river Spiti
originates at the base of the Kunzam range and flows eastward
to join the Sutlej at Khab in Kinnaur. In practical isolation
for centuries, Spiti has an intensely introvertive culture
centred around its several monasteries- Dhankar, Ki, Tabo,
Mud, Gungri, Lidang, Hikim, Sagnam, Mane Gogma and Giu to
name a few. Spiti was loosely ruled for many centuries by
a hereditary wazir, styled Nono. The majority of the people
are Buddhists, followers of the Geluk-pa sect. The repetition
of the mantra "Om mani padme hum" (literally, 'Behold, the
jewel is in the lotus'), is constant; it is believed to bring
good fortune and wash away all sins. For all the seeming bleakness,
Spiti possesses a haunting beauty. The wildlife in the region
includes the elusive snow leopard and ibex, found in the Pin
What to See
Tabo Monastery - The rugged hills around Tabo house
a tiny hamlet that is home to some 350 people. The Tabo monastery
(also referred to as Tabo Chos-hKhor - 'doctrinal circle'
or 'doctrinal enclave') is a complex that holds nine temples,
23 chortens, a monks' chamber and an extension that houses
the nuns' chamber. On the sheer cliff-face above the enclave
are a series of caves which were used as dwellings by the
monks and includes an 'assembly hall'. Faint traces of the
paintings that once embellished the rock face can be discerned.
Even today, Tabo holds the distinction of being the largest
monastic complex in Spiti. Constructed in 996 AD, Tabo was
the brainchild of the great translator and teacher, Rinchensang
Allahabad FortThe Temple of the Enlightened
Gods (gTsug Lha-khang) - This is also known as the
Assembly Hall (du-khang) and forms the core of the complex.
It houses a vestibule, an assembly hall and a sanctum. The
central figure in the assembly hall is the four fold Vairocana.
In Vajrayana Buddhism, he is regarded as one of the five spiritual
sons of the Adibuddha, who was the self-creative primordial
Buddha. He is portrayed here in a posture "turning the wheel
of law". On brackets arrayed along the walls and with stylised
flaming circles around them, are life size stucco images of
what are commonly known as the Vajradhatu Mandala. These images
number thirty three in all, and are the other deities of the
pantheon. With five Bodhisattvas of the Good Age placed within,
the sanctum is immediately behind the assembly hall. The walls
around the stuccoes are elaborately adorned with wall paintings
that depict the life of the Buddha.
The Golden Temple (gSer -Khang) - Once believed to
hav been layered with gold, this shrine was exhaustively renovated
in the 16th century by Senge Namgyal, ruler of Ladakh. The
walls and ceiling are covered with murals.
The Mystic Mandala Temple or Initiation
Temple (dKyil-hKhor-khang) - The wall facing the door
is embellished by a massive painting of Vairocana, who is
surrounded by the eight Bodhisattvas. Mystic mandalas cover
the other areas. It is here, that the initiation to monkhood
The Bodhisattva Maitreya Temple (Byams-Pa Chen-po Lha-khang)
- This shrine houses the image of the Bodhisattva Maitreya
that is more than six meters high. The temple has a hall,
vestibule and sanctum. The array of murals within, also depict
the monastery of Tashi-Chunpo and Lhasa's Potala palace.
The Temple of Dromton (Brom-ston Lha-khang)
- The temple lies on the northern edge of the complex
and is said to have been founded by Dromton (1008-1064 AD),
an important disciple of Atisha. The doorway is intricately
carved and the inner walls are covered by murals.The above
shrines are said to be the earliest in the Tabo complex and
the following are later additions.
The Chamber of Picture Treasures (Z'al-ma)
- This is an ante room of sorts attached to 'the temple of
enlightened gods'. It too is covered with paintings which
are in the Tibetan style.
The Large Temple of Drom ton (Brom-ston Lha-khang)
- The second largest temple in the complex, this has a floor
area of over seventy square meters, while the portico and
niche add another forty two square meters. The front wall
sports the figure of the Sakyamuni, flanked by Sariputra and
Maha Maugdalayana. The other walls depict the eight Medicine
Buddhas and Guardian Kings. The wooden planks of the ceiling
are also painted.
The Mahakala Vajra-bhairava Temple (Gon-Khang) - This
temple enshrines the protective deity of the Geluk-pa sect.
Fierce deities people the room and it is only entered after
protective meditation. Often it is also called known as 'the
temple of horror'.
The White Temple (dKar-abyum Lha-khang) - The walls
of this shrine are also intricately adorned leaving a low
dado for the monks and nuns to lean against.
Important Heights Tabo - 3050
mts Kaza - 3660 mts Rohtang Pass - 3980 mts Kunzam Pass -
4590 mts Shimla - 2200 mts Manali - 2050 mts.