This groundbreaking study focuses on the premodern capital of the Spiti Valley, Dangkhar, “perched on its crag, overlooking the gigantic valley of many-hued strata” in the words of Rudyard Kipling. From its incorporation into the Tibetan Empire in the 7th century until its annexation by British India in 1846, the Spiti Valley occupied a peripheral yet significant position on the map of South Asia. During this time, the Dangkhar settlement emerged as the political centre of this border valley.
Yannick Laurent draws on extensive fieldwork and historical archives to re-examine the constitutive elements of this site from its territory to its religious and political institutions. Over time, the Dangkhar settlement came to be referred to as ‘royal seat’ or ‘capital’ (rgyal sa) of Spiti. Sitting astride some of the most important trade and communication routes of the Western Himalayas, the Spiti Valley played a major role in the diffusion of ideas and the transfer of goods within the Indo-Tibetan border regions. In tracing both local and trans-regional patterns of continuity and change, this study contributes to refining a periodisation scheme which illuminates the various political, religious, and economic interactions which have shaped the history of the Western Himalayas.
Laurent’s investigation into the imperilled cultural heritage site of Dangkhar lays the foundations for the most detailed historical overview of Spiti to date.