Ladakh - which used to be called 'Western Tibet' or 'Little Tibet' has a
peculiar fascination for western tourists, who have started coming to this lofty
land ever since it was reopened to traffic in 1974. Described as the 'roof
of the world', Ladakh, where people live in heights ranging from 2,500m to
4,500m above the sea level is no destination for people with weak hearts.
The pink granite of the sheer mountains, many of them snow-capped, contrasting
with the deep blue sky, holds an exotic charm for the tourists who can rough it,
missing the comforts of luxurious hotels while trekking in this 'high desert
Brisk sunshine, fresh air and green river valleys, dotting the vast black
mountains cape-like oases in a desert, greet the tourist. A visit to this
Shangri-la is definitely a most unforgettable experience of one's life
time. Ladakh is connected with Kashmir by a black - topped road, which
traverses mountains and passes, and is open from May to November. Some of the oldest monasteries are to be found near the
The biggest monastery in Ladakh is situated at Hemis, other gompas
(monasteries) are at Tiksey, Sunker, Spituk, Fian-Alchi, etc. The
Lamayuru monastery in Kargil district is situated at a high attitude and is reached immediately
after crossing the highest point of Srinagar - Leh motor road. In
the vicinity are interesting cave-dwellings carved out in the mountain
This monastery is 10km away from Kargil in Ladakh. The
complex includes a Tibetan Kagyupa sector library, thought to be the oldest in
the region. The murals seen here are a combination of Indian and Tibetan
style. There is an image of eleven headed and 1000 armed Avalokiteshvara.
The caves are carved out of the mountain wall and build into rooms. The
rooms are richly furnished with butter lamps, carpets and Tibetan tables.
capital of Ladakh, is reached in two days by bus from Srinagar via the Srinagar
- Leh Road. The curving mountainous road passes through Sonamarg, the
Zojila pass (8,413 m) and the Drass valley (the coldest inhabited region in the
world, after Siberia), culminating in a night's halt at Kargil. Leh (432
Km from Srinagar) is reached on the second day. The Indian Airlines has
since connected Srinagar with Leh, opening Ladakh to air tourism, a measure that
boosted international traffic. The monasteries are one of the main attractions of
This palace described has a miniature version of Lhasa's Potala
Palace. It opens from 0700 to 0930 in summer. It was built in the mid of
16th century by King Singe Namgyal. It is still owned by the royal family. This
palace has nine storeys. The sloping buttresses and projecting wooden
balconies are added to its beauty. One part of the palace is occupied by
the museum. Its narrow passages lined with paintings, arms and old thankas
(cloth painted with Tibetian deity). Its central prayer room has religious
texts lining the walls. There is a ruined palace/fort situated above the
Leh palace. The remains of the Leh Gompa houses a large golden
Buddha, murals, painted scrolls and old manuscripts.
Tsemo (Red) Gompa, situated in the north of the city has a strenuous
but walkable distance. It opens from 0700 to 0900. The gompa has a colossal
2-storey high image of Maitreya, flanked by Avalokitesvara and Manjusri figures.
The left side of the entrance is marked by the portrait of Tashi Namgyal.
Soma Gompa is comparatively a new monastery situated
in the old village, built in 1957 to commemorate the 2,500th birth-day of Lord Buddha.
Located 25km south of Leh, Tiksey is considered as one of the most imposing
in Ladakh. Entry fee is Rs.15. It is a 12-storey monastery painted
in red and white and ochre. It has 10 temples surrounded by typical
tapering walls. 60 lamas and a nunnery reside at the hill side
below. The complex contains numerous stupas, wall paintings, tankas,
statues, large pillar engraved with Buddha teachings and swords. The interior
of new temple dominated by a giant 15 meters high Buddha figure. It is a
good place to watch religious ceremonies. The religious ceremonies usually at
0630 or 1200. They are preceded by the playing of large standing drums and
Hemis is 40 Km south of Leh, along a road crossing the Indus. Among the innumerable tankhas (paintings on cloth), there is one which is supposed to be the biggest of its kind in existence. The exposition of this tankhas takes place once in eleven years. Every year, in June, a fair
-' Mela of Hemis Gompa') takes place at Hemis which is a colourful occasion for the mask dances