As well as the building of latas (cairns) and stringing of lung-tas (prayer flags) on top of mountain passes and peaks, it is Buddhist practice to erect ‘ovoos’ in these places. An ovoo is a rock pile and has its origins in a Mongolian shamanistic practice. They have been assimilated into Tibetan Buddhism and are most evident in Tibet and the Indian Himalayas. Some of the piles contain stones which are inscribed with a Buddhist mantra to pay homage to the spirits of the sky and mountains and to ensure a safe journey. Other customs associated with ovooms include walking around the pile 3 times in a clockwise direction and offering alms such as honey, sweets or vodka.
This ovoo is located on top of a high pass in the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, India. Graded tracks have replaced the shepherd trails which once provided the only access to these remote monasteric communities. Snow accumulation can close some routes for up to 9 months of the year and all need to be constantly repaired when open owing to the frequency of rock avalanches, slope slips and seismic tremors.