Sangla Valley Villages Nurtured By Baspa River


Basteri and Sangla are two villages on the two opposite sides of the Baspa River in the valley. It is the Sangla village that 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.

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

Video of the roaring Baspa River at Sangla Valley

Watch this video clip to get a perspective of the Baspa River by the 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

Door of Badri Vishal Temple, Basteri , Sangla Valley, Himachal Pradesh
The 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 the Baspa River. After a bit 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 by the time of evening Arti. But in villages, time is a function of people and not the other way around. 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 the deities of the 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 were 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

Idols in the temple were very different from what I had ever seen. They were Tibetan idols in silver and sat on a palanquin a basket, covered with woolen clothes. While the Pujari Ji did his pooja, I read the story and keenly observed the idols. I asked Pujari Ji about 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
The 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

The path through the Sangla Village
The path through the village

Sangla village is the hub of the 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 which was closer to the river.

Bairing Nag Temple, Sangla Valley

Bairing Nag Temple
Bairing Nag Temple

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

Details of the Bairing Nag Temple
Details of the Bairing Nag Temple

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
An abandoned house at Sangla

I wondered if some wealthy families lived here. Is it supposed to be a storehouse for a 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

Prayer Stones
Prayer Stones

We walked past the village. At various places, 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 bad spirits away. To me, they represent a mystical relationship between man and nature.

Elegant wooden houses
Elegant wooden houses

This was the beginning of the 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, every village becomes a destination to explore, a culture to experience. Himachal Pradesh Tourism has a tribal circuit that covers this valley.

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

Chitkul – the last village on India-Tibet Border

Things to do in Narkanda, Thanedar, Himachal Pradesh

Dhankar Monastery, Fort & a village in Spiti Valley

Chandratal – Blue Lake of Lahaul-Spiti Valley


  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.

  5. Dear Anuradha: Is there any chance of Altitude sickness or AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) during the tour to Lahaul, Spiti or Kinnaur ? Any precautions or medications you suggest….I am visiting these places next month.

    • Arvind – If you gain sudden height, AMS can hit you. Go slow and you should be good. If you follow the itinerary I followed, you would gain height very slowly. You can take garlic soup to avoid AMS or Diamox after consulting a physician. July is a good time to visit these places.

  6. Hey Anuradha…even I had visited Sangla valley, Thanedar, Kalpa, Chitkul and many other places in Kinnaur region in 2015/16(not sure). I was absolutely mesmerized by the virgin beauty of that region. Chitkul was like heaven on earth. Though I must say the drive to Sangla was rather unnerving…edge of the seat drive.
    During my visit to the Basteri village besides the temple, I was intrigued by the queer wooden locks on the doors of each house. A villager told us that each family had their own secret series of twists and turns to unlock their wooden latch. He demonstrated by showing his latch…first he lifted the latch upwards, then slid sidewards and twisted towards the right twice and so on until suddenly the door was unlocked. It was master engineering in lock system.????

    • Rupali, I agree the road to Sangla can be unnerving. When I visited, there was some construction going on and we had to take a longer route and then it seemed like a drive to nowhere. I think I missed looking at the individual door locks. This is how we used to be creative and custom made at each level – something that I miss in out assembly line like life.

  7. Hi Anuradha Mam,

    I think i can really relate to this article as i am also from village called kotkhai , its 60kms from shimla. Villages and temples plays an important role in indian culture and we all should once in a lifetime visit these kind of places where we can cherish indian’s culture , art , rituals.

    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful journey which we all should experience once in a lifetime and i am really putting this village in my bucket list.


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