The festivities of a New Year never fail to lift my spirits. It is that time of the year, when one stops to look back and than ahead, with a mixture of hope and renewed vigour. As the old year slips into oblivion and we celebrate the new one I thought I would look back and reminisce about some of the wonderful places I have been to in the year 2008.
The year saw me traveling both on work as well as on vacations with family. In January, I visited Oman on work. I barely made it as my passport needed renewal and had to be organised at the last minute. The Omani authorities in Delhi worked on a holiday to organise a last minute visa. We landed in Muscat on Jan 07 and lo and behold had a car waiting for us right besides the aircraft. We were quickly whisked into a most magnificentlounge and accorded the traditional welcome with halwaand dates. I had the honour and privilege of experiencing the legendary hospitality of our Omani hosts. We had many meetings with the Omani officials, visited their hospitals and were entertained like visiting royalty. I would always remember the most wonderful banquet hosted by Shaikh Hilal in our honour at his palatial residence outside Muscat. And surprisingly all this, when the purpose of our visit was to solicit business for Artemis from the various arms of the government of Oman. Continue reading
The Leh Palace
The Leh town is the most prominent city in the Ladakh region north of the mesmerising Kashmir Valley. It is located at a height of 3505 m (approx 11500 ft) in a small valley almost 6 kms from the right bank of the river Indus.The Leh Palace is a replica of the world famous Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The palace is located on the Tsemo hill and rises an astonishing 9 stories. The construction of the palace was initiated by Tsawang Namgyall the founder of the Namgyall dynasty (1533-1834) in AD 1553 and was completed by his nephew Senge Namgyal, the most illustrious ruler of the dynasty.
The palace is visible from all parts of Leh and is the most visible symbol of its past. We climbed up the palace and marveled at its enduarance. Built from basic material comprising of mud bricks, poplar wood, mud mortar and wooden rafters, the palace seems to be in a remarkably good condition. It is done in a simple style with very little ornamentation and is unlike any other palace I have seen in North India. It is remarkably free from graffitti, which unfortunately is inevitable in historical places in India. The only slogan I could find etched on one of the walls was ‘Free Tibet’.
The Monastries of Ladakh
Buddhism is the dominant force in Ladakh. Most people are Buddhists and the culture is hugely influenced by Buddhism. Lamas clad in flaming red robes are a common sight. Monastries located on steep hills in remote areas are big tourist draws. We visited The Lamayuru Monastry located 160 kms from Leh, The Alchi Monastry, The Likir Monastry, The Diskit Monastry (located at Diskit in the fabled Nubra Valley approx 120 Kms from Leh), Thiksey Monstry and the Hemis Monastry.
Alchi and Likir monastries are the oldest monastries in Ladakh. Alchi Monastry was set up about 1000 years ago. The great translator and scholar Rinchen Zangpo visited Ladakh in 1020 AD and founded the monastry. The work on the monastry was completed in the year 1035 AD. Artists from Tibet and the Kashmir valley decorated the walls of the monastry with wonderful paintings of the life of Buddha and tantric art. The monastry is located on a bluff overlooking the mighty Indus, which rushes past the monastry. Unchanging and eternal. Continue reading