From ‘Samhitas’, ‘Brahmanas’. Upanishads’ and ‘Sutras’ we know that the Kailash Mansarovar region was considered as part of Indian land.
One of the earliest rulers of the land was ‘Manu‘ who ruled between 3100 B.C. and 2550 B.C.
In ancient times, Lahaul-Spiti must have been either the part of ‘Kalakluta’ or ‘Mandamati’ territory.
During the period of Ashoka, the Himalayan region was part of the Ashokan Empire.
Also during the period of Kanishka, Ki-Pin was a great Janpada from Kashmir to Kafirstan.
In ancient times, Kullu was inhabited by Kulutas, Kangra was occupied by Audumbaras.
The empire of Yashodharman of Malwa (A.D. 530-540) was extended up to the Himalayas in the North.
A stupa related to Kanishka named ‘Kanika-chod-ten’ is found in the Zanskar region.
Similarly, a stupa called Kanika Chaitya (Kanishka Chaitya) in Peshawar (in Pakistan).
Ladakh also belonged to the empire of Kanishka i.e. Lahaul was also a part of the Kushan empire. Lahaul-Spiti History Notes
During the Gupta period, Lahaul was probably not a part of the empire.
The most powerful Gupta ruler – Samudragupta’s empire extended only to the Beas Valley.
Lahaul became part of the Harshavardhana of Thanesar (AD 606-664) empire.
In AD 550 Chamba conquered the Lahaul but lost a portion to Kullu in about 600 AD.
During the Harshavardhana period, the first historical mention of Lahaul is found.
Before the visit of Hiuen Tsang, Lahual was controlled by Kunindas , Kullu and Brahmapura(Chamba).
In AD 635, Hiuen Tsang visited Kullu and noticed ‘La-hua-La‘ as the name of Lahaul.
Spiti at that time was ruled by Sen Kings – the earliest known ruler was Samudra Sen.
During the reign of Rajendra Sen(King of Spiti), for a short time, Kullu was annexed by Spiti.
Rulers of Spiti were called as ‘Nono’.
In the 7th century, under Chet Sen, Ladakh Raja “Skyid-Lde-Ni-ma-mgon” annexed the Spiti.
When Ladakh was a powerful kingdom Spiti remained an integral part of it and during Ladakh’s weak rule, Spiti was an independent state.
In the 8th Century, during the reign of Raja Ajay Varman(AD 730-75), Chamba was annexed by Kashmir and Lahaul also became part of Kashmir.
At Maylang in Lahaul, carved wooden reliefs in the mixed Kashmir-Kannauj style of Lalitaditya’s period were found which shows the influence of Kashmir in the region.
Kashmir art can also be found in Markula-Udaipur and Trilokinath.
“A pure Kashmiri temple of first-rate quality erected or reconstructed” at Markula-Udaipur is found.
The Kashmir influence lasted until the eleventh century AD.
Lha Chen Utpala (A.D. 1080-1110) of Ladakh, attacked Kullu and the Kullu Raja agreed to pay tribute in kind of iron and `mdsos.
(mdso – a crossbreed between Yak and cow, mdso not found in Kullu due to warm weather)
The temple of Marikula Devi was converted into a shrine of Marachi Vajra Varah by Raja Utpala.
An important point to notice – in the early times both Kullu and Chamba had their capitals nearest to Lahaul; Kullu had its capital at ‘Nast’ (Jagat Sukh) and Chamba at Brahampur (Bharmaur), from where they could have easy control over Lahaul.
During Ladakh Raja Utpala’s reign, Lahaul was again controlled by Kullu, when Bahadur Singh of Kullu acquired Lahaul.
The supremacy of King Bahadur Singh over Lahaul was also confirmed by the chronicle of ‘Tinan’.
At that time, Kullu and Chamba had very close relations with each other.dure to a marriage alliance took place between the two royal families.
Chamba under Pratap Singh Varman also annexed a large portion of Lahaul, up to Manchad near the junction of Bhaga and Chandra river.
The image of Marikula Devi at Markul-Udaipur was set up by Thakur Himpal, during the reign of Pratap Singh Varman.
According to Hermann Goetz, the master-builder of the Hidimba temple in Manali was the same builder who built the Marikula Devi temple.
It is said that the master-builder of Marikula Devi temple was the same builder who built the Hidimba temple in Manali in 1553.
In order to avoid a duplicate of Hidimba temple, Kullu Raja ordered to cut builder right hand but the skilled builder trained his left hand and accomplished an even magnificent piece of carving at Marikula.
Since Bahadur Singh‘s reign, Kullu ruled over Lahaul till Kullu and was conquered by Sikhs.
The petty chiefs of Lahaul were called rGyalpos and Jo(Thakur).
In 1683, in Tibet Dug-pa(Red Hat) and Gelug-pa(Yellow hat), two religious sects conflicted with each other and caused a war.
Ladakh supported took the side of Dugpas. The Mongols were invited by Gelugpas for their help and invaded Ladakh.
Simultaneously Mongol invaded Lahaul as its Lamas were followers of “Dugpa sect”.This invasion is remembered in Lahaul as Sog-po(Mongol invasion). Lahaul-Spiti History Notes
For two years, Lahaul remained under the Mongol army.
When Mughals were invited by Ladakh, ‘Fidai Khan’ lead the Mughal army against the Mongols. Mughals were also supported by Kullu Raja Bidhi Singh(AD 1672-88).
For this help, Bidhi Singh was rewarded with the annexation of the Upper areas of Upper Lahaul.
In Lahaul ‘Thirot’ was the boundary between Kullu and Chamba.
Kullu Raja Man Singh(AD 1688-1719) in about 1700 fixed the boundary between Lahaul and Ladakh at ‘Lingti’.
After the war between Tibet and Ladakh-Mughal in 1681-83, Spiti was formally controlled by Ladakh. Raja Man Singh took the edge of the condition and annexed Spiti and extracted tribute.
Man Singh also built the Gondhla fort which was called “Rani-ki-Kothi”.
When Tedhi Singh was Raja of Kullu, no goldsmith was able to make a golden sunshade for Raghunath Ji. Then a Goldsmith named “Phuntsog” was called from Lahaul by Kullu Raja.
Under Pritam Singh(A.D. 1767-1806) of Kullu, Lahaul army under Gepang Lha defeated Mandi in a battle at ‘Bajaura’.
In 1820, when Moorcraft passed through Lahaul, they found four villages still paying revenue to the state of Ladakh till 1862.
At that time, “Tandi” was the capital of Lahaul where officials of Raja of Kullu controlled the Lahaul.
During this time Baliram of Phurah, in Manchad, was the judge and had his office at Tandi. He did not fine the wrongdoers but he flogged them when they were tied to a tree.
Later on, the Capital was shifted from Tandi to Keylong during the British period.
In 1840, the Sikh army annexed Mandi and Kullu and made Jit Singh(Kullu) prisoner.
At that time, Lahaul along with Kullu came under the direct control of the Sikhs.
Lahaul was already under the Sikhs when Cunningham visited Lahaul in 1839. Zorawar Singh was the Governor of Ladakh, who controlled the trade between Lahaul and Ladakh.
The tax system was very aggressive for the people of Lahaul.
In 1841, Zorawar Singh was killed by Tibetans when he attacked Tibet(Because Tibetans repulsed Zorawar Singh with greater force).
In 1842, the Tibetan army invaded Ladakh but they were defeated by forces of Gulab Singh in Dec 1842 and their general “Sukhang” was taken, prisoner.
In 1846, according to the treaty of Amritsar, Gulab Singh got the hilly areas of Punjab and the British controlled the Lahaul-Spiti areas.
After the annexation of Lahaul to British territory, the area below the Thirot was still occupied by Chamba. This area was known as “Chamba-Lahaul” and the rest was called British Lahaul. These two parts were united finally in 1975.
When Britishers annexed Kullu and Lahaul, they made Lahaul a part of the Kullu subdivision under Kangra district with its headquarter at Dharamshala.
The highest office in Lahaul was ‘Negi‘(name of the post) who is responsible for the collection of revenue.
The Negi had his office at Keylong who worked as an honorary magistrate of Lahaul.
The Negi was also responsible for organizing the ‘begar'(forced labor).
The British government appointed Bali Ram as the first Negi of Lahaul.
The next Negi was Thakur Tara Chand from Khangsar.
Till 1941, the post continued to be hereditary. A Naib Tehsildar was appointed as Negi in 1941.
In 1849, Major Hay took over the charge as Wazir of Spiti(Nono). He was also given a Jagir. In 1849, honorary magisterial power was formally vested, Nono.
During the first World War of 1914-19, Wazir Amar Chand of Lahaul not only had helped the British Government in the recruitment but also took command in person as Jamadar’.
For his services, Wazir Amir Chand was granted the ‘Rai Bahadur‘ title in 1917.
Lahaul-Spiti was created as sub-tehsil with its Headquarters at Keylong in 1941.
In 1960, Lahaul-Spiti was converted into a district with Headquarters at Keylong by Punjab government.
Lahaul-Spiti was merged to Himachal Pradesh in 1966.