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Dhankar: From ancient towards modernity

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Dhankar, the village on the cliff; Wikimedia Commons

Dhankar is a historical village of Spiti which used to be its capital in ancient times. Where the Namgyal dynasty of Ladakh ruled for centuries. Due to the great distance between Ladakh and Spiti, feudal lords were appointed in Spiti and given the title of Nono. The Nono managed administration of Spiti by appointing people to collect taxes and manage other village-level works. Dhankar witnessed many attacks and looting by external forces.  Even today, one can see signs of these attacks on the walls and pillars of the old palace. After independence, Spiti was first administered by the Punjab government and was subsequently merged into the new State of Himachal Pradesh when it was created.

Farming is the chief source of income in Dhankar. The importance of farming can be seen clearly in many of our festivals and rituals. Namkan is a festival celebrated in the seventh and eighth month of the year in which villagers pray for a good harvest. On that day, people ride horses and throw stones at a fake sheep made of ghee and the winner is given a prize. The crop is harvested a few days after this festival. In our village, agriculture depends on water from the lake above the village. However, the lack of snowfall in winter is affecting our water supply from the lake. The water level has fallen by nearly 50% in the past 20-25 years because of which villagers face a lot of problems with farming. While yak and churu (a yak-cow hybrid) were used to plough fields, they have mostly been replaced by various farm equipment. Power tillers are used to plough the fields, while machines are used to chop crop residue. Earlier the local crops included wheat, barley and mustard. Today’s crops include pulses, peas, cauliflower, and potato. Horticulture is also being adopted widely as it is helping increase farm incomes. In addition to this, people have multiple options to earn a livelihood. One can earn a respectable amount running homestays and hotels, driving a taxi or working as tourist guides. But despite all these changes, farming remains the primary source of income for the people of Dhankar. And the future of farming depends on our sources of water, which are fast disappearing. 

About the Storyteller 

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Tenzin Ganden

Tenzin Ganden is a software engineer from Dhankar village in Spiti. He studied at the MLSM College Sundernagar and is keen to learn and write about Spitian culture and tradition.

He is currently preparing for competitive exams.

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