Confluence of Spiti and Pin as scene from Dhankar
“Spiti is the modern name, this place was originally called ‘Piti’” Kunga Jordhen said as five curious people listened to him attentively. “Long ago when some inhabitants of ‘Piti’ moved out in search of new worlds, they came to Kinnaur. The people of Kinnaur surprised by the demeanor and language of the strangers asked them ‘Where did you come from?’
‘Sa-piti’ said the strangers. ‘Sa’ means far away and ‘Piti’ means middle land. And after years and years of modification ‘Sapiti’ is now ‘Spiti’”.
Everyone in the Sumo gasped in amazement as the vehicle took another turn around the meanders of the mountains on the way to Dhankar. I wondered if that’s why the elders in the valley still call it ‘Sapiti’ or ‘Piti’ but never ‘Spiti’.
For some, it’s a photographers’ heaven, for some it’s a much needed getaway from the monotony of their lives, for some it’s the ‘better Ladakh’, for some, it’s their next adventure and for some, Spiti is their home.
At first look, this vast trans-Himalayan valley which is technically a tundra desert looks like it has no inhabitants. Rudyard Kipling in his novel Kim described Spiti as a “world within world” and “Surely a place of gods” and “no place for men”. With winter temperatures plummeting to up to -30’C, it surely does seem like no place for men. But people do live here and that too throughout the year. They’ve lived here for ages, in peaceful coexistence with the flora and fauna found here and with time, they’ve painted the desert, with the sublime colours of positive footprints. Perhaps, this valley is a lost plot of Eden neatly tucked away from the eyes of world, a world within the World, where the Gods and people live together in a world wound together culturally and spiritually.
This is a glimpse into the lives of the Settlers who call this Middle Land; the bridge between India and Tibet, their home.
Purvash was a volunteer with Ecosphere in Summer 2016