The Wonders of Ladakh

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

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Off to Ladakh

We are finally off to Ladakh.

I have been wanting to travel to this fabulous land for many years. Somehow or the other circumstances so conspired that we just couldn’t go. This time too this visit seems to be more of a happy accident then anything else. In late July my wife and I were planning to spend at least 10 days in the Kashmir valley. However, for the last fortnight or so the valley has been in turmoil with daily reports of strikes, protest marches and police firing. We subsequently decided to go to Ladakh. The other options that we considered were Andaman Islands, Goa, The Maldives, Malaysia and Egypt.

Leh would easily be the highest place that either of us have ever visited. Ladakh is famous for its breathtaking sights, buddhist monastries, pristine lakes that change colour, barren mountains and a flourishing centre of the fast disappearing Tibetan-Buddhist culture.

We will be flying into Leh in a couple of hours. We are excited about seeing the mighty Indus. It has been the cradle of civilization for more than 5000 years. A river from which even our great country derives its name. We will also be driving on the world’s highest motorable road and will be visiting Khardongla, which at over 18000 ft is the world’s highest motorable place.

Some of the remote areas that we will be visiting during this 7 day trip include the exotic Nubra Valley, Pangong Lake, which is the world’s highest salt water lake (suggesting that millions of years ago when there were no Himalayas, this arid land was perhaps an ocean), the Zanskar River and the ancient and the unchanging Lamayuru monastry.

I look forward to sharing our experiences on this blog.