Bearing a passing similarity to the Potala Palace in Lhasa (Tibet), this nine-story dun-colored palace is Leh’s dominant structure and architectural icon. It took shape under 17th-century king Sengge Namgyal but has been essentially unoccupied Royals since the LaRoyalswere stripped of power and shuffled off to Stok in 1846. Today the sturdy walls enclose some exhibition spaces and a small prayer room, but the most enjoyable part of a visit is venturing up to the uppermost rooftops for the view. Interesting structures ranged around the palace’s base include the prominent Namgyal Stupa, the colorfully muralled Chandazik Gompa, and the 1430 Chamba Lhakhang with medieval mural fragments between the inner and outer walls. Don’t count on any of these being open.
Sankar Monastery or Sankar Gompa is a Buddhist monastery within an easy half-hour walk from Leh in Ladakh. It is a daughter-establishment of Spituk Monastery and the residence of the Abbot of Spituk, the Venerable Kushok Bakula, who is the senior incarnate lama of Ladakh due to his ancient lineage and personal authority. Only 20 monks at most live here, and only a few permanently, so visiting hours are limited to early morning and evening. The place is well lit, so an evening visit is worthwhile. Climbing the steps one reaches the double doors leading into the dukang (‘du khang) or assembly hall. Three green drums are on the right of the door under which is the place of the Gyeskos. The wall and entry door are richly painted. Upstairs is the Dukar Lhakang (“residence of the deity”) or inner sanctuary. There is an impressive figure here of Avalokiteśvara (Tibetan: Chenrezig) with 1,000 arms (all holding weapons) and 1,000 heads. The walls are painted with a Tibetan calendar, mandalas, and rules for the monks. Above the wooden stairs can be seen the rooms of the Abbot, guest rooms, and the library
Shanti Stupa is a Buddhist white-domed stupa (chorten) on a hilltop in Chanspa, Leh district, Ladakh, in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It was built in 1991 by Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu, Gyomyo Nakamura, and part of the Peace Pagoda mission. The Shanti Stupa holds the relics of the Buddha at its base, enshrined by the 14th Dalai Lama. The stupa has become a tourist attraction not only due to its religious significance but also due to its location which provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Thiksay Gompa or Thiksay Monastery (also transliterated from Ladakhi as Tikse, Tiksey, or Thiksey) is a gompa (monastery) affiliated with the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is located on top of a hill in Thiksey village, approximately 19 kilometers (12 mi) east of Leh in Ladakh, India. It is noted for its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, and is the largest gompa in central Ladakh, notably containing a separate set of buildings for female renunciates that has been the source of significant recent building and reorganization. The monastery is located at an altitude of 3,600 meters (11,800 ft) in the Indus Valley. It is a twelve-story complex and houses many items of Buddhist art such as stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings, and swords. One of the main points of interest is the Maitreya Temple installed to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to this monastery in 1970; it contains 15 meters (49 ft) high statue of Maitreya, the largest such statue in Ladakh, covering two stories of the building.
Founded in the late 14th century as See-Thub (‘Exemplary’) Monastery, impressive Spituk Gompa is incongruously perched overlooking Leh’s airport runway around 5km from the town. Multiple mud-brick buildings tumble merrily down a steep hillock towards Spituk village on the Indus riverbank. The courtyard below the gilt-roofed Skudung Lhakhang leads to a colorful dukhang (prayer hall) containing a yellow-hatted statue of Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), who spread Gelukpa Buddhism. A Buddha statue across the same room supposedly incorporates a very odd relic: Tsongkhapa’s nose-bleed. On the very top of the gompa, hills is a three-tiered latho (spirit shrine) and the small Palden Lamo temple hiding veiled Hindu-style deities and festival masks in an intimate rear section
Kargil is a city in the Kargil district of Ladakh, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is the second largest town in Ladakh after Leh. It is located 60 km and 204 km from Drass and Srinagar to the west respectively, 234 km from Leh to the east, 240 km from Padum to the southeast, and 1,047 km from Delhi to the south. Present-day Kargil was not the natural capital of the region or Purig as it was also known. It was the Dogras who united Baltistan, Purig, Zanskar, and present-day Leh district in the first half of the 19th century under a single administrative unit, which lasted till 1947 when a new line of control was demarcated between India and Pakistan dividing Skardu and Kargil. Before the Partition of India in 1947, Kargil was part of the Baltistan district of Ladakh, a sparsely populated region with diverse linguistic, ethnic, and religious groups, living in isolated valleys separated by some of the world’s highest mountains.
The First Kashmir War (1947–48) concluded with the LOC bisecting the Baltistan district, with the town and district of Kargil lying on the Indian side in the Ladakh subdivision of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. At the end of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the two nations signed the Simla Agreement promising not to engage in armed conflict with respect to that boundary. In 1999 the area saw infiltration by Pakistani forces. They were repulsed by India in the Kargil War. The area that witnessed the infiltration and fighting is a 160 km long stretch of ridges overlooking this only road linking Srinagar and Leh. The military outposts on the ridges above the highway were generally around 5,000 meters (16,000 ft) high, with a few as high as 5,485 meters (18,000 ft).Suru Valley: The Suru valley is inhabited by 25,000 people of Dard and Tibetan descent. In Kargil and the lower Suru Valley (i.e. Sanku, Panikhar, and south as far as Parkachik), the majority of the population are followers of Shi’a Islam, having converted from Tibetan Buddhism in the 16th century under the direction of Thi-Namgyal. Beyond Parkachik the spectacularly beautiful valley is practically uninhabited other than a couple of tiny settlements (Yuldo and Julidok) that consist of Rangdum. People here are socially and culturally part of neighboring Buddhist Zanskar and support the 18th-century Rangdum Monastery belonging to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. About 25 km south of Rangdum Monastery, the 4,400 m (14,436 ft) Pensi La (pass) leads into Zanskar.
HUnder Nubrais a tri-armed valley located to the northeast of Ladakh valley. Diskit the capital of Nubra is about 150 km north of Leh town, the capital of Ladakh district, India. Local scholars say that its original name was Ldumra (the valley of flowers). The Shyok River meets the Nubra or Siachen River to form a large valley that separates the Ladakh and Karakoram Ranges. The Shyok river is a tributary of the Indus river. The average altitude of the valley is about 10,000 ft. i.e. 3048 meters above sea level. The common way to access this valley is to travel over the Khardung La pass from Leh town. Foreign nationals are required to get a Protected area permit to visit the Nubra Valley. Since 1st May 2014 Indian citizens are no longer required to get an Inner Line Permit to visit the valley.
Diskit town in the valley has become the congregation center for people of the region. Diskit is the headquarters of the Nubra Valley and thus has a lot of government offices with basic facilities. It is also connected by road with Leh. The 32 meter Maitreya Buddha statue is the landmark of Nubra Valley and is maintained by the Diskit Monastery.
Along the Nubra or Siachen River lie the villages of Sumur, Kyagar (called Tiger by the Indian Army), Tirith, Panamik, Turtuk, and many others. The sam standing monastery is between Kyagar and Sumur villages, and Panamik is noted for its hot springs. Across the Nubra or Siachen River at Panamik, is the isolated Ensa Gompa.
On the Shyok (pronounced Shayok) River, the main village, Diskit, is home to the dramatically positioned Diskit Monastery which is built in 1420 AD. Hundar was the capital of the erstwhile Nubra kingdom in the 17th century and is home to the Chamba Gompa. Between Hundar and Diskit lie several kilometers of sand dunes, and (two-humped) Bactrian camels graze in the neighboring “forests” of sea buckthorn. Non-locals are not allowed below Hundar village into the Balti area, as it is a border area. The beautiful village of Baigdandu is also located in this area. There is a marked presence of people with startling blue eyes, auburn hair, and rosy cheeks as against the typical mongoloid features of the Ladakhis. Local lore has it that they were a Greek tribe who came in search of Jesus Christ’s tomb and eventually settled here. Baigdandu is also known for the goats that give you the famous Pashmina shawls.
The main road access to the Nubra Valley is over Khardung La pass which is open throughout the year. Its status as the highest motorable road in the world is no longer accepted by most authorities. An alternative route, opened in 2008, crosses the Wari La from Sakti to the east of Khardung La, connecting to the main Nubra road system via Agham and Khalsar along the Shyok River. There are also trekkable passes over the Ladakh Range from the Indus Valley at various points. Routes from Nubra to Baltistan and Yarkand, though historically important, have been closed since 1947 and 1950 respectively.
The valley was open for tourists till Hunter (the land of sand dunes) until 2010. The region beyond Hunder gives way to a greener region of Ladakh because of its lower altitude. The village of Turtuk which was unseen by tourists till 2010 is a virgin destination for people who seek peace and an interaction with a tribal community of Ladakh. The village is stuffed with apricot trees and children. The local tribe, Balti, follows its age-old customs in their lifestyle and speak a language that is just spoken and not written. For tourists, Turtuk offers serene camping sites with environment-friendly infrastructure.
Pangong Tso, Tibetan for “high grassland lake”, also referred to as Pangong Lake, is an endorheic lake in the Himalayas situated at a height of about 4,350 m (14,270 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and extends from India to China. Approximately 60% of the length of the lake lies in China. The lake is 5 km (3.1 mi) wide at its broadest point. All together it covers 604 km2. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. It is not part of the Indus river basin area and geographically a separate landlocked river basin. The lake is in the process of being identified under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance. This will be the first trans-boundary wetland in South Asia under the convention.
The crystal clear blue lake sprawls over an area of 100 kilometers across the borders of two countries in India and China. It is one of the charismatic lakes situated on the Changtang plateau in the eastern Ladakh region. Pangong Lake is also known by the name of Hollow Lake and appears as a clear symbol of nature craftsmanship. The brackish water plays with sunlight to produce different effects of light. One-third part of the lake lies in India while the remaining two-third lies in Tibet, a region controlled by China. A large chunk of streams that fill the lake is located in the Tibetan part. The lake is located just 5 hours drive from Leh in the Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir. The first glimpse of the tranquil, azure blue waters and shaky lakeshore remains etched in the memory of tourists. This area falls under army control and requires a pass from the deputy commissioner of Leh. During the winter season, the lake and its surroundings are engulfed by freezing temperatures. The surface of the lake becomes so solid that one can’t walk over it. On the surface of frozen Lake, a gala festival of ice skating is organized. It calls on a large number of skiers and ice skaters from several parts of the world. During this festival, tourists also get to see the local culture of the native people.
The route passes through the beautiful Ladakh countryside, over Chang La, the third highest motorable mountain pass in the world. Traces of snow along the road welcome us. One can cross the valley on a sinking road. The mountains in the backdrop appeared to be painted in the colors of green, brown, and violet. There is a mountaineering school, which imparts training in various degrees of rock climbing.
Tso Moriri or Lake Moriri Tibetan: Wylie: la mo blah mtsho), is a lake in the Ladakhi part of the Changthang Plateau (literally: northern plains) in Jammu and Kashmir in northern India. The lake is at an altitude of 4,522 m (14,836 ft). It is the largest of the high altitude lakes entirely within India and entirely within Ladakh in this Trans-Himalayan biogeographic region. The official name of the land and water reserve here is the Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve.
The lake is fed by springs and snow-melt from neighboring mountains. Most water enters the lake in two major stream systems, one entering the lake from the north, the other from the southwest. Both stream systems include extensive marshes where they enter the lake. It formerly had an outlet to the south, but this has become blocked and the lake has become an endorheic lake. The lake is oligotrophic in nature, and its waters are alkaline. Accessibility to the lake is largely limited to the summer season, though Karzok on the northwest shore and the military facilities on the eastern shores have year-round habitation.
The lake is 20 to 50 kilometers southeast of the elevated valley of the core Rupshu Valley and falls within the greater Rupshu Plateau and Valley area. The lake is ringed by hills rising over 6,000 m (20,000 ft). “Changpas”, the nomadic migratory shepherds (pastoral community) of yak, sheep, goat, and horses of Tibetan origin and who are engaged in trade and work on caravans in the Ladakh region, are the main inhabitants of the area. Changpa (Champa) herders use the land of this valley as grazing ground and for cultivation.
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