Sangla Valley Villages – Nurtured By Baspa River

Sangla Valley or the Baspa Valley on the banks of Baspa River has many small pristine villages like Sangla & Basteri. Each village is centered around a temple which is usually in stone and wood with exquisite wood carvings.

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Banjara Camp next to Baspa in Sangla valley
Camp next to Baspa in Sangla valley

Basteri and Sangla are two villages on the two opposite sides of Baspa River in Sangla Valley, Himachal Pradesh. It is the Sangla village gives the valley its name – Sangla Valley. It is also known as Baspa Valley as the River Baspa flows through it and is a source of water and trout fish for these villages. We stayed at the edge of both these villages, in a campsite right next to the Baspa River. After so many months I can still hear the roar of Baspa as I heard it on the couple of nights that I spent there, close to it.

Video of roaring Baspa river at Sangla Valley.

Watch this video clip to get a perspective of the Baspa river by the Sangla valley.

It appeared a timid Baspa river from a distance, but when you are close to it – it roars. You have to be close to it to realize the force it carries in its waters.

Sangla Valley – Places to visit in Himachal Pradesh.

Basteri – a quaint village of Sangla Valley.

Door of Badri Vishal Temple, Basteri , Sangla Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Door of Badri Vishal Temple, Basteri

One evening we decided to take a stroll across our camp to the Basteri village. We climbed a bit of incline and crossed a bridge over Baspa River. After a bit of more hiking, we were at the gate of Basteri village. We entered the village through an arched gate that was kind of defining the boundary of the village. As we walked in, I saw a lot of stones with carvings on them lying around. I was intrigued.

Badri Vishal Temple, Basteri.

Carvings at Badri Vishal Temple, Basteri, Sangla Valley. Himachal Pradesh
Carvings at Badri Vishal Temple, Basteri

We moved ahead and saw a lovely stone and wood temple dedicated to Badri Narayan. We had timed ourselves to reach at the time of evening Arti. But in villages time is a function of people and not the other way round. So we waited for the Pujari ji to come and open the temple. As we waited, I admired the newly built temple and its wooden carvings. Apart from deities of Hindu Pantheon, there were Swami Vivekananda, Buddha, and other revered figures carved. There were auspicious and tantric symbols and there were erotic figures.

Wood Carving Artist.

Incidentally, the artists behind these carvings was right there – Sh Roshan Lal. I had a small chat with him and he invited me to see his workshop where more panels were being carved. It was probably the simplest workshop that you could see. I learned from him that the temple got burnt in 1998. The villagers are slowly building it back – using their own resources. How incredible!

Wood Carving Workshop, Sangla Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Sh Roshan Lal in his workshop

Pujari ji came after a while and opened the temple. Behind the carved wooden door was another door with silver and bronze carvings. There were two large boards telling the story of the temple and how it came into being. It is a story that revolves around a prank of Vishnu with Shiva-Parvati.

Idol at Badri Vishal Temple, Basteri, Sangla Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Idol at Badri Vishal Temple, Basteri, Sangla Valley

Idols in the temple were very different from what I had ever seen. They were Tibetan idols in silver and sat on a palanquin like a basket, covered with woollen clothes. While the Pujari ji did his pooja, I read the story and keenly observed the idols. I asked Pujari ji the relevance of erotic figures on the temple walls. He said ‘ Yeh to Mela hai’ roughly meaning, this is the circus of life. He said it so casually that it added a whole lot of meaning to the answer.

Inner door of Badri Vishal Temple, Basteri, Sangla Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Inner door of Badri Vishal Temple, Basteri

We walked back as it was getting dark, admiring the lovely wooden houses that wore their age with grace and elegance.

Sangla Village.

Path through the Sangla Village, Himachal Pradesh
Path through the Sangla Village

Sangla village is the hub of Sangla valley – a trading center. We roamed around the village, going up and down huffing and puffing as the locals smiled at us. We were looking for Bering Nag Temple that was closer to the river.

Bairing Nag Temple.

Bairing Nag Temple, Sangla, Himachal Pradesh
Bairing Nag Temple, Sangla

Bairing Nag temple was a curious mix of Hindu and Buddhist iconography. If you have not seen the divide between the two religion outside of this valley, you would think of them as one. The temple was closed but it’s overpowering presence could be felt all around in the village.

Details of Bairing Nag Temple - Sangla , Himachal Pradesh
Details of Bairing Nag Temple – Sangla

What intrigued me most was the abandoned house. Which probably was a part of the temple and its intricate carvings, its typical lock with the walnut trees in its premises. I tried making sense of small doors on the ground floor, exquisite balconies on the first floor and intricate work on top of that.

Abandoned house at Sangla, Himachal Pradesh
Abandoned house at Sangla

I wondered if some wealthy family lived here. Is it supposed to be a storehouse for temple or was it the residence of Pujari. There was no one around to answer these questions. The lovely building though told the story of its own past glory.

Buddhist prayer stones at Sangla.

Prayer Stones at Sangla Valley
Prayer Stones at Sangla Valley

We walked past the village. At various placed colorful prayer stones with Buddhist mantras carved on them greeted us at every corner. These are auspicious stones that send prayers out to the universe. Some people also believe they keep the bad spirits away. To me, they represent a mystical relationship between man and nature.

Elegant wooden houses of Sangla Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Elegant wooden houses of Sangla Valley, Himachal Pradesh

This was the beginning of Buddhist region in our Himachal Odyssey from Shimla to Manali. Hereafter we will meet a mix of Hinduism and Buddhism at Kalpa, then spiti valley at Nako & Tabo. Kaza is primarily Buddhist. These carved stones would become our marker to know that a village is around.

In Himachal Pradesh’s thinly populated regions like Sangla Valley, every village becomes a destination to explore, a culture to experience. Himachal Pradesh Tourism has a tribal circuit that covers Sangla Valley.

Recommend you to read following Places to visit in Himachal Pradesh.

  1. Chitkul – the last village on India Tibet Border.
  2. Narkanda, Thanedhar in Himachal Pradesh – Things to do.
  3. Dhankar Monastery, Fort & a village in Spiti Valley.
  4. Chandratal – Blue Lake of Lahaul-Spiti Valley.
  5. Nako – Sacred Lake, Ancient Monastery.
  6. Mud, Murals, Caves & Rock Carvings at Tabo.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Oh, Anuradha. really interesting topic again. I remember this temple in Basteri in 2005. There was an old temple as well (or only the remainings of it ?) Thanks for explanations, I was intrigued by the meaning of the erotic carvings . Greetings from Poland, Jan

  2. Visited Sangla Valley and Chitkul on 18/19.09.15. To me the highlights were the huge boulder fields near Rakcham. the pink buckwheat fields, the quaint Chitkul village with its stone cobbled paths and the red footed Choughs.

    • Can’t agree more with you Arun – I wrote about the Boulders and Chitkul in my post on Chitkul village. Do check that out. I loved the roar of Baspa river as it passed by the boulders.

  3. I have been to Himachal..but the most commercialized part of it – Shimla and Manali. Seeing your post, I am feeling excited to visit this part. But I have a small kid with me, how much would you recommend the place for exploring with a little one who has just turned 2?

  4. Amazing Article, Really amazing village by all means, gives a go back to old memories/nostalgia. I like to visit Sangla valley and Baspa river. Thank You for sharing.

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