Monday, October 31, 2011

We Visited Leh – Part IV – Last day in Leh

Last Day in Leh – 05 Oct 2011

Our first visit of the day was to Hemis Monastery. It existed before the 11th century and is the largest monastic institution in Ladakh. Hemis has more than 200 branch monasteries in the Himalayas and more than 1,000 monks under its care. It is an important living monument and heritage of Himalayas and its people.

As you begin the climb

A local  - Her face resembling the contours of the 
View of the rooms
Hemis prayer wheel

A section of the monastery

Inside the court yard

At the Hemis

A complete view

A section of the monastery

Part of the museum

Maitreya Buddha - a two storey high statue
Statue of Buddha

Floral painting

Part of the museum

The next on the list was Thiksey Monastery. It is noted for its resemblance to the Potola Palace in Lhasa,Tibet and is the largest Gompa in central Ladakh. The monastery is located at an altitude of 3,600 metres (11,800 ft) in the Indus valley. It is a 12-storey complex and houses many items of Buddhist art such as stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings and swords. Here we met a doctor monk and bought some Ladhaki medicines

A view of Thiskey

With the Doctor monk

 A distant view 

The Stok Palace Museum is located about 14 kilometers away from Leh across the Choglamsar bridge. This was constructed in 1825 by King Tsespal Tondup Namgyal who was the last ruler of independent Ladakh. The current royal family lives in Stok Palace. The museum at this place has a huge collection of ornaments related to royal family, traditional clothing and a huge collection of thankas

Interiors of the palace

Rooms in the palace

The Shanti Stupa was built by both Japanese Buddhists and Ladakh Buddhists. The Shanti Stupa features the photograph of the current Dalai Lama with the relics of the Buddha at its base. The stupa is built as a two-level structure. The Shanti Stupa was built to promote world peace and prosperity and to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism. It is considered a symbol of the ties between the people of Japan and Ladakh

The imposing dome of the Shanti Stupa
View of Leh from the Stupa
Inside the Stupa - wheel of Dharma
Birth of  Buddha

Image of Buddha

Defeating the devils

Lovely view of the roof

Shey is a town in ladhak that has the old summer palace. It is located 15 km. from Leh towards Hemis. The palace was built more than 555 years ago by Lhachen Palgyigon, the king of Ladakh. The palace has the largest golden Buddha statue in Ladakh.

Shey palace in the back drop of Beas
Shey palace

Shey palace brings out the best in Ladakhi architecture

A distant view

Another view
Last look at the Himalayas - another 10 days the entire range will be white
Yaks on the way to the mess. In all we saw Ibex,red fox,black - billed Magpie,Himalayan Marmot,mouse hare
Mirror like Beas channeled for irrigation
The sun is about to set
Never ending fascination with Ladakh

Some of the last impressions of Leh
Way back to the mess

After a tiring day, we returned to 603 EME Battalion Mess and bid good bye to Driver of Xylo Nazeer and our Sahayak Sepoy Vipin Kumar.

With Nazeer our Xylo driver

With Sepoy Vipin Kumar

The notice sums up the eternal bond between the Indian Army and Ladakh
Chits sums up the happy feeling at the end of the trip
An extremely contended look

There ended our very fascinating trip to Leh, Ladhak. We returned to Bangalore on 06th Oct fully satisfied and happy we undertook this journey.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

We Visited Leh – Part III – In and around Leh

What my wife had to say about the trip to Leh

The trip to Leh was my husband’s idea – planned and executed totally by him for the rest of us. With my crazy work schedule, all I knew before we left was the date of departure and arrival. Leh is a phenomena we have not experienced before during our travels either in India or abroad. The sheer vastness of the landscape, the grandeur of the towering mountains, the isolation and solitude, the endless stretch of rough roads hewn into rock, the breathless (literally) view of mountains against blue skies and the warmth of the Ladakhis will forever be etched in our memories. We had a lot of laughter and fun but I think each one of us also found a certain peace and silence within ourselves that tends to get lost in the noise and bustle of city life. I now understand why sages and saints go to the Himalayas to search for spiritual truths- given time, even simple folk like us could, I think, find ourselves. For me personally, a few things stand out- the solitude and beauty, the exhilarating paragliding experience, the feeling of being so high up in the mountains. This trip also brought home to us what tough lives our jawans lead in high altitude areas. A trip to Leh must be on each person’s bucket list –a must see, once in a lifetime experience.

04th Oct 2011– In and around Leh

After leisurely breakfast we went sightseeing around Leh. Our first halt was the ‘magnetic Hill’. To experience the magnetic power you have to place your vehicle on a specific spot (Local authority has put up a bill-board to identify the place) and switch off the vehicle. Soon you will notice the vehicle starts moving.

At the magnetic hill
The spot where the car should be stopped
The next stop was to see the Sangam - confluence of Indus & Zanskar Rivers

Figure 1 - Indus is to the Left joined by Zanskar from the top at Sangam and flowing to Pakistan. Really breath taking.

Figure 2 - Strange formations near the sangam

After a long drive we reached 11th century Alchi Choskor, the oldest surviving monastic heritage of Ladakh - a UNESCO listed heritage site. The village of Alchi is situated on the left bank of the Indus, about 70 km from Leh, on Leh-Srinagar highway. It is not visible from the main road, and it is couple of km across the bridge on the Indus.

Figure 3 - Section of the Monastery

Figure 4 - Prayer wheels

Figure 5 - Local Ladhaki

Figure 6 - Child full of cheer

Figure 7 - After a lovely vegetarian lunch

We then went to visit the famous ‘Gurudwara Pathar Sahib’constructed in the memory of Guru Nanak, about 25 miles away from Leh, on the Leh-Kargil road, 12000 ft above sea level. The Gurudwara was built in 1517 to commemorate the visit to the Ladhak region of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder Guru of the Sikh faith. During his lifetime Guru Nanak travelled to many distant places and one such place was Ladhak. Guru Nanak is well respected by Buddhists who consider him a saint. The Gurudwara is now maintained by the Indian Army.

Figure 8 - Impression of Guru Nanak in stone

Figure 9 - Section of the Gurudwara

Figure 10 - Yours truly

Figure 11 - Photo op at the historic National Highway 1

We then proceeded to Kali Mata, Temple of Guardians in Spituk monastery. The monastery contains 100 monks and a giant statue of Kali (unveiled during the annual Spituk festival).

Figure 12 - A view of the Spituk Monastery

Figure 13 - A section of the monastery

Figure 14 - Leh airport - viewed from the monastery

Our last visit for the day was ‘Hall of fame’ in Leh which was set up by the Indian Army XIV Corps as a Museum cum Memorial to the War Heroes. It is billed as a "Museum of Ladakh Culture and Military Heritage" and houses a War Memorial as well. The ‘Hall of Fame’ is a reminder to all of us of the great acts of courage and sacrifice made by the personnel of the Indian Army to keep India safe from external aggression. Reading the details of the recapture of ‘Tiger Hill’ at 0800h on 08 Jul 1999 is enough to enthuse every Indian to a new patriotic high.

The ultimate sacrifice by young Capt Vijayant Thapar, age 22, who died trying to evict Pakistani intruders from a ridge in Kargil on 28 June 1999 – just before he died he wrote to his father

“…..I have no regrets; in fact even if I become a human again, I will join the Army and fight for the nation…..

After his death, his father Col VN Thapar wrote “Your actions will forever inspire generations of Indians to come. You have left us with pride for being the parents of a worthy son and a lifetime of pain for having lost a child we love.

I could not control my feelings. Tears welled up in my eyes and when I looked around, there was not a single dry eye amongst us. Amidst the disillusioning specter of the likes of people like Kalmadi, Yeddyurappa, Raja and others of the same ilk - Capt Vijayant Thapar stands out as a symbol of hope and all that is noble in India. May his soul rest in peace.

Another poignant episode displayed in the ‘Hall of Fame’ is ‘Memories of Rezang La’. It was the site of the famous last stand of the Ahirs of 'Charlie' Company of the 13 Kumaon during the Indo – China war in 1962. C Company was led by Major Shaitan Singh, who posthumously won a Param Vir Chakra for his actions. In this action, 114 Ahirs out of a total of 123 were killed.

The caption reads “When Rezang La was later revisited dead jawans were found in the trenches still holding on to their weapons... every single man of this company was found dead in his trench with several bullet or splinter wounds. The 2-inch mortar man died with a bomb still in his hand. The medical orderly had a syringe and bandage in his hands when the Chinese bullet hit him... Of the thousand mortar bombs with the defenders all but seven had been fired and the rest were ready to be fired when the (mortar) section was overrun." Major General Ian Cardozo – extracts from his book ‘Param Vir, Our Heroes In Battle’

Figure 15 -  'Hall of Fame'

Figure 16 - A sand model depicting various passes, rivers, roads etc of the area

We returned home thereafter.