Spiti, originally pronounced 'Piti' (the middle land), was historically part of Western Tibet (Nariss Korssum). In the 11th century AD Nimagon, the king of Nariss Korssum divided his kingdom amongst his 3 sons of which Spiti and Zanskar together formed a separate kingdom. Later, Ladakh took over the suzerainty of Spiti and Zanskar, and the area was governed by the Nono (younger brother of the King of Ladakh).
It was only after the invasion of Ladakh by Zorawar Singh that Spiti became part of Kullu. It remained an independent principality for many years, under the judicial and administrative rule of the Nonos (adopted as the title for the king of Spiti) during the British Raj .
Religion & Culture
Spiti is home to a purely homogenous Buddhist society belonging to the Mahayana (Vajrayana) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Before the advent of Buddhism in Spiti, there was a popular animistic creed called Bon. In the 9th century AD Padmasambhava brought Buddhism to this valley and the people embraced this non-violent and compassionate religion.
In 11th century AD, Rinchen Tsangpo was born in the Purang area of Tibet and he became a pioneer in establishing the foundations for the Buddhist religion in Western Tibet. He is credited with the establishment of various monasteries in Spiti (Tabo, Kye, and Sarkhang), Ladakh, Gogay, Purang, Tholing, etc.
There are 5 main Monasteries in Spiti (Tabo, Dhankhar, Kungri, Tangyut, and Kye) and some unique Buddhist temples. The spiritual aspiration of the local community often leads the way to a monastic life, which is represented through these ancient monasteries dating back to over a 1000 years.
Chortens & mane walls are present everywhere and the enchanting intonations of 'Om Mane Padme Hum' resonate throughout the Spiti valley.
The major Vajrayana Buddhist sects in Spiti are Sakyapa, Nyingmapa and Gelugpa. Each of these sects have specific regions in which they thrive and their unique and distinct practices add diversity to the charm of the cultural life of the region.
Various unique aspects of traditional Tibetan Buddhist culture are well-preserved and have flourished in the Spiti Valley. Local festivals provide the ideal platform for cultural exchange amongst this diverse Buddhist community.