Lahaul Spiti District

Notes, Himachal

  • Headquarters of Lahaul Spiti- Keylong
  • Area of Lahaul Spiti District – 13833 sq km
  • Languages spoken in Lahaul Spiti – Bhoti, Manchad, Changsa & Gaheri
  • Lahaul Spiti became a district of Punjab in 1960
  • Lahaul is known by 3 different names- Lahaul, Garzha & Swangla
  • Famous monasteries of Lahaul includes Guru Ghantal, Kardang, Shashur, Tayul & Gemur
  • Meanings of word Lahaul – country of gods (Rahul Sanskrityayan) / country of passes
  • The name Lahaul is used since the 7th century AD.
  • Andrew Wilson, a European traveler called Lahaul “a valley of glaciers” in 1873.

Passes in Lahaul Spiti District

1. Rohtang Pass

  • 13500 ft above sea level
  • links Lahaul with Kullu
  • Ro + Thang meaning plain/field of corpses

2. Banghal Pass

  • lies between Lahaul & Bara Banghal
  • rarely used

3. Shing-dkon Pass

  • joins lahaul to zanskar

4. Baralacha Pass

  • pass with crossroads on the summit 
  • roads from Zanskar, Lahaul, Spiti & Ladakh meet on top of it.

5. Kugti pass

  • joins Lahaul & Bharmour
  • used mainly by Gaddi shepherds

6. Kunzam Pass

  • connects Lahaul & Spiti
  • Spiti river originates from here

Valleys in Lahaul Spiti District

1. Chandra Valley

  • locally called Rangoli 
  • Khoksar is the first village in the valley.

2. Bhaga Valley

  • locally called Gara valley

3. Chandrabhaga Valley

  • starts from Tandi
  • popularly known as Pattan valley
  • also called the orchard & granary of Lahaul.

Spiti has 4 distinct Regions

1. Sham

  • the lower region is situated on both sides of the river Spiti between its confluence with Lingti & its junction with Pare

2. Pin region

3. Bhar region

  • middle region

4. Tud region

  • higher region

Other Facts about Lahaul Spiti District

  • Spiti( the place of Mani) Si- Mani & Piti-place
  • Spiti in comparison to Lahaul is higher in elevation.
  • Kilta peak in North of spiti
  • Manirang peak in south
  • Geographically & Archaeologically, Spiti is a living museum.
  • Spiti valley is formed by the Spiti river, which rises on the slopes of Kunzam la (4520m) & ends at the river confluence with the Parechu near Sumdo.
  • The length of the valley from Kunzam pass to Sumdo is 150 km
    (Spiti river receives the water of many streams of which Guindi Nala, Pari Lungbi Chu, Pin river & Lingti river are the most important.)
  • Pin valley & Lingti valley are only partly inhabited.
  • Monasteries in the Spiti region include- Tabo, Kye & Dhankar.
  • Pin river joins Spiti near Dankar.
  • The river Zanskar rises in the extreme north of the Lahaul region. (falls in Bhaga river at Darcha)
  • Spiti is the main river of the Spiti region & flows in both the districts i.e. Lahaul Spiti & Kinnaur.
  • Meets river Satluj at Khab

History of Lahaul Spiti District

  • Hiuen Tsang visited Kullu in 635 AD & noticed Lahaul as a country by the name of La-Hua- La.
  • Spiti in earlier times was ruled by Sen kings.
  • One of the earliest known rulers was Samudra Sen
  • In the course of time during the reign of Rajendra sen, Kullu became the tributary of Spiti for a short period.
  • The fortunes of Spiti declined during the reign of Chet Sen.
  • In the 7th century AD, it was annexed by Ladakh (Skyid-Lde-Ni-Ma-Mgon)
  • In the 8th century AD,  the Raja of Chamba, Ajaya Varman, AD 730-75, became a vassal of Kashmir. 
  • Thus Lahaul too came indirectly under the influence of Kashmir.
  • The Kashmir influence lasted till the 11th century A.D. and has left its mark in “a pure Kashmiri temple of first-rate quality erected or reconstructed” at Markula-Udaipur.
  • Lha Chen Utpala (1080-1110 AD), Raja of Ladakh invaded Kullu & Raja of Kullu promised to pay tribute as Iron & Dzos
  • King Utpala was responsible for the conversion of the Marikula Devi temple into a shrine of Marichi Vajravahi.
  • Kullu and Chamba always aspired to take control over Lahaul and Spiti. 
  • One possible reason which strengthens this belief is that in early times both Kullu and Chamba had their capitals nearest Lahaul i.e. “Nast” and “Brahmapura” respectively.
  • During Ladakhi Raja Utpala, Lahaul was not under the control of Kullu and Chamba, till 1532- 1559 AD, when Bahadur Singh became Raja of Kullu, who acquired Lahaul.
  • It is said that when Kullu succeeded to acquire Lahaul, Chamba was in alliance with Kullu because the three daughters of Kullu Raja were married to Pratap Singh Varman (1564-1582) who was the son of Ganesh Varman.
  • The image of Marikula Devi at Marikul-Udaipur was set up during the reign of Chamba Raja Pratap Singh Varman by Thakur Himpal.
  • It is said that the architect who constructed the Marikula Devi temple was the same who built the Hidimba Devi (Doongri) Temple in Manali during the reign of Bahadur Singh in 1553.
  • In order to prevent the artist from ever making a duplicate of the Hadimba temple, Kullu Raja ordered to cut the architect’s right hand. Still, the gifted artist trained his left hand and executed an even more refined piece of carving at Markul.
  • Since the reign of Bahadur Singh, Kullu ruled over Lahaul till both Kullu and Lahaul were conquered by the Sikh.
  • During the control of Kullu over Lahaul, there were petty chiefs who were called RGyal PO and JO (village headman).
  • In 1683, Ladakh was invaded by “Qalaaqs” (Mongols). 
  • The cause of the war was a conflict in Tibet between two religious sects of Dug-pa (Red-Hat) and Gelugpa (yellow-hat). 
  • Ladakh took side of Dugpas. 
  • Gelugpa invited Mongols for their help and invaded Ladakh. 
  • Simultaneously Mongols invaded Lahaul as its Lamas were followers of the “Dugpa sect”. 
  • This invasion is remembered in Lahaul as Sog-Po (Mongol invasion).
  • The Mongol army stayed in Lahaul for two years, acquired the Fort of “Keylong” which was then annihilated by Glacier near “Tinan”
  • Bidhi Singh (1672-1688) of Kullu helped Mughals when Ladakhis invited them under “Fidai Khan” leadership against Mongols. 
  • For this help, Mughals rewarded Bidhi Singh for the annexation of the upper portion of the upper Lahaul.
  • In Lahaul, “Thirot” remained the dividing boundary between Kullu and Chamba which was decided during the reign of “Bidhi Singh”
  • Raja Man Singh (1688-1719) of Kullu in about 1700 A.D. had boundaries with Ladakh fixed at “Lingti”.
  • After the Tibetan-Ladakhi and Mughal war of 1681-83 AD, Spiti was nominally under Ladakh.
  • Raja Man Singh took advantage of this and took control over Spiti and forced her to pay tribute.
  • Man Singh built “Gondhla Fort” which was called “Rani-ki-Kothi”
  • During the time of Raja Tedhi Singh of Kullu when no goldsmiths were able to manufacture a golden parasol required by Raghunath Ji. 
  • Then a Goldsmith “Phuntson” was called from Lahaul. 
  • During the reign of Raja Pritam Singh (1767-1806), the Lahaul army under “Gepanglha” fought against Mandi forces at “Bajaura” and Mandi was defeated in this battle.
  • When Moorcraft passed through Lahaul in 1820, he found that four villages i.e. Barkalanak, Mooling, Shipting, and Gus were still paying revenue to the state of Ladakh which was stopped by the British in 1862.
  • In those days “Tandi” was the capital of Lahaul where administrators and representatives of Raja of Kullu governed from.
  • William Moorecraft and Treveck traveled to Spiti in 1821.
  • During this time “Baliram of Phurah ” was the judge who had an office at Tandi. 
  • He did not find the culprits, rather he used to tie them with a tree and then flogged.
  • In 1840, the Sikh army subjugated Mandi state and Kullu Raja was captured who died in 1841 at “Shangri”. 
  • At that time, along with Kullu, Lahaul also came under the direct control of Sikhs.
  • When Cunningham visited Lahaul in 1839, he found it already under Sikhs, and Zorawar Singh, governor of Ladakh controlled the trade between Lahaul and Ladakh. 
  • His tax system was found very oppressive by the people.
  • In 1841, Zorawar Singh attacked Tibet, but could not stand power against Tibet and was killed.
  • In 1842, the Tibetan army moved towards Ladakh but they were defeated by forces of “Gulab Singh” in December 1842 and their general “Sukhang” was taken as prisoner.
  • In 1846, by the treaty of Amritsar, the British granted hill areas of Punjab to Gulab Singh but the area of Lahaul and Spiti remained under British control.
  • The area lying below “Thirot” remained under Chamba, after the annexation of Lahaul to British territory.
  • This area was known as “Chamba Lahaul” and the rest area was called British Lahaul.
  • Cunningham and Vans Angew fixed the boundary between Spiti and Ladakh and eastern Tibet, the mountainous and uninhabited territory to the east of Baralacha and north of Parang passes being attached to Spiti in the autumn of 1846. 
  • After the annexation of Lahaul and Kullu by the British, Lahaul was made part of the Kullu subdivision which was under the charge of an Assistant Commissioner who worked under the deputy commissioner of Kangra district whose headquarter was at Dharamshala.
  • The highest officer of Lahaul was “Negi”, who was responsible for collecting revenue.
  • “Negi” had his headquarters at “Keylong” where he worked as an honorary Magistrate and Jurisdiction extended throughout Lahaul. 
  • Negi was responsible for arranging ‘Begar’ and forced labour.
  • Bali Ram was the first Negi of Lahaul appointed by the British government and Thakur Tara Chand of Khangsar was appointed next Negi
  • After this, the post remained hereditary till 1941, when a Naib Tehsildar was appointed.
  • In 1849, “Major Hay” Assistant Commissioner of Kullu went to Spiti and took over the charge and hereditary Wazir of Spiti who was called Nono was granted a Jagir.
  • In 1873, Nono was formally vested with honorary magisterial power.
  • During the First World War of 1914-18, Wazir Amir Chand of Lahaul helped the British government take command in person as “Jamadar”. 
  • For his valuable services, he was given the title of Rai Bahadur.
  • In 1941, a sub tehsil of Lahaul Spiti was created with HQ at Keylong.
  • In 1960, the government of Punjab converted the Lahaul Spiti area into a district with Keylong as headquarter.
  • In 1966, it was transferred to Himachal Pradesh.

Important Deities of Lahaul

  • Tribal deities Ghepang & Dabla are the most popular
  • others- Mipusha, Tangyur, Srowag, Zangdoulma, kyuling sall, etc.
  • Buzhens are the lamas who entertain people by acting, plays & chanting legends.

Religion of Lahaul Spiti District

  • Hinduism is the main religion in the Lahaul subdivision while Buddhism predominates in Spiti valley.
  • The introduction of Buddhism in the Lahaul & Spiti valleys actually dates back to the 8th century 
  • believed to be propagated by Padmasambhava the famous missionary from Udyana (a place near Kashmir).
  • According to ancient Tibetan books, Padam Sambhava visited Mandi and Lahaul during the 8th century and preached doctrines of Buddha and it was during this time, it is said that shrines of Triloknath and Guru Ghantal were founded.
  • It is said that Triloknath was originally a Shiva temple and a place of pilgrimage for Hindus.
  • Later on, the setting up of the white marble image of Avalokiteshvara is attributed to Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) of Udyana.
  • In Spiti valley too, the monastery at Tabo is also said to have come up under the patronage of a great Buddhist monk Padam Sambhava of the 8th century.
  • It is said that Buddhism spread widely in Lahaul during the 11th century A.D. when Buddhist Saints founded new monasteries and repaired old dilapidated ones.
  • The monasteries at Gumrang and Sissu were said to be constructed during this period by a famous Buddhist scholar and translator Ringchen Zangpo.
  • Later in the 16th century, two sub-sects; Lho-Drugpa and Drugpa in the valley came into being who have even survived today.

Economy of District Lahaul-Spiti

  • only 25% area is under cultivation.
  • People of Lahaul Spiti cultivate Buckwheat, Barley, wheat, cauliflower, cabbage & cash crops like Kuth, potatoes, hops.
  • Potatoes and other vegetables were first introduced by Moravian missionaries at Keylong in 1857.
  • (The Moravian mission was German in origin but became international in character and funds exclusively came from England.)
  • Dr. A.D.H. Francke deserves a special mention who wrote some of the books on Lahaul and its history and the development of language etc. 
  • His book Antiquities of Indian Tibet contains a wealth of information about Lahaul.
  • Kuth cultivation was introduced in 1925.
  • Zo and Zomo (Male and female respectively) are a progeny of a cross between cow and yak.
  • Lahaul-Spiti has earned the distinction of achieving the highest per hectare production of Potato relegating the Netherland to the second position.
  • Ratanjot is found in Spiti valley.
  • Important forest products of Lahaul are Karu, Patish, Kala Zira, etc.
  • A fruit cum demonstration farm at Tabo.


  • In 1869, a branch post office was opened at Keylong.
  • The first regular school was started by district board Kangra in 1919 with Urdu medium. 
  • In 1935, a second post office was opened at “Lote” in Pattan valley.
  • Seed farm, a research unit, was established at Gorma in Pattan valley in 1960.
  • There is a Kuth and dry fruit research unit at Keylong.

Famous Fairs of Lahaul Spiti District

1. Ladarcha

  • the annual fair held near the village of Kibber in the month of July.

2. Sissu fair

  • a common fair celebrated all over the Buddhist Himalayas.
  • At Shashur Gompa (Monastry) , it is held in June
  • at Gemur Gompa in July
  • at Mani Gompa of Gondhla in the month of August.

3. Phagli or Kun fair

  • pattan valley
  • held in the month of February.

4. Pori fair

  • held in Pattan valley at Trilokinath temple in the month of August.
  • Like Nathwara temple of Rajasthan at Trilokinath temple, a lamp always keep burning in pure ghee.

Famous Dances of Lahaul Spiti District

1. Shehni 

  • in this form men & women both take part in dancing together.

2. Ghure

  • there is no arm linking by dancers
  • while moving in a group they move in circles & semicircles

3. Garphi

  • oldest form of dance in Lahaul Spiti
  • In this dance, movements are neither regular nor arranged.

4. Betas 

  • a community of professional dancers.

Important Festivals of Lahaul Spiti District

1. Bumkhor

  • religious festival related to agriculture
  • People believe that if the religious books are taken around the fields, there will be bumper crops.

2. Halda/Losar

  • Halda is a (new year festival of Lahaul) celebrated in the month of January. 
  • To the tribals of this district, Halda has significance as Deepawali as to the people of the rest of India. 
  • The festivities center around ‘Shiskar Apa’ who is the goddess of wealth in Lamastic Pantheon as to the people of this region. 
  • The day for Halda is fixed by the Lamas.

3. Khun/Phagli

  • is the biggest festival of Pattan valley
  • It has more or less the same importance in Pattan valley what “Shivratri” has elsewhere in India. 
  • Khun generally falls at the end of January or early February. 
  • The name of the festival has been derived from that of the month of Phagun’ or Phalgun’, the last month of winter.

4. Gotsi (Gochi) 

  • This festival is of Chandra and Bhaga valleys particularly. 
  • This is celebrated in the month of February at a house where a son is born during the preceding year.

5. Gyalto/Gyago festival

  • is held towards the end of December when people bid farewell to the old year.

6. Dachang

  • is a festival of arrows. 
  • This is celebrated by only the men in the month of February in any village and continues for six days.

7. Thon Thon 

  • is celebrated in the month of April which marks the end of the winter.

8. Yane

  • is a festival in which God Trilokinath is worshipped by old men and women, celebrated in the second week of June every year.

9. Bhinger

  • is celebrated on the birth of a son or the first daughter.

10. Lachhang Festival

  • This festival is celebrated for the welcome of the winter season.

11. Paklen Festival

  • It is celebrated at the time of marriage.

12. Dzeetha Dambargya

  • is a form of worship in Lahaul 
  • This is performed once or twice after the death of a person.
  • According to a legend – some people believe that the name of the village Tandi originally was Tan-dehi, where Draupadi, the wife of five Pandavas of Mahabharata war fame, gave her body or died. 
  • According to another legend – Rishi Vashisht died at Mandi and his body was cremated at the confluence of two rivers, the Chandra and Bhaga, where the present village of Tandi is situated. 
  • Another legend says that Chandra, the daughter of the moon, was in love with Bhaga, the son of God’s sun. 
  • Tandi is the place where both met and the celestial marriage was performed.

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