Kunzam Pass (Pass with all roads converging, 16,000 feet), lying between Lahaul and Spiti, is now the most important Pass after Rohtang.
‘OM Mani Padme Hum’ is a sacred recital in the valley. Its repetitions is considered the panacea for all problems, real or imaginary. The deeper meaning of this utterance is- “I invoke the path of Truth and experience of Universality”. “So that the Jewline Luminosity of my immortal Mind be unfolded, within the depths of lotus centered consciousness, and, I will be wafted with the ecstasy of breaking through all bonds and horizons.”
The average elevation of peaks in Lahaul region is between 5,480 meters to 6,400 meters. The lowest point is 2,740 meters were the river Chenab makes its exit from the district. The average elevation of the Spiti terrain is about 4,570 meters and that of mountain ranges is over 5,485 meters. The lowest point is 3,350 meters above the mean sea level. Lahaul has three valleys, i.e. Chandra valley, Bhaga valley and Chandra-Bhaga valley. The valley of the river Chandra is locally called ‘Rangoli’, ‘Khoksar’ is the first village in the valley.
The valley of the river Bhaga is locally called ‘Gara’. The river Bhaga starts from the South-Western foot of the South-Western foot of the Baralacha pass and upto village of Darcha, it flows in almost a narrow gorge, upto its junction with Chandra at Tandi. The valley of the combined rivers of Chandra and Bhaga is called Chandra Bhaga valley, popularly known as ‘Pattan’ It is also called as orchards and granary of Lahaul-Spiti. This area has the distinction of having the BARALACHA PASS, which is nearly eight kilometers long, also known as ‘Pass with cross roads on summit’ where road on summit’ where roads from Zanskar, Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul meet. It also gives rise to the three important rivers of the region-Chandra, Bhaga and Yunan-in the South-East, North-West and North respectively.
Spiti is comparison to Lahaul is higher in elevation. In the North Chocho-Lang ‘Kilta peak’ exceeds, 6,400 meters, while in the East Spiti is protected by the main Himalayas which is over 7,000 meters at places. In the South, there is ‘manirang peak’ with the elevation of about 4,600 meters and in the West Spiti is protected and separated from Lahaul by the Kunzam range. Spiti has four distinct regions. ‘Sham’, the lower region is situated on both the sides of the river Spiti between its confluence with Lingti and its junction with Pare. ‘pin region’ is the valley of the same river located on both the sides of the river with an average of about ten inhabited villages. ‘Bhar’, the middle region is located midway of the river above Kaza. ‘Tud’, the higher region includes areas above Spiti and waste tracts of ‘Tsarab’.
Spiti, Si- means ‘Mani’, Piti- means place. Spiti- the place of Mani. Spiti is also called “Piti” a veritable. Shangri-la is a cold mountain desert located on the Tibetan border and flanked on the South-East by district of Kinnaur, North East by district of Kullu. Geographically and archaeologically, Spiti is a living museum. The mountains are devoid of any vegetation and erosion by wind, sun and snow over thousands of years has laid bare the rocks. The rugged and rocky mountain slopes sweep down to the river beds giving the landscape a moon like appearance. Spiti valley is formed by the Spiti river, which rises on the slopes of Kunzum la (4,520 mts.) and ends at the river’s confluence with the ‘Pare Chu’ near ‘Sumbo’. The length of the valley from Kunzum pass to Sumbo is 150 km. On its way, the Spiti river receives the water of many streams, of which Guindi Nala, Pari Lungdi Chu, Pin river and Lingti river are the most important. Pari Lungbi valley, Pin-valley and Lingti valley are only party inhabited. Some other valleys, due to their elevation and rigorous climate, are not inhabited at all.
Spiti Geologically and archeologically, is a living museum. The 150 km valley carved by the river Spiti that originates on the eastern slopes of Kunzam La (4,520 mts.), is part of the high altitude cold mountain desert. The Pin valley, a side valley of the spiti has been declared a national wild life conservation park. Amidst its rare high altitude flora and fauna, is the elusive snow leopard.
Gentle in temperament and deeply religious, the people of Spiti live in harmony with the mighty mountain ranges around. Hostile terrain and extreme climate proved fertile ground for Buddhism to flourish. The warmth and innocence of the locals is infectious and their peculiar social customs, fairs and festivals, myths, belief, totems, taboos and folk tales are fascinating.
Spiti is a rich repository of Buddhist iconography replete with ancient murals, thangka paintings, wood carvings and metal images. Some of the monasteries dotting the landscape are over a thousand year old. The main monasteries known across the Buddhist world are Tabo, Kye and Dhankar. Besides the monasteries, places of interest in Spiti are Pin valley, Kaza, Kibber and Losar.