Lahaul--A Taste For The Forbidden
and The Unknown
Climate : Dry and very cold
Season : June to October
Clothing: Heavy Woollen
Lahaul, the moonscape of India, is an enchanting place not only for
a quick sightseeing trip but also for a long sojourn. Here youll
find yourself surrounded by the barren beauty of the Himalayas, in
direct contrast to their lush green avatar in other parts of Himachal.
The valley has long been a favourite with adventure enthusiast, who
have a taste for the forbidden and the unknown. You can actually
listen to the voice of the wind here and its sure to give you
¤ A Home to Bara Shigri Glacier
Lahaul is a part of LahaulSpiti, the largest district in
Himachal Pradesh. It is bordered by the Zaskar range and Tibet (the
plateau of the world) on the east. To its southeast lies Kinnaur and
to the south Kullu Valley. The Bara Shigri glacier 10 km long
and a kilometre wide is one of the longest in the Himalayas and
is right next to this valley. Other highaltitude glaciers are
also a regular feature here.
Theres a slight confusion about how the name Lahaul came about.
It could have been derived from either of the two Tibetan words Lhoyul,
southern country or Lhahiyul country of gods,
so take your pick.
However, the most interesting part is that neither the people of
Lahaul nor the Tibetans nor the Ladakhis call this valley Lahaul. The
Ladakhis and Tibetans call it Garza or Garsha while the Lahaulis call
¤ A Trekking paradise
The valley is immensely popular for its adventure trekking routes and
gompas (monasteries). One of the most traversed trekking route kicks
off from Manali, passes through Lahaul and ends at Zanskar (in
Kashmir). The LehManali highway is the main passage for tourists
into Lahaul and further on to Leh.
This route usually open from July to September, is entirely at the
mercy of the Rain God who may decide to wreak havoc just when you plan
to make a adventure journey.
The journey itself takes a lot of guts and is definitely not for the
lilylivered there are some really scary roads with sheer
¤ Attractions of Valley
Lahaul is home to three valleys: Chandra, Bhaga and ChandraBhaga
The valleys are locally called Rangoli, Gara and Pattan respectively.
In summer, the valley is smothered with lush green grass and
breathtakingly beautiful wild flowers. Charming little villages on
patches of green provide a sharp and interesting contrast to the brown
and russet splendour of the cold desert.
The main crops grown in the valley are barley, wheat, peas, potatoes
and hops (a climbing plant with flowers that grow in bunches). Hop
plant (Humulus lupulus) is a creeper and produces green flowers like a
filled rose bud, but more rounded in shape.
The flowers turn yellowish when over ripe. Lahaul and Spiti are the
only areas in India where hops are grown and the varieties that are
cultivated here are the Hybrid and Late Clustor.
are fast gaining popularity with farmers as they make a good source of
The dried flowers of this plant are used to impart a bitter flavour
to beer and chicory (an ingredient for chocolates and coffee).
Originally it was used as a preservative, but now are used only to
flavour beer. The hop flowers are dried and then compressed into
pellets before they are sold to the breweries.
¤ The Cash Crop
Another cash crop that is putting money into the traditionally dry
coffers of Lahaul and Spiti is kuth (Sausserea lappa), a medicinal
herb exported to Europe.
A unique plant, the extract from its roots can be used as a fixing
agent for perfumes meaning that the French and the Italians simply cant
do without it. Apart from cosmetic purposes, kuth is rather a handy
thing to put into medicines.
Locally it is used in the treatment of ulcers, ear aches, boils,
rheumatic pain, frostbite, and cough.
People smoke it when they have a bad cold or fever. Its root extract
is again rubbed in to cure arthritis, rheumatism or warts. The roots
of this plant can also be used as an insecticide. It can be even used
to protect clothes from moths. So, you see its a kind of Jack of
all trades. Kuth cultivation was first introduced in the region in
1925 by a man named Dhanwantri Prasad and now has been taken up on
purely commercial lines.
¤ A Trading Zone
In the earlier days there existed an important trade relation between
Lahaul and Tibet. Even when the British took over the area they kept
Kullu and Lahaul to themselves because of this lucrative trade, while
they sold off the rest to the maharaja of Jammu. The trade was
conducted mainly through barter and trading was on a onetoone
basis. Each businessman from Lahaul had a counterpart in Tibet and
personal trust was the key to his business. Lahaulis carried steel
goods, tea, cotton clothes and sugar and exchanged them with wool,
pashmina, butter and cheese.