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.

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