08 May, 2021

Stolen Fragrances

Kinnaur is an oases in tourists’ parched lives. But, as other Himachali districts creak back to tourism, Kinnaur sticks to strict, Covid-wary distancing.

Photograph by Pradeep Kumar
Stolen Fragrances

Shangri La was a modern myth propagated by self-serving mystics, cranks and a best-selling British writer, but one cannot blame the urge to imagine a mountain arcadia when confronted with the snowy peaks that gather around Kalpa, Reckong Peo, Nako (Lake) and Spiti in timeless, insouciant majesticity. In the Satluj valley in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur district, the verdure contrasts with the intensely blue sky mottled with great sails of clouds, as the great western Himalayas recede in ragged, circular waves, from brown to grey-blue.

Presided over by the great peak of Kinnaur Kailash, this is where ancient Hinduism meets rich Buddhist tradition in the lap of a rich tribal culture. These days, it’s a forbidden land. Even as the Himachal Pradesh government lifted restrictions on inter-state mobility of tourists, Kinnaur, much like an aristocrat not given to pandering to the masses, demurred. Kinnaur Hotel Association, a representative body, has decided to suspend tourism activities till November 1—a resolve similar to that of local stakeholders at Spiti,...

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