If you meet someone from Langza, they’ll take pride in telling you they live there. And they have every reason to be. The village is vibrant yet seeped in traditions that has been preserved for centuries.
Set at an altitude of 4400 meters, Langza falls under the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary and is close to Kaza, the headquarters of Spiti. Langza gets its name from 2 words; Lang which means temple and Za (short for Zama) which means mud craft. Langza once had a large community of artisans skilled in mud pottery. The mud vessels made here were supplied to the whole Spiti Valley. This craft started slowly dwindling over the years and today has only 4-5 people practicing it.
I visited Langza in the afternoon after a stay at Komic Village. The winds were cold and blowing so fiercely that standing comfortably in one spot was nearly impossible. Despite the wind, I skipped the village and walked across to get a close look at the Buddha statue standing tall on a hill. What was striking about the Buddha statue was the grandeur with which is stood alone facing the mountains from where the winds were blowing. When I queried about why the Buddha idol was backing the village and facing the mountains, Anjaan who was my trek leader and also a Langza local told me that, the villagers believe that the Buddha idol protects them from the evil spirits which travel with the wind from the cold mountains.
Talking of beliefs and culture, Anjaan also mentioned that his village is known as the headquarters of all the “devtas” of Spiti. In Langza itself there are 4 deities that are worshiped. They believe that the deities protect the village from major calamities such as storms, earthquakes, floods etc and also cure them with prayers by personally visiting them when they fall sick. He said that a deity can choose to live with any human, and when that happens that person starts speaking Tibetan even if they don’t know it. These stories sent a little chill down my spine and I changed the subject to understanding their way of living.
Till recently the people of Langza lived an isolated life sustaining on agriculture and livestock herding during the summer months. The ruthless winters which last for 6-8 months are only spent indoors celebrating festivals and family events. But with solar technology and efforts of volunteers, green houses started getting built to help the villagers undertake vegetable cultivation all through the year enabling income as well as improving nutrition.
Also, with Spiti now being opened up to travellers, the male members of the family often travel as trek leaders, porters and cooks with the few visitors that come to Spiti. Many homes also started serving as home-stays which adds to the income of the household.
With the means of earning income now getting better during the summer months, the families invest in animals such as sheep, yaks and mules because animals are considered a symbol of wealth for a family.
As Anjaan spoke, I stood on the hilltop looking around and observing the stunning landscape. Langza is surrounded by a brown mountains with ice peaks. The mountains have almost no trees. I loved how the combination of brown of the mountains and ice formed the zebra stripes while Chau Chau Kang Nilda peak which is the highest peak in Spiti stands quietly overlooking Langza.
After spending some time on the mountain top, I descended down to the village. The village was deserted because everyone was gathered at the temple for a prayer. Looking at me trembling with cold, I was quickly ushered to a room in a house below the temple to warm up before being invited to attend the prayers in the temple.
Learning the art of making mud vessels using the spinning wheel is only done in Langza. Rs.500 is charged for an half an hour session and a skilled artisan personally guides you to making your first piece of mud art. After completing the crafting, you can either take your creation back with you or leave it behind.
There isn’t much things to do or see in Langza. It’s a great place to chat with villagers, play with the kids and enjoy the views of mountains around the village. If you do get a chance, do taste their barley alcohol. Barley alcohol is often brewed during the summers and stocked up for winters. It is very bitter and strong, but a must try if you love food and drink experiences.
As I sat in Anjaan’s home later that evening sipping his special herb flavoured black tea, I realized that just one afternoon was not enough to enjoy Langza. I needed to trek around those gorgeous mountains, lend a hand in the home cooking and just gaze up at the clear sky at night looking at the millions of twinkling stars. But I decided to keep that for another time when I return.
This entry has been shortlisted for Holidify’s Travelogue Writing Contest in association with Linger. The content and pictures may not be used without prior permission of the author.
Submitted by: Mariam Dholkawala
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