Saturday, April 3, 2010

Of Amchis and Soaks on Prescription

Contrasting to the previous blog entry, out focus now shifts to the extreme west part of the Himal, Kashmir. And as elsewhere there are a number of soaks to be visited, though not nearly as one would imagine for such a huge area.

Bordering China and forming a large part of the higher ground of Indian controlled Kashmir state is the region of Ladakh. Not only concerning the terrain, but also culturally Ladakh differs from the rest of India. Inhabitants are mostly Tibetan Buddhists which contrasts both with India (Hindu) as well as Kashmir (Muslim). As such it has more in common with Tibet and though not commonly known for it's thermal activities it does possess a couple. Bhasin (2006) summons six hot springs on his account of Ladakh.

Flying mist
Most prominent amongst these are the hot spring(s) of Panamik (Pinchimik, Panamic, Sumoor, Nubra Valley). Nubra valley itself is located just short of the Siachen Glacier where the world's highest (and most absurd?) military stand-off is occurring between India and Pakistan. To get to Panamik involves crossing the Khardung La pass which is argued to be the world's highest motor-able road, though Wikipedia has different thoughts.

Bhasin describes the Panamik hot spring as follows:
'The spring is located at the roadside cliff spotted with the flying mist around. The temperature of the water rises from 100-200C.
The local Amchis also visit here for treating the patients'.
An Amchi is a traditional healer, mostly categorized as a practitioner of Tibetan medicine, common in Ladakh, greater Tibet and areas of Nepal and India. Amchi's are known to recommend bathing in general and in specific cases prescribe a hot spring soak. The preceding information is all derived from C.P. Kala's article (2005) concerning medical tradition and amchi's in India.

A not so clinically
description of Panamik hot spring is this:
'Better than I imagined, the hotsprings of Panamik are amazing. We're not talking aesthetics here, but of the volcanic geyser that tumbles down the mountain into a mini man-made dam to irrigate the fat tubes planted into concrete cubicles – a bit like a Roman or Arabic bath. Pure bliss. The water is perfect, if you like it hot, and it's an indulgent feeling as you coerce yourself into embracing the temperature of the powerful gush. Mmmm. So nice!'
Not so positive is Rangan Datta:
'Sadly it was poorly maintained and the area around the spring was very dirty'.
The Rough Guide web site once used to add
'Don't expect much from Panamik's hot springs - they're no more than a stone shack on the hillside'.
Others are underwhelmed or mention
A 2014 entry notes:
'The hot water sulphur springs in the village of Panamik are situated at an altitude of around 10,442 feet above sea-level. These hot springs have high amount of sulphur in them and it is believed to have medicinal properties which can cure rheumatism and other ailments. Locals from neighboring villages in Nubra flock to the hot springs on a regular basis for a dip in the hot water.
There is an entry fee of Rs 20/- for tourist into the hot bath complex. This complex has been done up really well with a large pool for the men and women, there are also cubical which have showers and changing rooms. The water is so hot in the pool that it is impossible to be in the water for too long. A dip in the water is recommend for one and all'.
The article has a couple of photo's amongst them a photo of the men's pool:
There is though a guesthouse in Panamik which
'... is constructed such that the hot water spring flows under the building, keeping the room warm' (source).
Apparently this also includes an area where one can bathe in. Kishore took the plunge and was disappointed:
'We also had a dip in the hot water springs at Pinamik which are reported to have some medicinal properties which unfortunately we could not discover'.

'Panamik hot spring building'.
By Sherab's photography.

Hot Ladakhi soaks
Elsewhere in Ladakh is the hot spring of Chumathang. Bhasin briefly sums up the facts as in ... it's located 80 km away from Leh towards Nyoma, temperature reaches 167 degrees Celsius and it is also used for cooking purposes. He then adds:
'Local Amchis visit here during a specific period and advise bath in a particular hot spring'.
C.P. Kala adds that a soak here is believed by amchis to relieve backaches. Though often referred to as both a place to bathe, it seems to be more a case of if desperate. A good photo can be found on Flickr. (But obviously can not be reproduced). The main problem is that the boiling hot spring is located right net to the icy Indus.

Chumathang also has a hot spring heated hotel (source).

Puga (Pugga) hot spring is located only a few km's from Chumathang.

'Locals use for general bathing and washing of clothes' (1).
The thermal area of Puga has drawn the attention of developers:
'The Puga area in eastern Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, is known to be the most promising geothermal field in India, as pointed out by geo-scientific studies in the area.
Analysis of temperature logs indicated a high temperature (~260°C) associated with the anomalous conductive structure and signifies potential geothermal resource in the area'.
In an article concerning
'... animal and sheep husbandry potential in Ladakh',
mention is made of micro geo-thermal projects. Not so micro was this proposal:
'On this occasion, the Director, Renewable Energy Ladakh, Mr. Jigmet Takpa gave a digital presentation highlighting the prospective of renewable energy and geo-thermal power in Ladakh. Mr. Takpa said that as per the preliminary survey report, Puga Hot Spring has a power potential of 20 to 100 MW , that can change the developmental scenario of whole Ladakh if it is harnessed'.
Frozen Hot Spring , Puga 

Still be discovered?
Otherwise Bhasin is the only source for the hot springs of
Chulshul (Chusul):
'The temperature of these springs rises to 96C. and has medicinal properties. ... The locals often use it for bathing'.
Batalik hot spring is not used for bathing but according to Bhasin it's waters are consumed to
'cure stomach and ulcer ailments'.
Extremely close to the Tibetan / Chinese border is the hot spring of Demchok (Demqog). Bashin describes the surroundings as cold and windy, making bathing here more memorable.International politics seem to be thwarting the development of this hot spring site. The local government had been constructing a 'hydro-therapy center' which included an eight km access road. However after finishing half the road, Chinese protests were successful in halting further progress.

Kala also mentions the otherwise unknown hot springs of Serchan.

Markha hot spring is another hot spring mentioned by Kala though it seems that it refers to a hot spring in Markha Valley. Looking pretty intensively for this hot spring on the web leads me to believe that what's implied is the sulfur springs of Chyushkarmo which are often passed on a trek through Markha valley. It's unclear whether these are hot or cold. A soak here relieves itching ...
Finally there's Kala's reference to Chilling hot spring, a weird name for a hot spring. There's a trek called the Chadar trek where one can see an
'... under river hot spring ...'.
Recommended bathing for sciatica and backache's.

Outside of the Ladakh high altitude terrain, there are a number of other hot springs in Kashmir state. There used to a blog page Natural springs of Jammu which summed a great many of springs up, though I believe most refer to cold springs. Currently unavailable apparently ...
Literally Tattapani means hot water. Also known as Tatapani (or Tatti Pani), it seems that this hot spring is the best known hot spring of Kashmir outside of Ladakh. Located 35 km from Rajouri district
'... the place attracts people from all sects and creeds and they bathe in the spring in their prefect harmonious and secular traditions for which the district has the unstinted reputation. It is also true that almost all visitors attach spiritual significance to the place and this belief got more ground when about a decade back the water of the spring started converting from hot to cold. The story goes that only after the sacrifice of a goat that the water regained the original heat'.
The regaining of it's original heat is major fact for putting this hot spring on line. In 2008 it was reported that the spring had 'resurfaced'. It had been earmarked for major revamp, but apparently after a large earthquake in 2005 the spring disappeared. The Rising Kashmir reports furthermore:

'Besides a dormitory, the [Tourist] Department has planned to raise tourist huts with around a dozen rooms for comfortable stay of visitors'.
A more up to date account:
'"A lot of rush is seen nowadays in Tattapani, as visitors are coming from various states like Srinagar, Ladakh and some from outside states as well. Due to the rush, we have renovated the dormitory here which was in a dilapidated condition earlier. We have made arrangements for a comfortable stay of visitors," said Sher [Assistant Director, Tourism Department]'.
An extensive pbase gallery on Tatapani and it's surroundings can be found here.

Take care, Tatapani is also the name of a hot spring in Pakistan administered Kashmir in the district of Poonch, a district which also exists in the Indian administered part.

Nearby Rajouri is Ramban district which is home to Gool Ramban hot spring. A couple of photo's have been posted on flickr (not really appealing?).

On the web I found just the one mention of Meru Wardwon hot spring which is (was?) located near Kothair Nag:

'The medicinal quality of the water of the spring must have attracted the people from the various parts of the country just as today people go to bathe in the hot spring of Meru Wardwon. At the annual fair people brought diseased persons to be cleansed. Hence the name of the spring is Papashudan Nag (Sin cleansing spring)'.
Other sources don't mention the heat of this spring.

In this article there's mention of Chandrabhaga (Padyarna).

I also note this article which numbers quite a few hot springs:
'In Marwa tehsil of Kishtwar district hot spring is located near village Renai or Anjar. It is situated at a splendid place where people go from all over for a hot bath. Another hot spring is located on the right bank of Chandra Bhaga opposite of Padyarna. People have to travel long distances by vehicles or on foot for these places'.
Then just the one mention of Gurdashnag.

Finally there is Marwa Darchan to which once a link mentioned it to be a hot spring:
'... whose water care orthopaedic ailments such as gout and rhemutism'.
It could also be referred to as Kiyar (source). 

[Revised January 2015]

(1) Bhasin, S.K. 2006. Amazing Land Ladakh: Places, people and culture. Indus Publishing Company. New Delhi, India.
(2) Kala, C.P. 2005. Health traditions of the Buddhist community and role of amchis in trans-Himalayan region of India. In: Current Science, vol. 89, no. 8, 25 October 2005. Current Science, Bangalore, India.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing my website link on the hot spring of Panamik.
    I visited Panamik in 2002 and the hot spring was really dirty. Several military men were washing their sleeping bags in the spring, although a notice clearly said that the spring was for civilian use.