December 08, 2014


In the Wikipedia (s.v. Lahaul-Spiti) one reads: “The district of Lahaul-Spiti in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh consists of the two formerly separate districts of Lahaul and Spiti.” What has this to do Philologia Tibetica? Well, Jäschke 1881 (s.vv. lho & gar zha) reports of Cunningham’s idea that Lahaul (or Lahoul as he has it) is from the Tibetan lHo-yul. He may have been right or wrong, but nonetheless, it is interesting.


  1. Another interesting one is from Rahul Sankrityayan, who has said that Lahaul is from "lha yul", which also makes sense since Tibetans call the region "gar zha" and qualify it as "phags pa'i yul".

  2. According to this rather old & obscure source: Adolphe Hermann and Robert de Schlagintweit (ed. by Hermann de Schlagintweit), Glossary of Tibetan Geographical Terms, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 3rd series vol. 20 (1863), pp. 67-98, it's from Lho-yul, but the Ladakhis call it Dkar-can, while the Lahulis call their area Songla.
    I just wanted to pass that on.

  3. A local scholar, Tobdan, rejects both "lho yul" and "lha yul" explanations. Cunningham's idea that the Ladakhis (Tibetans) gave the name "lho yul" is unacceptable because the name Lahul existed before the formation of Ladakhi kingdom, as evidenced by Huen Tsang's record. And instead of "lha yul", he argues that "la yul" is more meaningful and practical as the region is surrounded by passes that connects it to different centres of power and culture. (In Himaprastha (Hindi), December 1973, p. 35)

  4. Lde'u history, p. 259, in its general survey of Tibetan administrative divisions in imperial times, lists Spyi-ti as one of the 5 major divisions of "Lower Zhang-zhung," but this means it ought to be somewhere toward the borders with Sum-pa, and not way off in the west where we know Spiti actually is. There is nothing about Lahul here, it seems clear. (The five divisions of Upper Zhang-zhung border with Central Asian Turkish areas.)
    Hsüan-tshang (Xuanzang) did have a name for "Lahul." Looking at Beal's Si-yu-ki, pt. 1, p. 177, I see that he gives the Chinese as "Lo-u-lo" and comments "Lahul, the Lho-yal [sic!] of the Tibetans." It's north of Kulu[ta], so the position is just right for Lahul.
    Lho, but also Lo (Klo, Glo) does occur in a lot of the Tibetan names for peoples and places to the south (or just on the other side of) of the main Himalayan Range, so I'm not sure Ladakh needs to be brought into the argument. Lahul could have been regarded as being to the 'south' from a general Tibetan perspective.
    I'm thinking that "meaningful and practical" doesn't always mean actual. We need evidence and arguments based on the same, not rationalizations, I think. I mean, is every place with stones called Rockland?