The Weekend Leader - Resilient Chandigarh

This Chandigarh - a land of snow, mud-and-stone houses

Vishal Gulati   |   Chandigarh (Himachal Pradesh)


Vol 2 | Issue 30

It has not been designed by French architect Le Corbusier nor does it nestle in the foothills of the Shivaliks. It snows here and people have even started growing apples.

This Chandigarh is a remote village and, unlike its famous namesake, is not located in Punjab or Haryana. It lies at an altitude of over 10,000 feet in Himachal Pradesh, close to the China border in the picturesque Spiti Valley of Lahaul and Spiti district that remains cut off from the world for more than four months a year due to heavy snowfall.

Turning green: Villagers have turned the ‘cold desert’ into a ‘green land’ and have now started planting apples, peas and potatoes (Photo: IANS)

About 320 km from state capital Shimla, it has some 15 houses, most of them made of mud-and-stone.

Octogenarian Tsering Bodh says: "After the 1962 India-China war, the villagers of Kaurik and Lepcha (just close to the international border) were resettled in Chandigarh by the government of India. Since then we have been here."

He, however, could not explain how this village got the name of Chandigarh.

The cold desert has been converted into green land. Bodh's son Chhombel Singh said the villagers have now started planting apples, peas and potatoes.

Even the government has re-greened some of the patches around the village by planting willow trees, employing local people under the central government's rural jobs guarantee scheme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA).

Bodh said earlier Chandigarh was a centre of barter trade as people from Tibet used to bring Chinese goods like blankets, flasks, raw wool, herbs and leather products. They used to take back wheat flour, rice, spices, plastic goods, farm implements and livestock.

"Now traders from across the border have stopped coming and the locals are no longer dependent mainly on traditional vocations for livelihood. They have started cultivating crops and rearing livestock," he added.

Chandigarh, lying on the highway connecting Sumdoh with Kaza, the headquarters of Spiti, is not isolated from the winds of change sweeping across the hills. Heating appliances, cable TV and mobiles are common modern gadgets here.

Hurling, the place known for growing delicious apples, and Tabo, known for a more than 1,000-year-old cave Buddhist monastery, lie close to Chandigarh, located on the banks of the gurgling Spiti river.

The area is populated mainly by Buddhists. The climatic conditions of the area are harsh as much of the land falls under a cold desert where the mercury drops below minus 20 degrees Celsius during winter.

The entire Spiti Valley, comprising more than two dozen small, scattered villages, is a sanctum sanctorum of ancient Buddhist monasteries.

The valley attracts globetrotters not only for nature-based activities but also to ancient monasteries like Tabo, Dhankar, Gungri, Lidang and Hikkam. - IANS

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