|Kye Monastery, Spiti Valley|
We got to know these things by a list of such programs handwritten a medium-sized slate outside a small cafe. The cafe was not bigger than an average grocery shop in an average Indian city. To inquire more about these programs we went inside. To my utter surprise, this program was conducted by a lady from the Netherlands. A tailor-made tour of an Eastern cultural practice by a Westerner who came to India for a month. That’s what it was. She was there with her husband and her little son. I hardly meet a person from India who goes to travel for a month. So I am assuming that it is not too common. Maybe those who come to India from outside come with a plan of a month or so. If they do not have sufficient time, they may prefer places in their own country or in nearby countries.
The local market of Kaza was similar to the market that we see in hill stations of the Himalayas. Wooden crafts items like key chains, cutlery, and showpieces, were in abundance. Being a hill station it was common to see shawls and other winter clothing. Spiti valley is not too much known to the outside world as compared to Ladakh, but it is getting popular. The Greater number of visitors brings the diversification of market and the options increase like for dining. I wish that Spiti valley remains what it is - serene, secluded and less crowded by visitors.
Back in the hotel, there was a dining-room-cum-cafe. There we talked to the owner of that hotel Mr. Tsering Bodh. While deciding on the best route to Kaza, we chose the one via Rohtang La as it was closer to Kaza from Manali. The other one was from Shimla which was part of Hindustan Tibet Road. As we had asked a contractor in Batal, we asked Tsering which one was better. He told us, "If you see the quality of the road, definitely Hindustan Tibet Road is better as it is well kept. The road from Manali to Kaza is not very good and some parts of the road are very bad, but this road offers you more diversity. You cross passes, see rivers and pass through places where there are no roads. Compared to this the road from Shimla is monotonous." We agreed with him. A journey is not only about arriving. A lot has to be experienced in the travel itself. In that hotel, there were encyclopedias dedicated to the Spiti valley. We got to know few things about the history of the valley. Also kept were the collections of photographs taken in Spiti valley, hard bound like an old epic. Indeed it was epic, where the picture is shown and verses have to be formed by you.
In the hotel, folk music was being played. Being a fan of the folk music of India, I asked Tsering if he could share the songs with me and he obliged happily. When I returned from Spiti Valley, I played those songs. Needless to say that I could not get the lyrics of most of the songs as they were in the local language of Spiti valley, but music is much more than the language. It is about the experience when those instruments are played in harmony. It is about feeling the ascent and descent of the voice of the singer and then sink in that. Few of those songs were religious in nature as I deduced from the repeated chant of 'Buddham Sharanam Gachchhami, Dhammam Sharanam Gachchhami.' This is the feature of the folk songs of North-Indian Plain too. Most of the folk songs are about deities or a historical hero. Tsering told me that few songs are recordings of the festivals that are celebrated in the Kaza or nearby villages.
About 15 kilometers from Kaza, Kye monasteries is situated. Variably pronounced as Ki, Key, and Kee, Kye monastery is considered to be more than a thousand years old. When you enter the monastery, there is a board which has details of the history of this monastery. The history tells us about the repeated sacking and looting of this monastery by different forces. This monastery had to change its affiliation to a sect when it was attacked by a more powerful sect patronized by Mongol kings. Belonging to Gelugpa sect today, this is a major place of learning for young Lamas who have to go to Tibet for higher studies in religion. The Kye monastery is situated on a hilltop. In the backdrop of high mountains this monastery and related settlements, look so small and it is a perfect symbol of the harmonious relationship between man and nature. While on the roof of the monastery, you can get the panoramic view of the valley and it needs to be said that the views from each side of the Spiti river in the valley complete each other. This whole picture looks so poetic that I should call nature a great poet.
|Spiti Valley from Kye Monastery|
|Top of the Kye monastery|
|Inside Kye Monastery|