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Life in Spiti

The People and the Place of Spiti H.P

Spiti Valley, surrounded on all sides by the soaring snowy mountain walls of the high Himalaya, Spiti is situated India’s northern border with Tibet in the state of Himachal Pradesh. It is a remote area, high altitude, cold desert region of complete rock face and barren slopes, of plunging gorge and tower ridge, which expose cover after layer of ancient abnormal rock, push from the depths of the ocean to form the roof of the world. A mile above the valley floor the highest, frozen summits pierce a brilliant, deep blue sky, which but rarely softens into rain, for even the Indian subcontinent’s life-giving monsoon cannot overcome Spiti's mountains. A meter of winter snow, now cause to be less dependable by global warming, provides a scanty flow of water in spring and summer to irrigate the patchworks of tiny, yak-ploughed fields. Winter is long and fertile soil is scarce, so farming is minor with little cash income. Snow may lie on the fields for six or even seven months of the year.

The approximately population of thirteen thousand people live in tiny villages scattered like the bead of a broken rosary across the rocky landscape. Dried yak dung remains the main source of fuel for cooking and for heating the mud houses, even though the temperature drops to -30ºC in the depths of winter. It is continuously collected from the grazing grounds  through the summer and autumn. Government schemes have lent some occupational diversity to the people of the area but subsistence agriculture combined with pastoral activity is the mainstay of the majority. In 2004 the Block Development Office in Kaza, the Spiti capital, set the family poverty line at INR. 20,000/- (US$ 444) income per annum and identified not less than half of the 2,370 plus households in the valley as living below that line.

Spiti people are Indian by birth and nationality, but their language is a dialect of Tibetan and their culture a far flung outpost of the peaceful Buddhist culture that has suffered such destruction in Tibet itself. Here in Spiti are five historical monasteries and temples (among three Gelugpa and one Sakyapa and one Nyingmapa School). We, as Sakyapa, used to go to get religious education to Sakya in Tibet, in the past when Tibet was free. Our President has lot of history about Tibet and his Teachers and hear very educated on history, especially on Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen. The Sapan Foundation is inspired by the example of such a Great Master. By this great teacher and practitioner, who stands of (or: symbolizes) our recorded history, we seek like him to set a new standard of educational opportunity for the youth of Spiti.

Face facing the society

Naturally cut off by a great mountain barrier and by a long winter that closes the down road transfer, Spiti became more isolated. Still when its closed economy and cultural ties with Tibet were abruptly snapped by the Chinese takeover of that country in 1959, and from then on until 1992, the entry of even Indian outsiders was confidential due to the proximity of the neighboring border. This isolation left Spiti in peace but kept it economically backward and educationally disadvantaged.



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