Adventure, Budget, Himachal Pradesh, India, Offbeat, Solo Travel
Comments 29

Travel Tales From Spiti: The Legend of The Moving Monasteries.

Spiti is a land of legends. Every mountain peak and rock formation has a story lurking behind it, handed down by generations of Spitians. The most fascinating of them is one I heard from a local friend, of a mountain peak which changes colors a few times a day, reflecting the mood of the deity that inhabits it. It takes 3 days to walk to the base of this peak from his village in Linkti, camping at nightfall along the Spiti River… But I digress. The mystery mountain is a story for another day.

I’m currently at 4587 metres at Komic, and literally high at what is said to be the highest inhabited village in the Himalayas. As I count the 13 houses in this small village, I try to imagine how people lead such isolated lives. Perhaps a consolation is the Buddhist Monastery at Komic, where lamas (monks) pray and meditate at one of the highest altitudes in the world.

komik village, hikkim, spiti valley, himachal pradesh, offbeat travel, india, buddhism

Legend has it that due to a drought, the monks of Komic decided to shift the Komic monastery to the nearby, relatively lower-lying village of Hikkim. The Mahakal statue, believed to symbolize the Protector of Dharma, however, refused to move from its foundation in the ground of Komic, despite numerous chipping and lifting efforts by the monks. When the entire monastery moved to Hikkim, the statue remained adamant at Komic, together with one monk who would continue to pray before it. In 1975 or earlier, an earthquake rocked the high altitude villages of Spiti, reducing the Hikkim monastery to ruins, still visible atop a small hill.

Hikkim, Komik, Spiti, monastery, himachal pradesh, india, offbeat travel, off the beaten path, himalayas, buddhism, nyingmapa

Surprising the monks, the Mahakala statue in Komic held its ground even amid the devastating tremors. Convinced that Komic was the holiest place for a monastery, the monks decided to move back to Komic, where the monastery stands to this day.

Thanks to this patriarchal society, all I could see of the Mahakala legend was a little board saying, “women not allowed”. Well, at least faith can move monasteries if not prejudices!

This article was published on Yahoo (Associated Content).

Also read:
Travel tales from Spiti: Once a nun.
Travel tales from Spiti: Entrepreneur at 12.
Travel tales from Spiti: Kaza’s garden lady.

29 Comments

  1. Elizabeth says

    Beautiful story..If one stayed in one of the 13 houses one might think that a 14th house was an intrusion. I wonder how they would react to flats and houses piled on top of each other!

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    • True! Their houses are almost like mansions, with an upper floor for the summer and lower floor for the winter. But the world of consumerism is such that they might just take a fancy to flats!

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    • 🙂 Spiti is a valley in the trans-Himalayas, in the state of Himachal Pradesh in India. You must visit it someday 🙂

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  2. Although I have seen many a temporary settlements at great elevations in the base of mighty Himalayas, the highest known village to me is located at some 4,000 m ASL. 4,587 is a phenomenal elevation with conditions extremely harsh for most of the year.

    There is something very unique, historic and romantic about those monks and monasteries and the pics are amazing as usual.

    One of these days I stumbled upon another very interesting piece of info that the highest gas station in the world is located in Hamachel pardesh at an elevation of 4,205 m.

    With all those towering snow clad peaks, meadows and valleys must be an amazing place to visit someday 🙂

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  3. It’s an amazing place indeed 🙂 And the highest gas station is indeed located in HP, in the town of Kaza in the Spiti valley. Although the conditions are really harsh at such high altitudes, the locals make a conscious choice to live there.

    I met monks who spent 8-9 years at monasteries at lower altitudes and chose to return because they couldn’t stand the heat. Nurture has an interesting role to play in our lives 🙂

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  4. That is a really interesting story how they moved the monastery back. While your photos do show off isolation, I can see why some would want to live in such a remarkable landscape.

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  5. Wonderful! I am planning to do the Spiti left bank trail later this year.. Komic is one of the villages on this trail..

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    • Awesome, you’ll love it 🙂 Make sure you stop by Langhza on the way. It was my personal favorite, with bare, green & white mountains.

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  6. Pingback: 5 unusual end-of-summer getaways from Delhi. | The Shooting Star

  7. Pingback: Mcleodganj aka Little Tibet. | The Shooting Star

  8. Pingback: Travel tales from Spiti: Kaza’s garden lady. | The Shooting Star

    • Thanks for the link Sujoy, the pictures bring back lots of memories and are so brilliantly shot, as always 🙂

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  9. Pingback: Spiti Valley: 10 experiences that’ll take your breath away. | The Shooting Star

  10. Beautiful stuff, Shivya…I visited Spiti last year and fell in love with it, so any and all information on it (and other places in India, offbeat or not) is most welcome. Glad to have found The Shooting Star and I’m looking forward to more articles and to make my way through the backlog 🙂
    Cheers,
    Sebastian.

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      • That’s great. 🙂 Thank you. I’m a travel photographer and sometimes writer so such kind of information is invaluable to me…will be very useful for my next visit to and journey through India. I look forward to reading more about parts of your fascinating home country that I don’t know about.

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        • Sounds great. Saw your photographs on your blog, they’re lovely 🙂 Let me know when you’re in India again. Would love to catch up over coffee.

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          • Thanks. If your Balkan journey takes you further into Austria (just a stone’s throw or two away ;)) let me know. The Alpine countryside here is worth to be seen and walked through as well. I’ll be home until late summer, then hope to be in India again.

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  11. Ameeth Devadas says

    Hey wonderful blog, your stories from Spiti brought back memories of my solo trip last June. Everything is still so fresh in memory, those deep valley, gorges and the feeling of standing among those prayer flags atop Komic on a cold windy day. Nothing tops that feeling 🙂 Looking forward to hearing more stories from you, keep blogging.

    P.S : Komic top is 4587 ‘metres’ and hence the highest inhabited village, that roughly translates to 15000+ feet 🙂

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    • Oops, I was probably choosing between specifying the height in feet or metres and went with parts of both :p Will change it right away. Thanks!

      And welcome to The Shooting Star, Ameeth. Reading your comment has transported me back again to Komic too. Hope to go back there another time.

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  12. I just cant help but add on another fact about this village. A temporary polling booth is also setup for these 13 houses!

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  13. dipanwita says

    Your travelogue brought back memories of komic and lanza . I was upset not being allowed indide the monastery, to see the stuffed snow leopard at the entrance. I stomped out and as I was loitering there,I came across amonite fossils . That made my day.

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