Unveiling The Paradise

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A selection of photographs taken over a period of twenty years in Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, is currently on exhibition online. The show of photographs taken by Kishore Thukral runs till November 15…writes Siddhi Jain.

Titled ‘Spiti – Paradise Unveiled’, the online exhibition is divided into five sections – Gateway to Paradise; The Incredible Moonscape; Life in Paradise; The Lamaseries of Paradise; and Serene Snowscapes. It is available to see on the website of India International Centre.

Kishore Thukral, who has to his credit a number of photography exhibitions and illustrated lectures on Spiti, Dangkhar and Vajrayana Buddhist art, has trekked, photographed and researched extensively in the western Himalayas, especially the remote valley of Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. He has authored ‘Spiti through Legend and Lore’, a book that documents the legends and folklore of the valley both in text and in photographs. He was instrumental in setting up Dangkhar Initiative, a project for the restoration of the ancient Dangkhar monastery in Spiti. Through his efforts, Dangkhar was recognised by the World Monuments Fund in 2006-07 as one of the hundred most endangered historical sites in the world.

Imagining Spiti brings to mind a remote valley high up in the western Indian Himalayas, abutting Tibet — a valley that is a world within a world. Spiti derives its name from a combination of two local words e bi (hidden) and ti (water/river/valley), though some believe it is rooted in chiti (paradise). Be that as it may, sandwiched between perennially snow-capped mountains, the valley has only recently started to garner the attention of the Indian traveller. The approach to it is not easy e the narrow, rough road leading to it takes one through canyons, across streams, beneath overhangs and over high mountain-passes.

Tibet is barely a day’s walk away. Little wonder then that Vajrayana Buddhism has flourished in Spiti for over a thousand years, a period that also saw the founding of magnificent monasteries such as Tabo, Dangkhar, Ghungri, Tangyud and Key, and smaller temples like the Ser Khang in Lhalung.

The mystique of the land is palpable. Spiti’s history is for the most part unrecorded, yet it boasts a priceless heritage and a landscape that presents a frame wherever you turn your camera.

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