Kinnaur is the valley of the Sutlej and it's main tributary, the Baspa. Orignating from
the Kailash Mansarovar region, the Sutlej enters India through a fearsome gorge near
the Shipki la. Upper Kinnaur is an arid transhimalayan region, fairly much like it's neighbour
Spiti. Further down, the Sutlej is met by the Baspa, which flows through one of the most
enchanting valley's in the entire Himalaya.he Baspa starts near the Indo-Tibetan border and after
carving a memorable valley meets the Sutlej at Karcham.The valley offers walks through hop and saffron
fields amidst meadows full of flowers and fruit trees. Local legend has it that the Baspa was once a
prehistoric lake. The legend looks all set to come true again in modern times as large sections of the
valley will be inundated by a multi stage major hydel project currently under construction.
The people of Kinnaur trace their ancestry to the Kinners, original inhabitants of northern India,
pushed into the remote Himalayan valleys by the invading Aryan hordes. Little is known of the early
history of Kinnaur though the Tibetan kingdom of Guge probably held sway here from the 9th to the
16th century. The mythological history of Kinnaur is contained in the chironings, a fascinating oral
history of the origin and times of important deities, recited at important events and festivals by the hereditary
oracle of each deity.
The typical Pahari style of temple architecture shows a significant variation in Kinnaur with a fusion of the pent
roof and the pagoda roof. The Bhimkali temple at Sarahan is perhaps the most spectacular example of this
fusion. The entire upper section of the temple is exquisitely carved cedar wood panelling.
Some of the most picturesque and handsome villages in the Himalaya are to be found in the Baspa valley, between Sangla
and Chitkul. Handsome double story constructions of the finest cedar wood, the lower floors of the houses are
for storage and cattle, with the upper floors reserved for dwelling. The exteriors are liberally embellished with
fine carvings and the roofs covered with slate. Waterproofing is ensured by sandwiching a layer of silver birch
bark and mud over the inner roof. Most houses have a sun deck for drying meats and fruits as well as for basking
during the short winter days.
In Kinnaur, Hinduism and Buddhism have co-existed happily for centuries. Gods from the Tibetan
pantheon like Tungma and Milayung are worshipped along with Mahasu devtaa and his other demonic
relations who are gods in Kinnaur. Like the rest of the western Himalaya, every Kinnauri village too has
it's own god. The village god through his hereditary oracle is responsible for almost every decision of consequence..
be it a marriage, settlement of disputes or the ingress of strangers into a village. In Kinnaur the village god usually
displays 18 heads in a palanquin covered by a hairpiece made of Yak hair.
Kinnaur also has a finely developed brewing tradition. Almost every house distlls it's own brews
from apricots, apples, grapes etc and being a tribal area, they are allowed by the law to do so.
On the right bank of the Sutlej is the Srikhand Mahadev range. Here small peaks and glaciers descend to
miles of high altitude pastures dotted with sheep and alpine flowers. Here lies the Rupi-Bhabha Wildlife Sanctuary,
containing Bear, Ibex, Bharal and numerous exotic pheasants including the near extinct Western Horned Tragopan.