Lahaul And Spiti: Cultural Symbolism and knowledge of the history, Ethnicity, Identity and other truths- of a mysterious untamed land.
Few places on earth can mark so dramatic changes in landscapes. Flanked by the majestic Himalayas Lahaul and Spiti houses, millions of Tibetans and is a land of splendid Buddhist art and culture. Also, known as the “Middle Land’’ the land between Tibet and India. Lahaul and Spiti have been regarded as the least populated regions in India and a ticket to several northern Himalayan mountains. Offering shelter to semi-nomadic shepherds also known as ‘Gaddi‘ and serves as great grazing land for their animals across several villages in summer. Both the valleys are separated from two different passes i.e. Rohtang Pass (13,054ft) and KunzumPass (15,059ft). Gateway to Vajyarana Buddhism, the local population preaches this culture very similar to the Tibet Autonomous Region and the Ladakh region of India. ‘A world within a world’ as described by Rudyard Kipling is an untold geo-climatic mysterious desert nestled at 3,600m along the Trans Himalayan belt of Himachal Pradesh.
The desert has been a motherland to thousands of Tibetans belonging to the Mahayana section of Vajrayana Buddhism brimming with an authentic insight of Spitian Culture enclosed with traditional dance, dresses, homestays, architectures, local cuisine and songs deeply rooted, into the diversity of Spiti. There are historical backgrounds of various unique aspects of traditional Tibetan Buddhist culture, oldest monasteries and temples of the world thereby procuring consciousness and awareness about their particular socio-cultural sustainability to flourish for generations. It focuses on how these monasteries are products of their own particular historical and cultural contexts and they do not exist as isolated entities in societies. Hence, they have evolved with other social transformations in a dialectical process. For example, the major sects in Spiti: Sakyapa, Nyingmapa, and Gelugpa thrive in a specific region and their uniqueness, distinct practices adding respect, tolerance for Diversity in Spiti. Coming back to the sustainability of ethnicity I would like to give one more example of how cultural identity, race, an ethnic group is preserved by empowering aestheticism denotation. In Pin Valley (Spiti) – Bhuchens is an exclusive rare sect of Buddhist culture that preaches socio and ecological morals to the audience through their diverse performances i.e. TholdanGyaldo which was invented in early 11th Century A.D, hence to be found only in Spiti Valley when it disappeared from Tibet and Ladakh. To ensure the prosperity of Buddhist culture, keeping alive and thereby sustain, the essence of empowerment through customs and traditions are necessary which also includes preservation of Dhangkar Monastery for the restoration of heritage site dated to be 1000 years old in Spiti.
Some of the oldest monasteries are to be found in the highlands of Lahaul and Spiti and it becomes very important to conserve them because these monasteries have had carried the very essence of philosophical preaching by the Vajyarana Buddhists, to pass to the future generations.
- National Park and Endangered Species-
Widely known national park in Lahaul and Spiti District of Himachal Pradesh i.e. Pin Valley national park provides dwelling to several endangered animals, birds, flora, and fauna. Two of the endangered species i.e. Snow Leopard and Siberian Ibex are found rarely due to evasive nature; hence its protection is necessary for accomplishing sustainability. Among the flora and fauna, many aromatic medicinal plants are forming a vital part of traditional healing systems. Not to be found across the entire Trans Himalayan region, these alpine pastures have a unique quality, providing ailment to people. Wildlife, Flora and Fauna Insurance Schemes are established for empowering Wildlife conservation for a better perspective.
Agriculture in geo-climatic conditions of the cold desert is quite difficult. Hence it depends upon the melting of snow and glaciers. Hence their agriculture becomes an important part of their socio-economic activity. Water for irrigation comes from the glacier melt which is transported long-distance through small channels, known as Kuhls. To improve the quality of farming and agriculture, empowerment of modern economic farming techniques like hybrid seeds of a selected variety of crop and upgrading advanced technology subsidies in the form of irrigation, pesticides etc is essential to avoid any kind of complexities spreading the knowledge of green values since the place is located at a very high altitude.
- Cultural Buddhism
Buddhism has flourished in ages through the preaching of the holy Buddhist texts and famous Buddhist Chants “Om Mani Padme Hum” Each of these words carries a significant philosophical saying. The rare set of Buddhist culture “Bhuchens” is preserved where they teach ecological morals to the audience through traditional dances that have said to be banished from Tibet and Ladakh.
The buildings and houses of Spiti are built-in that it faces south which integrates passive solar architect to gain heat (either through an attached greenhouse, double glazing windows or Trombe walls) and thermal insulation to retain the heat produced inside the building. The craftsmanship is based on the local materials (dung, straw, mud and the brick) to improve access to reliable, self-sufficient sustainable energy.
- The Urban City of Kaza
The urban city of Kaza is a hub for many homestays, restaurants and guest houses which cater to the needs of traveler which produces a lot of biodegradable waste. This biodegradable waste can be used for generating biogas for cooking fuel.
- Fossils and Handicrafts
Handicrafts, art, fossils, and craft have become an important cultural heritage for the enigmatic valley. Despite the harsh climate in Lahaul and Spiti, the local people have excelled in making a variety of handicrafts over the years. These handicrafts vary, thus ranging from household needs to religious artifacts to their creative spirits. These carry holy Buddhist distinct unique art. While coming back from Kinnaur, I witnessed this small carving on stone also known as mane stone, another type is Thangkas (paintings on the silken canvas). There were Chokseys where carvings were made on the wooden tables. Fossils are also preserved through the formation of a fossil center and also by developing fossil replicas. But these aesthetic art and crafts are disappearing due to lack of promotion and adequate market economic linkage.