Only legends ride to Spiti in monsoons :). You know I went to Spiti from Jaipur last month. Let me introduce you to one of the most peaceful Hamlets of the valley which is Tabo Monastery, if you are coming from the Delhi-Chandigarh route, head straight towards Shimla. After which, you will have to pass through Kinnaur, the Nako village, to finally reach the peaceful village of Tabo. In the foothills of the Himalayas is situated Tabo village in Spiti valley. In the middle of Tabo is the Tabo monastery.
I will tell you all about the place, how to reach it and places worth visiting. So let’s begin with the interesting background and history of this place.
The historical significance of the Stunning Monastery
Tabo monastery is the oldest operating Buddhist enclave in India. It was built in 996CE by king Yeshe-Ö of Tibet. He wanted Buddhism to spread across the Himalayan region. So he sent 21 local youngsters to study tantra from the Indian masters at Vikramshila university in Bihar, which was the best centre of tantra learning at that time.
Unable to bear the harsh heat of the plains, 19 of those 21 died. One of the remaining was Rechin Tsangpo, who later on became a renowned scholar and translated many Indian works into Tibetan.
He also visited many Buddhist sites like Kashmir. It is believed that Rechin Tsangpo established the monastery for King Yeshe-O. Producing a play-as-like appearance, the place seems to be the centre of Spiti, and all roads seem to come towards the Tabo monastery.
So, a traveller must come to this place to experience sheer bliss.
Visiting the amazing Tabo Monastery
Though I could also take the Manali route, the Shimla route is better, and I chose the latter. You know the reason now, do you? Shimla is a gradual incline as compared to Manali, the possibility of AMS hitting you is less.
After some meaningful stops at Chitkul and Nako villages, cherishing their natural beauty, I reached my destination, Tabo village. You need 2-3 hours to experience the whole place, but it is magnificent to stay here and go stargazing.
You can either count on your vehicle or take a bus from Reckong Peo. The bus takes almost 11 hours to reach the destination, and let me tell you, the network on the phone is not very good here except for Jio.
Art and culture of the Himalayas
Also called the “Ajanta of the Himalayas”.
Tabo monastery has statues, paintings, thangka arts, Murals, and manuscripts representing the multiple strains of Buddhist culture across India, including Kashmir, Bihar, Bengal, Odisha, and Nepal. Its unique location at the crossroads connecting the Kashmir parts of India makes it an excellent centre for the meeting of scholars.
It is quite an exciting experience to witness the legacy of thousands of years and the energy of the space where monks chant to date. The temple is made of soil and has three portions.
The area has nine temples, 4 Stupas, and cave shrines. Stupas and Temples are near the monastery; the caves were built at a height, so you need to climb up a little to reach them.
The shelters are constructed in mountainous features to protect the chanting monks from the spine-chilling winds in the winter. I went to the caves. The high-rise place offers a stunning view of the whole town.
Tabo Monastery: Built and Rebuilt
The stunning Tabo Monastery was built in 996CE. After 46 years of its construction, it was repaired by the grand-nephew of the nephew of Yeshe-O. The nephew also happened to be a prominent priest of Buddhism.
The original monastery got destroyed in the 1975 Kinnaur Earthquake.
It was rebuilt in 1983, following which the 14th Dalai Lama of the faith initiated a Kalchakra here from 1983-96 in Vajrayana Buddhism—protected by ASI as a national treasure. UNESCO also nominated it as a world heritage site.
Stay & Accommodation
There are a lot of homestays available in the area. There is a homestay within the monastery where you can stay for a minimal price, but it is usually closed. I stayed at the Trogan guesthouse.
Since I was in the month of monsoon, August, when the tourist count is low. We were able to get a room with two king-size beds for just INR 800. During the summer which is the peak season, the rates are usually high.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Stay at least one night at a guest house. I bet you will not regret the decision, especially if you seek the peace of mind.
- Carry woollens as the temperature drops relatively low as the day turns into night.
- Politely ask a monk to show you the monastery and they will tell you the history of the place.
- Photography is prohibited in the monastery. So, respect the sacrosanct of the place and do not photograph the inside. You can, however, click the surrounding areas.
- The best time to visit the place is between April and October.
- ATMs are there but seldom work, and the network is not very supportive. So, carry cash with you.
If you visit the monastery between September and October, you can also observe the festival of Chakar. But always check before starting your journey, as it takes place only once every three years.
It was a rejuvenating and revitalizing place in the Spiti valley. The monastery attracts everything and everyone in the valley. The significance of this gorgeous hamlet is not just the magnificent views but also the region’s high energy.
The mornings are blessed with awesome panoramic views of the mountains.
Any questions related to the Tabo Monastery let me know in the comment section below.