Lahaul & Spiti is a massive district that shares its international boundary with the Tibetan Empire. Lahaul and Spiti attainted the status of a district in 1960, before which they were separate districts. Until 1960, it was a mere taluka (administrative division) in Kullu. The district is one of the most picturesque valleys with a large number of ancient monasteries and natural formations. The monasteries and ancient buildings of the former ruling dynasty are the principal objects of study. These historic monuments and formations are among the main reasons why tourism is so popular in the district and is also a regular haunt for archeologists from around the world.
The customs, myths, beliefs, and conventions of the people here are the unique features of this border highland. Every village or hamlet has a prayer flag fluttering over the Buddhist monastery. These shrines are the centers of the cultural life of the people that have influenced their religious beliefs for centuries. Their social lives revolve around these beliefs.
Over a very long period of time, the people of Lahaul and Spiti have maintained trade and cultural links across the border with Tibet and with Ladakh. The Indian-Tibet road passes through this district and is the lifeline of its people. The region was not easily accessed earlier and as such remained isolated from external influences, unperturbed by modern life. Only after roads were built by the Indian Army to patrol India’s border with China did the area start receiving visitors.
In 1847, Ladakh and Spiti were taken over by the mighty Dogra Rajas of Kashmir and Kullu and Lahaul was brought under British administration. They were made as subdivisions of the Kangra kingdom and within 2 years, Spiti was also made a part of the district. Despite the change of regimes, the region maintained strong links with Tibet right up until the Chinese habitation in 1949.
Since then, there has been a major revival in the cultural and religious life of Spiti, aided by the work of the Tibetan government. The Buddhist Temples of Lahaul and Spiti are now principal areas of study and the district receives a majority of its income from tourism and hydroelectricity, which has been used extensively to improve lives of the farmers who suffer during winters due to excessive snowfall.
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