Mesmerizing Ladakh – Part 7: Alchi Monastery and Temple Complex

The Alchi monastery and temple complex is located on the south bank of the Indus River at an altitude of 10,200 feet and 65 km west of Leh. The Alchi village is in the high altitude rain shadow area of Ladakh. It is laid out in four settlements on the banks of a tributary of the Indus River. The monastic complex is separate from the other village settlements. The Alchi village differentiate itself from other villages of Ladakh by being so lush green. The flood plain at Alchi is very fertile and provides good and relatively extensive agricultural land.

The monastery complex has three major shrines the Dukhang (Assembly hall), the Sumtseg and the Temple of Manjushri all dating from between the early 12th and early 13th centuries. In addition, the Alchi complex has two other important temples, the Translator’s temple called the Lotsabha Lakhang and a new temple called the Lakhang Soma.

The artistic and spiritual details of both Buddhism and the Hindu kings of that time in Kashmir are reflected in the wall paintings in the monastery complex. There are some of the oldest surviving paintings in Ladakh. The complex also has huge statues of the Buddha and lavish wood carvings and art work.

Inside the temples, photography is strictly prohibited.

On the way to Alchi - confluence of Zanskar and Indus rivers
On the way to Alchi – confluence of Zanskar and Indus rivers
On the way to Alchi - River Indus
On the way to Alchi – River Indus
On the way to Alchi
On the way to Alchi
On the way to Alchi
On the way to Alchi
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery - Woodwork details
Alchi Monastery – Woodwork details
Alchi Monastery - Woodwork details
Alchi Monastery – Woodwork details
Entrance of the Sumrtesk Temple
Entrance of the Sumrtesk Temple
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Flowers inside Alchi Monastery complex
Flowers inside Alchi Monastery complex
Alchi Monastery - Entrance to the Lotsa Temple
Alchi Monastery – Entrance to the Lotsa Temple
Lotsa Temple - Details
Lotsa Temple – Details
Manjushri Temple Entrance
Manjushri Temple Entrance
Alchi Monastery - Detailed woodworks
Alchi Monastery – Detailed woodworks
Alchi Monastery - Detailed woodworks
Alchi Monastery – Detailed woodworks
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery - A prayer wheel
Alchi Monastery – A prayer wheel
Alchi Monastery - the prayer wheels
Alchi Monastery – the prayer wheels
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery
Around the monastery - Apricot tree with fruits
Around the monastery – Apricot tree with fruits
Around the monastery - Apple tree with fruits
Around the monastery – Apple tree with fruits
Around the monastery
Around the monastery
Around the monastery
Around the monastery
Around the monastery
Around the monastery
Around the monastery
Around the monastery
Around the monastery
Around the monastery
Around the monastery
Around the monastery
Around the monastery
Around the monastery
Around the monastery
Around the monastery
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Mesmerizing Ladakh – Part 6: Nubra Valley and Diskit Gompa

About 150 km north of Leh, lies the remote and mysteriously beautiful Nubra Valley surrounded by rugged mountains. The Shyok River meets the Nubra or Siachan 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 feet.

One must traverse the Khardung La or Khardung Pass to reach the Nubra Valley. Built in 1976 Khardung La is opened to public motor vehicles in 1988 and has since seen many automobile, motorbike and mountain biking expeditions. The pass is maintained by the Border Roads Organization as it is strategically important for the Indian army to carry supply to the Siachen Glacier. At an elevation of 18,379 feet Khardung La is often referred to as the world’s highest motorable pass.

On the way to Nubra Valley, near Khardung La
On the way to Nubra Valley, near Khardung La
Prayer flags at Khardung La
Prayer flags at Khardung La
Prayer flags at Khardung La
Prayer flags at Khardung La
The souvenir shop at Khardung La
The souvenir shop at Khardung La
Khardung La
Khardung La
The Khardung La Memorial
The Khardung La Memorial
Cafeteria at Khardung La, the highest in the world
Cafeteria at Khardung La, the highest in the world
Cafeteria interior
Cafeteria interior
Cafeteria interior
Cafeteria interior
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
Amazing views around Khardung La
At Khardung La - He is taking a picture
At Khardung La – He is taking a picture

By late afternoon we reached Nubra Valley and checked into Hotel Karma Inn. This hotel has nice rooms with picturesque surroundings and helpful staff. You can walk around the village and enjoy the picturesque surroundings. I came across many small shrines, mani stones and walls. Mani stones are stone plates, rocks or pebbles inscribed with the six syllabled mantra of Avalokiteshvara (Om mani padme hum), hence the name “Mani Stone” , as a form of prayer in Tibetan Buddhism. Mani walls are stone structures compiled by intricately carved stone tablets with the inscription “Om Mani Padme Hum”.

Hotel Karma Inn
Hotel Karma Inn
Hotel Karma Inn
Hotel Karma Inn
Hotel Karma Inn - Mess hall
Hotel Karma Inn – Mess hall
Hotel Karma Inn - view from my room window
Hotel Karma Inn – view from my room window
Around the hotel courtyard
Around the hotel courtyard
An apple tree with fruits inside the hotel courtyard
An apple tree with fruits inside the hotel courtyard
Inside the hotel courtyard
Inside the hotel courtyard
An apricot tree with fruits
An apricot tree with fruits
Around the village
Around the village
Around the village Mani stones
Around the village Mani stones
Mani stones
Mani stones
Around the village
Around the village
A Mani stone engraved in the elegant Tibetan script
A Mani stone engraved in the elegant Tibetan script
A Mani stone engraved in the elegant Tibetan script
A Mani stone engraved in the elegant Tibetan script
A Mani stone engraved in the elegant Tibetan script
A Mani stone engraved in the elegant Tibetan script
A small shrine and a prayer wheel
A small shrine and a prayer wheel
The Stupa
The Stupa
Around the village
Around the village
Around the village
Around the village
A wall made up of Mani stones
A wall made up of Mani stones
One the left side of this village road is a Mani wall
One the left side of this village road is a Mani wall
Around the village
Around the village
Around the village
Around the village

Nubra is a high altitude cold desert with rare precipitation and scant vegetation except along the river beds. The villages are irrigated and fertile, producing wheat, barley, peas, mustard and variety of fruits and nuts including apples, walnuts, apricots etc. Most of the Nubra valley is inhabited by Nubra dialect speakers. The majority are Buddhist. In the western end of Nubra Valley near the Indo-Pak border the inhabitants are Balti speaking Shia Muslims.

About 10 km west of Diskit is the Hunder village which features the white sand dunes, a total contrast in the midst of snow-capped mountain ranges. This high altitude desert is a tourist attraction owing to the Bactrian camel rides. Bactrian camels are natives to the central Asian Steppes. They have two humps on their back, in contrast to the single-humped Arabian camels.

On the way to Nubra Valley
On the way to Nubra Valley
On the way to Nubra Valley
On the way to Nubra Valley
On the way to Nubra Valley
On the way to Nubra Valley
On the way to Nubra Valley
On the way to Nubra Valley
On the way to Nubra Valley
On the way to Nubra Valley
Enchanting Nubra Valley
Enchanting Nubra Valley
Enchanting Nubra Valley
Enchanting Nubra Valley
Enchanting Nubra Valley
Enchanting Nubra Valley
Enchanting Nubra Valley
Enchanting Nubra Valley

nubra-valley-6

Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel

nubra-valley-9

Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel

nubra-valley-13

A lone camel
A lone camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel

nubra-valley-18

nubra-valley-19

Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
Tourists enjoying the ride on the Bactrian camel
A stream right in the middle of the sand dunes
A stream right in the middle of the sand dunes

nubra-valley-25

Another major attraction is Diskit Gompa or Diskit Monastery, the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery in the Nubra Valley. It belongs to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery was founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo in the 14 the century. Diskit monastery is situated on the hill, just above the flood plains of the Shyok River, on its right bank in the Diskit village. Nubra river is a tributary of the Shyok River, which flows parallel to the Indus River on the north side of the Ladakh Range. Since the valley is at lower elevation, it has a mild climate. This climatice condition has created lush vegetation in the valley and the valley is, therefore, called the “Orchards of Ladakh”.

The monastery is approached through a flight of steps made of stones, which leads to the prayer hall of the monastery. A statue of Maitreya Buddha is enshrined in the hall. There is a huge drum located within the hall. In the chamber on the second floor, there are many images of fierce guardian deities. From the roof of the monastery one could get the glorious views of the Nubra Valley and the large statue of the Jampa Buddha located at the foot hill of the Diskit Gompa.

The photong or official residence of the Chief Lama of Nubra is located at the foot hill where there is also a very large statue of Jampa (Maitreya) Buddha. This impressive 32 meter statue on top of a hill below the Monastery, faces down the Shyok River towards Pakistan. The construction of the statue started in April 2006 and it was consecrated by H.H. the Dalai Lama on 25th July 2010.

diskit-gompa-1

Monks at the monastery
Monks at the monastery
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Diskit Gompa
Statues of guardian deities, whose heads are uncovered only during the festival.
Statues of guardian deities, whose heads are uncovered only during the festival.
Statues of guardian deities, whose heads are uncovered only during the festival.
Statues of guardian deities, whose heads are uncovered only during the festival.
Offerings
Offerings
Statues of guardian deities, whose heads are uncovered only during the festival.
Statues of guardian deities, whose heads are uncovered only during the festival.
Various deities
Various deities
The Lamp
The Lamp
The Prayer Hall
The Prayer Hall
Maitreya Buddha in the hall
Maitreya Buddha in the hall
The drum located in the prayer hall
The drum located in the prayer hall
A renovated mural depicting the Four Heavenly Kings opposite a prayer hall
A renovated mural depicting the Four Heavenly Kings opposite a prayer hall
More Murals
More Murals
One of the monks in the monastery
One of the monks in the monastery
One of the monks in the monastery
One of the monks in the monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Amazing view from the roof of the Monastery
Jampa (Maitreya) Buddha statue as seen from the Diskit Monastery
Jampa (Maitreya) Buddha statue as seen from the Diskit Monastery
On the left is the Photong the official residence of the Chief Lama of Nubra and on the right is the Maitreya Buddha statue
On the left is the Photong the official residence of the Chief Lama of Nubra and on the right is the Maitreya Buddha statue
The Maitreya Buddha Statue
The Maitreya Buddha Statue
The Maitreya Buddha Statue
The Maitreya Buddha Statue
The Maitreya Buddha Statue
The Maitreya Buddha Statue
The Maitreya Buddha Statue
The Maitreya Buddha Statue
The prayer flags around the Buddha statue
The prayer flags around the Buddha statue

Mesmerizing Ladakh – Part 5: Shey Monastery & Palace

The Shey Monastery and the Shey Palace complex are located on a hillock in Shey village 15 km south of Leh on the Leh-Manali road. Built in 1655 by King Deldan Namgyal, the palace is mostly in ruins now. The Shey monastery was also built in 1655 on his instructions in memory of his father Singay Namgyal, within the palace complex.

The monastery is noted for its giant copper with gilded gold statue of a seated Shakyamuni Buddha. But unfortunately we could not see the statue as the Gompa was closed at the time when we were there.

Towards the Shey Monastery and Palace
Towards the Shey Monastery and Palace
The Shey Monastery and Palace
The Shey Monastery and Palace
The Shey Monastery and Palace
The Shey Monastery and Palace
The Shey Monastery and Palace
The Shey Monastery and Palace
The Shey Monastery and Palace
The Shey Monastery and Palace
The Shey Monastery and Palace, the details
The Shey Monastery and Palace, the details
The prayer wheel and the shrine which was closed
The prayer wheel and the shrine which was closed
The stupa at the top
The stupa at the top
Ruins all around
Ruins all around
View from the top
View from the top
View from the top
View from the top
Ruins all around
Ruins all around
View from top
View from top
More ruins
More ruins
More ruins
More ruins
View from top
View from top
View from top
View from top

From the palace grounds one can have a distant view of the Druk White Lotus School locally known as Druk Padma Karpo School (Karpo means White and Padma means Lotus in the local language Bodhi). This school has become famous after few scenes of the Bollywood film “Three Idiots” were shot there.

View from top, you can see the Druk White Lotus School at the back
View from top, you can see the Druk White Lotus School at the back

Mesmerizing Ladakh – Part 4: Thiksey Monastery

Thiksey Gompa or Thiksay Monastery is located on top of a hill in Thiksey village approximately 19 km from east of Leh. Affiliated with the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism this monastery resembles the Potala Place in Lhasa, Tibet. This monastery is the largest in central Ladakh which contains a separate buildings for female nuns. The monastery is located at an altitude of 11,800 meters. This twelve storey complex houses many items of Budhist art such as stupas, statues, thangkas, wall painting and swords.

One of the main attractions is the Maitreya Temple installed to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to the monastery in 1970. It contains a 15 meters high statue of Maitreya, the largest such statue in Ladakh covering two storeys of the building.

A temple is also dedicated to goddess Tara with her 21 images placed in glass covered wooden shelves.

Thiksey Monastery - view from the road
Thiksey Monastery – view from the road
Thiksey Monastery - a closer view
Thiksey Monastery – a closer view
Thiksey Monastery
Thiksey Monastery
Thiksey Monastery
Thiksey Monastery
Thiksey Monastery
Thiksey Monastery
Thiksey Monastery - The ornamental gate
Thiksey Monastery – The ornamental gate
A closer view of the ornamental gate
A closer view of the ornamental gate
The monk issuing the entry tickets to the monastery
The monk issuing the entry tickets to the monastery
Thiksey Monastery
Thiksey Monastery
The forecourt
The forecourt
Towards the upper level
Towards the upper level
Thiksey Monastery
Thiksey Monastery
Murals inside the monastery
Murals inside the monastery
A closer view
A closer view
A closer view
A closer view
Closer view
Closer view
Closer view
Closer view
Murals inside the monastery
Murals inside the monastery
Murals inside the monastery
Murals inside the monastery
The statue of Maitreya
The statue of Maitreya
The statue of Maitreya
The statue of Maitreya
The holy manuscripts
The holy manuscripts
Inside the sanctum
Inside the sanctum
Goddess Tara
Goddess Tara
The prayer hall
The prayer hall
Inside the prayer hall
Inside the prayer hall
The colourful wooden panels
The colourful wooden panels
The colourful wooden panels
The colourful wooden panels
The colourful wooden panels
The colourful wooden panels
Inside the prayer hall
Inside the prayer hall
Inside the prayer hall
Inside the prayer hall
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
Stunning views from top of the monastery
The Stupas
The Stupas
The Stupas
The Stupas
Around the monastery
Around the monastery
Around the courtyard
Around the courtyard
Around the courtyard
Around the courtyard
Around the courtyard
Around the courtyard

There was a movie shoot going on in the premises of the monastery during our visit.

The movie crew on job in the forecourt
The movie crew on job in the forecourt
Movie shooting
Movie shooting
Movie shooting
Movie shooting
Movie shooting
Movie shooting
The monks watching the movie shoot from the first floor
The monks watching the movie shoot from the first floor

Mesmerizing Ladakh – Part 3: The Enchanting Pangong Lake

Pangong Tso or Pangong Lake is the most beautiful lake in Ladakh, with its enchanting blue colour and the picturesque landscape surrounding it. Pangong Tso, literally meaning “enchanted lake”. It is located 175 km from Leh and can be reached in a five hour drive from Leh. This rough and dramatic mountain road traverses the Chang La, one of the highest passes in Ladakh at an elevation of 17586 feet. Chang La literally means “Pass towards the South”. But many claim that it is named after Changla Baba a sadhu, in whose name a small temple is dedicated at the pass. Most of the travelers visit the temple to have the blessings of the baba for a safe passage.

The maximum length of the lake is 134 km and extends from India to China. Approximately 60% of the length of the lake lies in China. The lake is 5 km wide at its broadest point. All together it covers 604 km2 . During the winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water.

There is no accommodation available at the lake. However there is camping facility available and you can book in advance one of the tents. We had booked in one of these tents for a night. Make sure you have enough warm clothes as the night winds are freezing.

A picturesque meadow on the way to Leh to Pangong Lake
A picturesque meadow on the way to Leh to Pangong Lake
A picturesque meadow on the way to Leh to Pangong Lake
A picturesque meadow on the way to Leh to Pangong Lake
A picturesque meadow on the way to Leh to Pangong Lake
A picturesque meadow on the way to Leh to Pangong Lake
A picturesque meadow on the way to Leh to Pangong Lake
A picturesque meadow on the way to Leh to Pangong Lake
On the way to Pangong Lake
On the way to Pangong Lake
On the way to Pangong Lake
On the way to Pangong Lake
On the way to Pangong Lake
On the way to Pangong Lake
At Chang La Pass
At Chang La Pass
Chang La Top
Chang La Top
The Tibetan prayer flags at the pass
The Tibetan prayer flags at the pass
Temple of Changla Baba
Temple of Changla Baba
Temple of Changla Baba
Temple of Changla Baba
Temple of Changla Baba
Temple of Changla Baba
Temple of Changla Baba
Temple of Changla Baba
Temple of Changla Baba
Temple of Changla Baba
Stones by the Indian Army
Stones by the Indian Army
Stones by the Indian Army
Stones by the Indian Army
Stones by the Indian Army
Stones by the Indian Army
Snow caped mountains - view from Chang La Pass
Snow caped mountains – view from Chang La Pass
Snow caped mountains - view from Chang La Pass
Snow caped mountains – view from Chang La Pass
Wild flowers
Wild flowers
Gracing sheep and Pashmina goats
Gracing sheep and Pashmina goats
Gracing sheep and Pashmina goats
Gracing sheep and Pashmina goats
We met him on the road side and was happy to share with him some chocolates and juice
We met him on the road side and was happy to share with him some chocolates and juice
Camping facilities at the lake
Camping facilities at the lake
Camping facilities at the lake - our tent
Camping facilities at the lake – our tent
Camping facilities at the lake - mess hall
Camping facilities at the lake – mess hall
Camping facilities at the lake
Camping facilities at the lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake