The land of monasteries and mysteries of God……

04 Oct 2011

” I wander across as a care free soul,

My heart, my mind is losing control”

– astroaditya

Light & Shade

I entered the ‘Spiti Valley – The Middle Land’ realizing that i have lost all the contact with the world outside. If everything goes according to the plan, it would be after 3 days i.e. on 7th Oct evening when I’ll get the network back upon reaching Manali. But for now let me enjoy the beauty of the Spiti Valley for the final 27 kms left to cover from Sumdo to Tabo. As the valley now divided into two parts ‘Light & Shade’ looked magnificent in the setting sun….

Nearing Tabo

The fading light…

And i reached the doors of the ancient village. At 10, 761 feet above sea level, Tabo is a small village situated along the spiti river in the 130km long Spiti Valley. The history of the village dates back to the 10th century when the lower Spiti valley and upper Kinnaur province were the south-western border of the buddhist Guge kingdom ruled by the kings of Purang-Guge. It was the 3rd king of the dynasty, known by his initiation name Yeshe Od who was credited of founding Tabo Monastery in 996 A.D. The original language of the area is still not identified. Researchers believe it was possibly the ancient language of Zhang Zhung (the ancient culture of western and northwestern Tibet.)

A left to enter Tabo…

And the reward of a long day’s hard work…


Tabo Stupa

I made my way in and parked the bike outside the Monastery guest house which is situated adjacent to the Tabo Monastery. I went inside the guest house and waited at the reception but no one came. As i was walking back towards my bike, i saw a lady approaching towards me and then she asked me if i knew the timings of the morning bus to Shimla. I told her that i just arrived in Tabo and had no idea about the same. She saw my bike and excitedly began asking questions about my trip. Upon conversing i got to know that she came from London was traveling solo in this region for the past two weeks. She had a big smile on her face as i told her about my journey and then she asked me about Chitkul and if it was worth going there. It’s better if i could show you some pics later and then you can decide as i said. She then went in search for some information on the morning bus and i meanwhile searched for a guest house. As i took the lane next to the monastery guest house it took me less than five minutes to find one on the right side. The room was good, on the first floor (top floor) and the stairs leading to an open terrace was just what i wanted.

Tip: Electricity is a problem in Tabo. Power cuts are frequent, so check the timings with the locals upon arriving. Everything closes by 7-8 pm so plan accordingly. Only network available is BSNL and there is no ATM.

Tabo Gompa

The Day Ending….

At dusk…

So, i parked the bike inside the courtyard, the caretaker helped me with the luggage and moments later i was out again with the camera. As i was walking along the narrow lanes i heard a voice calling my name with the British accent and i knew it was her. She was sitting along with some other travelers sharing experiences. So, there i was sitting with Christine (from London in her mid fifties), Florence ( from Singapore in her late twenties) and a family from Kolkata in the lawns of a guest house alien to me. We all discussed about our journey till now and then i showed them the pictures of Chitkul from my camera which were motivating enough for them to pay a visit to the dreamland. We said the good bye’s and I came back to the guest house and before i knew i was asleep. It was around 8.30 pm when i got up. I was tired & hungry no doubt about that. I came out of the guest house and everything seemed to be closed now. I couldn’t find anything and went back to the guest house only to find the gate locked. It was not what i wanted, i was willing to sleep hungry but not outside. 5, 10 minutes later i saw the caretaker coming with 2-3 people to show them the room and he too was surprised seeing the gate locked. He climbed the wall and jumped inside the courtyard and opened the door.

Tabo Night Sky….

A test shot….around Polaris

Meanwhile, a lady or i say the guest house owner came out and i asked her i could find anything to eat and she told me to rush towards the Monastery Restaurant which was situated right across the street and which i didn’t notice at first. Yes, the monastery guest house had a restaurant too and a good one. I just loved the ambiance and as i went inside, i asked the lady she could make me something to eat. Noodles and Momos was what she said and i screamed a happy yesss…. Satisfied, i came back to the room and began waiting for the moon to set….

End of Day 4 – Oct 4, 2011

Total Driving (Kalpa to Tabo) – 184 km

Start Time – 8.30 a.m, End Time – 5.00 p.m


05 Oct 2011

If i must compare, the night sky here was much clearer than Chitkul, crisp, clear and cold, i could see the milky way spread across the sky and the millions of stars illuminating the night sky. The guys who came earlier in the evening were in the room adjacent to mine and upon seeing my activities in the middle of the night of moving up and down the terrace with the tripod and the camera came out and asked curiously of what it was all about. I told them about the Star Trails and they had no idea about the same, i showed them the Google sky maps application on my mobile by which i could locate the position of the stars and the galaxies and they got excited. So they came along with me on the terrace still not believing of what i was telling them about the stars, the galaxies and the constellations. And this is how i met Ashish and Ankit both in there mid twenties and from Delhi.  I was all set with my tripod and camera, the frame was also set, the test shots were done and for the next two hours i got busy capturing the Star Trails….

Star Trails – Tabo…

The location i chose in the sky was around Polaris also known as the North Star or the Pole Star and also the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor. As you all know the earth rotates on its axis and as polaris is very close to the north celestial pole also making it the current northern pole star, capturing the round movement is possible. And this is what i did till the battery of the camera ran out. Ashish and Ankit stayed with me for the entire period as i told them about the various concepts of Astronomy and we also spotted close to 12 shooting stars of which 1 or 2 were appeared to be like a fire ball moving across the sky. In the end, they thanked me for telling and showing them the stuff which they thought never existed.

Entering Tabo Monastery

Oldest & the Holiest Tabo Monastery

Tabo Monastery

I woke up late the next day, entering Day 5 of my trip and the agenda for today was to go till Kaza with a stop at Dhankar Monastery in between but first a visit to the Oldest & Holiest Tabo Monastery. The Tabo Monastery includes 9 temples, 23 chortens, a monks’ residence and an extension that houses the nuns’ residence.

The monastery’s nine temples:

1. The Temple of the Enlightened Gods (gTug-Lha-khang), or Assembly Hall.

2. The Golden Temple (gSer-khang). Said to have been once covered with gold, it was renovated by Sengge Namgyal, a king of Ladakh in the 16th century. The walls and ceilings are covered with magnificent murals.

3. The Initiation Temple (dKyil-kHor- khang). There is a huge painting of Vairocana surrounded by eight Bodhisattvas. The other walls are covered in mandalas. This is where monks receive their initiations.

4. The Bodhisattva Maitreya Temple (Byams-Pa Chen-po Lha-khang). The image of the Bodhisattva Maitreya here is over six meters (20 feet) high. There are also murals showing Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse and the Potala in Lhasa.

The Temple of Dromton (Brom-ston Lha khang)

One of 23 Chortens….

The caves for meditation…

5. The Temple of Dromton (Brom-ston Lha khang) which is thought to have been founded by Dromton (1008-1064 CE) one of the main disciples of Atisha.

The above are thought to be the earliest temples of Tabo and the following are later additions.

6. The Chamber of Picture Treasures (Z’al-ma).

7. The Large Temple of Dromton (Brom-ston Lha khang). After the Assembly Hall, this is the largest temple in the complex and contains many wall paintings. The wooden planks in the ceiling are also decorated.

8. The Mahakala Vajra Bhairava Temple (Gon-khang) contains the protective deity of the Gelukpa sect. It contains fierce deities and is only entered after protective meditation.

9. The White Temple (dKar-abyum Lha-Khang).

Tabo Monastery is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India as a national historic treasure of India.

The new monastery building…

Out in the Sun…

A part of Stupa…

Tabo Streets…

The cropped letter from the picture above…

I met Florence again at the Monastery Restaurant as we had our breakfast and me trying the chocolate momos. Yes, momos filled with chocolate syrup and they tasted really good. The breakfast was nice and so was the conversation. I learnt that Florence has been traveling alone in India for the past 1 month, she had covered Leh – Ladakh before coming to Spiti, spending as many days as she would feel like in a given place and her motto ” The dirtier the buses, the better it is” .  After exploring the Tabo Monastery, i bade farewell to Florence, packed & tied my bags again. It was 11 a.m. as i left Tabo and moved to my next destination – Dhankar Monastery & then Kaza…

The Monastery Guest House…


To Kaza but first a stop at Dhankar….

Travel to the place
Where we have silence, 
Flower of fragrance, 
And nature to admire.

 Travel to the place
Where we can write, 
Lines of rhyme, 
At any time.

PS : .c – pics from camera, .mb – pics from mobile, Poem by – Divyesh J. Shah



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    • Aditya says:

      Thanks Sandeep…. :)

      Star Trail ke liye sabse pehle toh aapke camera mein manual settings aur bulb mode hona chahiye. Uske baad aapko tripod aur remote shutter control bhi lena padega.

      Uske baad manual settings mein aap shutter speed Bulb mode pe kar de, ISO 200 rakhe, Aperture – 3.5 ya 5.6. Agar aas pass koi light nahi jal rahi hai, bilkul andhera hai toh ek baar shutter button daba kar remote se usse lock kar de aur 20-25 min tak camera on rehne de. 20-25 min baad phir lock khol de aur shutter button dobara press karen aur phir photo aa jayegi. Pehle aap itna kar ke dekhen….

  • very good one again……………….

    star trails were excellent…………………………

  • Nisha says:

    Excellent photos and very tempting. Lure us to go there. :-)

    Some of the photos are over sized, taking time in loading and have gone into the sidebar.
    One suggestion.
    Try to post resized photos as per the width of this template column. you can also lower the resolution. Please keep in mind that not everybody has the wide screen computer or high speed net connection.

    • Aditya says:

      Thanks Nisha… :)

      The original size of each pic is around 6 – 7 mb and the size of each pic posted here is around 130 kb. And the height and the width of the pics is as per the template column. It’s only the pics that comes after the template on the right side have bigger size.

  • ashok sharma says:

    beautiful snaps,nice narration,keep it up.

  • Amit Kumar says:

    Very good bro. What I discover through this post is your interest in Astronomy. I am too fascinated with the astronomical concepts but never had much idea about it. Star trail is something unknown to me and i’ll definitely check the Google sky map application for more info. But one thing I feel that isn’t it hard to drive daily 180 km around, that too in hills? Don’t you feel other way that staying more at a place and finding something unique about it, May be some deep history, unique culture, some hidden aspects etc. Did you ever feel that it isn’t enough or you had enough and moved forward? Your expert answer will help many of us to plan something like this in future :-)
    Thanks a lot for sharing this dream trip.

    • Aditya says:

      Thanks a lot Amit… :)

      Driving in the hills, taking in account the altitude and the road condition, It’s hard man… Also, if you are traveling on bike, it’s even more challenging as you have to balance the same throughout on mud puddles, the streams across the road, the strong winds, the gravel, the dust and the luggage. You’ll get the real picture in my last post as i encountered the most awful stretch of the trip. It’s the spirit that keeps you going….

      I planned the trip for 9 days as per the leaves, the distance and the destinations. I do wanted to spend more time in Chitkul, Tabo and see more off track places around which i missed. I had to stick to my plan in order to reach back to Delhi on time. As i calculated one needs a minimum of 1 month to explore the entire area. And in our profession it’s not possible. I have done the stretch once now. From here i’ll try to stick to a particular area on that stretch and explore….

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    It was a very interesting post adorned by impressive write up and beauuuutiful pictures. Photographs of the dusk and the day ending are mind blowing.


  • toddler ved says:

    Was eagerly waiting for ur this post as in the Chitkul one, u have told u r going to post another star trail and really this star trail picture is purely perfect one….As regards the adventure, what I guess is u posses the will of Robert Peary and Amundsen in u….It will not be a surprise to find ur Enticer landing at North or South pole some day…
    Monks (lama) and their culture viz. way of preparing themselves (as could be gathered from the book of living dead and also from brief exposure during my visit to Rumtek monastery) fascinates me too much……..if u had some, would u mind sharing those experiences in ur upcoming post..
    Once again excellent photography….

    • Aditya says:

      Thanks Ved ji for going through and liking the post… :)

      I do had an experience on my visit to the Kaza & Ki Monastery. ‘ll share the same in the next post….

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Thank you Aditya for the amazing photographs and lucid write-up. You seem to have mastered the art of capturing star trails. All photographs were of a very high standard but I liked the one captioned “The Day ending….” most because it is rather unique, with the setting sun painting the rocky crest with a totally different hue.

    Looking forward eagerly for your next.

  • Nandan says:

    So finally you get to see the perfect star-trail. Brilliant. Forget the techno part of bulb-mode, locking the mirror n all that, what is commendable is the sheer discipline needed to pursue this. So much of passion. Take a bow.

  • Aditya says:

    Thanks Nandan…. :)

  • Suchetana Sen says:

    Can you provide me with any contact details of the Tabo monastery guest house?? Preferebly mobile numbers as the landlines are not working!
    Thank you.

  • Arti says:

    Amazing post…..

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