A 1000 year old Gompa and Meditation Caves: Tabo in Himachal Pradesh
Tabo, the first village in Spiti from the Kinnaur side in Himachal Pradesh is located at a height of 10, 760 feet above sea-level (3,280 m). The entry to the village is flanked by the Spiti River and the epic Trans-Himalayan range.
As one enters the village the first thing they notice is the massive concrete helipad. This is a place ideal to pitch a tent for a night in the wilderness. Helicopters land there only in winter with the food supply. This space is used at other times as a recreation spot by the village-folk who gather in the evenings and share a cup of tea. School children are also brought for a picnic to the spot.
The inhabitants of Tabo are primarily apple cultivators and hail from Tibetan descent. They speak Bodi, Hindi, and Tibetan. Many people in Tabo work at the irrigation plant located in the village. This plant is a boon to the apple-growers who are supplied with water to grow their produce. Water to the plant comes from the Spiti River and is supplied through canals to the apple plantations.
When it comes to places to stay Tabo boasts of a couple of mid-range lodges, plenty of home-stays and a memorable once in a lifetime opportunity to live in a Buddhist monastery guest house.
The monastery has a museum which pays rich tributes to the life of the Buddhist monks in Tibet and the annual Tabo monastery fair. The monastery terrace gives a panoramic view of the village of Tabo perched in the midst of the snow-capped Himalayas.
The Gompa rest-house has a cafeteria of its own run by a Tibetan family which serves tasty momos, tukpa and chowmen. Excellent tea and aloo parathas are also available at the same eatery.
Third-Eye cafe, a seasonal based eatery serves good North Indian food like dal, paneer-tikka, and paratha.
A 15-minute easy trek to the foothills of the Trans-Himalayas leads one to the Tabo caves where the Buddhist lamas meditate. The view from the caves is splendid as one can see the beautiful Himachali village of Tabo.
The Tabo Monastery or Gompa is made of mud without any use of concrete. This structure was built in 996 AD and is considered next in importance to the Tholing Gompa in Tibet. Murals and painted stuccoes are the unique artistic and structural features. There is also a priceless collection of manuscripts and thangkas that are stored in the Gompa.
It is believed that the craftsmen who worked on the structure here also worked on the Nako Gompa as well as on the Ajanta and Ellora Caves in Aurangabad in Maharashtra.
During the months of October and November, the festival of Gutor is held with great pomp at the Tabo monastery with prayer and dance by the lamas being a unique feature of the festival.
Load shedding is a daily affair in Tabo with afternoons and evenings often being without any electricity. The roads, however, are well lit by solar-powered lamps.
The village of Tabo is marinated in the air and feel of Buddhism with the monastery and the meditation caves there adding to this ambiance.
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