Ladakh trip Day 8:17th July – (Around Leh)

We slowly adjust to civilization and today our agenda is to roam around Leh town and visit a few monasteries. We are greeted by our new driver – Dorjay. Another charming personality. Our first destination for today was the Hemis monastery. Since this was the first monastery that we visited, it holds a special place in our hearts. Hemis is the largest and the wealthiest of all the gompas in Ladakh. It was founded in the 1630’s by a Tibetan lama, Stag-tsang-ras-pa under the rule of King Sengge Namgyal. It falls under the Drugpa sect also known as the ‘Red Hat’ order. Apart from a central courtyard and the inner prayer halls, the monastery also has a museum. The museum is a must visit. It’s advisable to have a guide or a monk with you who could explain the various meanings behind the paintings of these monasteries. There is absolutely no point in visiting these monasteries just to admire the architecture. A superb blend of history, religion and mysticism makes these monasteries truly special. A basic understanding about the essence of Buddhism including the four noble truths and the eight fold path of virtue would really help one to interpret the significance and importance of these monasteries. The wheel of life and the teachings of Buddha and Boddhisatvas form an important aspect of all the paintings in these monasteries. We ended up spending nearly 3.5 hours in Hemis.

Our next gompa (monastery) was Thikse. Situated towards the southern side of Shey, Thikse Gompa rests on a hill and is painted in red, yellow and white. This is one of the several Gompas established in Ladakh during the 15th century for the Gelugpa or the ‘Yellow Hat’ order. Inside this monastery resides an astounding giant Maitreya statue. Its beautiful and exotic. Maitreya is the Buddha of the future and near the statue Dalai Lama is quoted as saying that this structure is so beautiful that it doesn’t really need any rituals for installation and prayers. Its beauty is enough to capture the attention of the spiritual seeker. We manage to eat lunch at the restaurant within the boundaries of the monastery.

We skipped Shey Palace and Gompa and headed towards Stok Palace and Gompa. Stok Palace was built in 1814 and it serves as the royal residence to the royal family till date. There is a small museum that houses traditional artefacts and the Gompa lies ahead of the palace. After vising Stok, we were quite exhausted and decided that we should just spend the evening hanging around Leh market area. Leh market is quite an experience as it adjacent to Leh palace. There is a mosque and a church near the main market. One can easily see an interesting blend of people and cultures – the localites, the Kashmiris, the Nepalese, Tibetans and the tourists (Indians and foreigners). The ladies of the village sit in an organized manner to sell fresh vegetables while you can see various ethnic shops selling all kinds of traditional goods in the market. We wind up the day by having dinner at our hotel.

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~ by rb on July 26, 2010.

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