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This article is part of a series of essays submitted by the fellows of 2023 of a program by KAL. The fellows are local young people who are Kharnakpa but have settled close to Leh city. In an immersive experience over 2 weeks in their native place last winter, each fellow gathered information on lifestyle, culture, crafts, shepherding etc of their community. The first essay is by Stanzin Konchok on the handspun and handwoven yak hair tent called Reibo. Thank you so much Konchok for your informative essay. 





Reibo refers to the traditional nomadic tent utilized by the changpa tribe. Primarily found in the high altitude regions of the Himalayas, including Ladakh and Tibet. Serves as a vital component of the Changpas nomadic lifestyle, offering shelter and cultural significance.

b. Origin and significance

The origins of Reibo can be traced back centuries, evolving in response to the unique environmental conditions and nomadic lifestyle of the Changpa people. Beyond its practical function as shelter, Reibo holds immense cultural and social significance, reflecting the communities deep connection with their land and heritage.

About twenty thirty years ago there was a many people in Changthang Kharnak who lived as a nomadic lifestyle. Which is where i am from. And now it was decreased in numbers of nomadic families in Changthang. Even my parents also moved to choglamsar thirty years ago. Also others parts in changthang of ladakh nomadic people

were moved towards city and started doing other business. That everyone is looking for easier way of lifestyle. Thats why they migrated to the leh city side.

2. Here the procedure of making reibo.

Reibo was made of yak hair, which is called SITPA. It grows at the lower part of yak body near hand and leg side. And also some mixed yak hair SITPA with yak wool, which is called KHULLU. And it grows at the upper part of the yak body. It is smooth and yak hair is rough. With pure yak hair can produce better quality of the Reibo. And some used both yak hair and yak wool when they have shortage of yak hair, SITPA.

So first with the help of small tools callded DEMNYUK, which is two kind of sticks. It can help in cleanse the yak hair and yak wool. If they used both yak hair and yak wool. Then they used yak hair as a warp (GYU) and yak wool as a weft (SPUN).

Then with small wodden tools called (VGHA) spindle. It makes yarns. To make one REIBO it needs to weave (16 thu). Its how they measures with their fingers tips to the elbow. Which is quite very long in length. It is approx 6 to 8 meters and it comes two panel (NAMBAS). So with total of eighty NAMBAS it makes whole one Reibo. That fourty NAMBAS for each left and right side of the tent. It takes approx one day to weave two NAMBAS. Mainly depend on the weavers. Reibo was used to weave only by men in ladakh.

These days there is very less reibo used in some places. As many nomadic area has built houses. That in the name of development and for a easier way of lifestyle.

There is two types of Reibo which is (TSURIG) and (BALWA). Balwa is refers to the frog. So balwa tent might be looked like a frog.

Tsurig tent has a 11 wooden pillars. Which is quite simple tent. Whereas Balwa tent needs 13 wooden pillars. And it is like more better one. That our people called it (THOK THUPKAN), which means it can protect from the dangerous lightening of thunder. It looks like frog. So the name was come from it as in our language we call frog a BALWA.

3. Features of Reibo.

It can protect or resist the rainfall and snowfall water inside the tent. While raining, in the beginning it will get little bit of drops inside the Reibo. Through the small tiny holes. Then after sometimes it will automatically get tightened and then it can resist the rain for four to five days continuously. Says the elder of Kharnak memey Tsetan Paljor.

It is quite cold in the Reibo during night, evening and early morning. When the sunrises it will really keep warm inside the Reibo.

During early age people were used three called GYIPU as their gas stove for making food and to keep warm. Now they used BUKHARIS to keep warm and to make food. Now even they got gas stove for cooking.

4. How to set up a Reibo.

At the base it needs to build rocks boundaries for foundation. They build it according to their own capabilities and interests. Some build higher in heights and some build lower in height of the rocks walls called TSERSA. And they make some kind of cupboard shape with rocks inside their TSERSA. To keep some important stuff on it such as religious offerings and butterlamps.

All the Reibo’s door will be always facing the direction of sunrise side. And women always used to stay at the side of sunrise side. All the kitchen stuff will also kept on that direction as women has to do the kitchen work. So the side of Reibo which is facing or exposed more to the sunrise side will get more old quicker than the other side. Which is facing sun set side. And man and guest used to stay opposite to the women place of a Reibo. Which is sun set side.

5. Cultural significance.

A. Lifestyle.

Reibo is deeply intertwined with the traditional lifestyle of the nomadic people. Shaping their daily routine, social dynamics and spiritual practices. It servers as a symbol of their resilience, resourcefulness, and deep connection with the natural world.

6. Sustainability and environmental impact.

A. Eco friendly materials.

The use of locally sourced, renewable materials in Reibo construction reflects the Changpa’s sustainable approach to living in harmony with their environment. By minimizing reliance on modern synthetic materials, Reibo contributes to the preservation of traditional craftsmanship and ecological balance.

B. Ecosystem
Minimal disturbance to the fragile Himalayan ecosystems. Minimal disturbance to the wildlife animal.
Sustainable living practices.
It allows nature to quick regenerate.

7. Economic aspects

  • -  Preserving cultural heritage and supporting local economies.

  • -  Tourism related services like:

  • -  - to provide eco-friendly accommodation in Reibo. Though it's not a luxury trip. But it is a

    life time experience with the nomadic way of lifestyle. As cultural exchanges with the

    nomadic communities, and support for local handicrafts and traditions.

  • -  - guided tours with minimal disturbance to wildlife and landscapes, it's about creating

    experiences. Such as visitors can observe their daily routine with the yaks, sheep's, and goats. And can organise short trek with the shepherd on a mountains.

    8. Challenges and preservation efforts.

    A. modernization and cultural shifts.

  • -  Changing societal values leads to significant challenges to the preservation of Reibo

    and nomadic way of life.

  • -  Economic pressures

  • -  Educational opportunities.

B. Initiatives for preservation.

- various initiatives aimed at preserving Reibo and traditional nomaddic practices have emerged in recent years, including cultural heritage programs, and ecotourism initiatives, and advocacy efforts for land rights and environmental protection. These initiatives seek to raise awareness, empower local communities, and foster sustainable development in the region.

Here I would like to say thank you to we are Kal for taking this initiatives in cultural and tradition preservation and this is such a wonderful opportunities for us to go back to kharnak in this winter time. It's my first time in kharnak during winter. Though in summer I have been to kharnak every year.

So this is all because of "we are KAL". They announce the Kharnak Research Fellowship for Immersive Learning and Documenting Oral and Visual Cultures 2023. It is aimed at members of community to conduct a research and participate in an immersive living experience in Kharnak for a minimum two weeks.

So it's a beautiful initiative taken by we are KAL. That it helps our community to empower and awareness of our own tradition and cultures for the youth like me. And I got to know about lot about REIBO. Before I have not much idea about Reibo even though my parents were from Changthang. It helps for us to study our own culture and also in livelihood.


- Reibo stands as symbol of resilience, sustainability, and cultural identity for the Changpa tribe and other nomadic communities across the Himalayas. Its significance extends beyond its practical function as shelter, encompassing social, economic and spiritual dimension that enrich the fabric of the mountain life.


  • Anu

    Thanks, such an enriching read, simple life woven around daily necessities.

  • Irene Pruller

    Thank you for this interesting article!!!

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