Up above the world so high
Oct 17 2013
Be prepared to fall in love with the majestic but barren Kinnaur Kailash range and snow-clad Jorkanden peaks
As all travellers know, a stunning close-up of snow-covered ranges does not usually come with urban comforts. That is what makes Kalpa special. Hotel Kinnaur Kailash, run by the Himachal Pradesh tourism department, offered us an extremely comfortable stay. Large glass windows opened out to a view of the mountains, and with the curtains pulled aside, one could even enjoy this view curled up under thick blankets on the double bed.
The next morning, the sun rose like a shining diamond atop the Kinnaur Kailash peak (19, 849 ft), said to be the abode of Shiva. On its left, a few peaks away, was the silhouette of the Shivling Peak. It is named after the 79-ft high elongated boulder that stands on the peak and often shines with rainbow colours in the sunlight. Climbing enthusiasts trek up 19,000 ft or so from a spot near Kalpa to offer puja at the boulder.
We took a short drive downhill to explore Kalpa village. At the village crossroads, calf sized mountain dogs snoozed in the sun. The road went past small houses and shops selling golden apples straight to the Lochawa La-Khang (Samdub Choeling) monastery. It was also known as the Hu-Bu-Lan-Kar gompa, said to have been founded by Rinchensang-po (950-1055 AD).
A few stone steps led to the sunny, warm monastery porch, with a white chorten in the centre and rows of prayer wheels all around. From this porch, we had an uninterrupted view of the entire mountain range we had driven down from, its deep green cover dotted by all the tourist accommodations.
The door to the ornate sanctum was framed on either side by panels of paintings of Mahakala and Buddha. Inside, the central deity had a fair, feminine face. She had a garland of Rs 10 and Rs 5 notes around her neck.
From the monastery, the road wound past the army green local post office to end at the village temple. Ornate wooden dragons coiled around the porch pillars. A brass door etched with Indian gods opened out to the central courtyard. On the temple wall hung a faded photo of the precincts, taken by one William Simpson during a local festival in 1864. In the photo, the incumbent deity was being carried out in a doli. It was, incidentally, the only view of the deity that we got, for the door to the sanctum was padlocked.
Back at the hotel, we lazed over lunch at the dining hall. Its huge glass panes offered an uninterrupted 360 degree view. The windproof corridor connecting the dining hall with the main building sure was a blessing in the bone chilling evenings. With shining glassware, chequered table cloths and uniformed waiters, the feel of the dining hall was quite colonial, and so was the roasted chicken.
At sunset, the entire Kinnaur Kailash range seemed on fire. It was a day to Lakshmi Purnima or Sharad Purnima, and in a rare, almost unreal moment, the near-perfect orb of the moon rose from orange clouds embracing the peaks. As if the visual effects were not enough, strains of haunting music played on local drums and clarinets wafted to us from the monastery below.
Being a traveller was hard work: we constantly soaked up the sun, ate like Obelix and used up 8 GB memory card to capture the awesomeness of Kalpa. We also visited a local fair at Reckong Peo, 10 km away, and bought handknitted woollen socks in loud colours. Have not mustered the courage to wear them in public, though.