What I Got To See And Feel Through My Leh Ladakh Tour Package?
With almost all of the popular hill stations of north India having been explored and rejoiced in the past decade odd sojourns to these summer destinations, I thought it is time to move further north in the Leh and Ladakh region this summer. The idea was to be thrilled as much by adventure as was to add knowledge about the people and their culture. I was curious to know how life thrives in such cold extremes. How do the people pack their days with activities? What all do they wear, eat and celebrate? I bought the leh ladakh tour package from one of the agency and went on to the discovery of this land which I was yet to explore. I was given advisories on visiting this high altitude place. This post is about mentioning what all destinations you must visit in Ladakh. These are popular sites and destinations which not only provide you a glimpse into the natural beauty of the land but also make you marvel at the architectural creations and the happily living people, despite scarcities of amenities and extremities of weather.
Shanti Stupa ( The Dome of Peace)
This is white domed structure which is an excellent example of cooperation of Japanese and Ladakh Buddhist who worked together to erect this beautiful structure at a height of 14000 ft above sea level. It was actually the efforts of the Fuji Mission of Japan which wanted to resurrect Buddhism across the world by building temples and pagodas. The construction of stupa began in 1983 and was completed by the year 1991. The colorful reliefs depict the different stages of life of Buddha-birth, winning over the evils and attaining parinirvana. It is also a popular belief that the relics of Buddha are also kept inside this stupa.
Chemrey Gompa (Monastery)
This monastery dates back to the medieval times. It was built in 1660s and dedicated to the kings of Namgyal dynasty that ruled over this region during those times. It was at this monastery that I got to know that that a Buddhist monk Padmasambhava had played a critical role in the spread of Vajrayana form of Buddhism in Tibet and Bhutan and this monastery has his statue. That was really an astonishing finding that people had been devoted to construction, driven by faith, at such altitudes and at those times when there were no modern construction equipment.
Fort and Tsemo Gompa
It is correctly named as the Namgyal Tsemo monastery. This is even older than the Chemrey Gompa. Built in the 15th century by the Namgyal king of that time, this has a big idol of Maiterya made in gold. There are priceless manuscripts and frescoes in this monastery. This place is close to Shanti Stupa and is generally the next stop in a Leh Ladakh tour package.
Just like the Potala Palace of Tibet, this palace was built by a king of Namgyal dynasty in 17th century. The palace retained its glory and was well managed till the 19th century until the time the Dogra rulers took over the place. This is a nine storeys high building which is now in ruins and is under restoration. However, the tourists can still go to the roof and have panoramic views of the magnificent Leh. Almost a half-century old Chinese Thangkas, ceremonial dresses, jewellery and other articles are also kept in the museum of this palace.
Diskit Monastery is the largest and also the oldest of all gompas of Ladakh or Leh region. It was built in the 14th century by the “Yellow Hat” sect of Buddhism, on a hill above the flood plains of Shyok River. The history of Nubra valley is also traced from this period when this monastery came into being. I learnt that this place is also the site for holding one of the most important festivals of Nubra Valley- The Festival of Scapegoat- in February when the winters are quite harsh and this region is cut off from the other regions. This has a large statue of Maitreya Buddha. On higher reaches of this monastery, there is Lachung temple, considered to be the oldest temple of this region. The monastery is also famous for the school which is run by an NGO-Tibetan Support Group- where the Tibetan children study.
Rinchen Zangpo, the man who is believed to be behind the construction of many monasteries in Ladakh, built the one at Lamayuru as well. This is where the two famous masked dance festivals of the Tibetan lunar calendar are held in the second and fifth months. Other smaller monasteries located close by can also be visited.
The existence of this monastery dates back even before the 11th century, though it was again constructed in 1672. When the summers are at peak season in month of June, an annual festival is held here. This is dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava whose statute adores this temple. This is the place where the famous Mask Dance is performed. Mural paintings décor the walls and ceilings.
Ladakh and Leh are often called the land of high passes due to the many passes which provide connectivity from one side of the mountains to the other. However, there has been prevalence of Buddhism for an extensive period of time and this has resulted in coming up of Buddhist monasteries in good numbers. So, do make a check on whether these abovementioned monasteries are covered in your Ladakh tour package or not.
Let us now have a look at some of the cultural traits of the people living here. The people revel in the folklore, wear traditional costumes, perform traditional ceremonies and enjoy their festivals. The preparations for the festivals are elaborate. Festivals are not just the sources of entertainment and merrymaking but also a vital part of their lives. It is really very inspiring to witness them live happily in a world of their own and away from the maddening crowds of the civilization.
Two important dances which I found quite interesting are the mask dance and the war dance. The mask dance performed at the Hemis Monastery is really amazing.
People wear multiple layers of clothing which are extremely colourful, cover their faces with masks of different types, wear the head gears of different types but made of locally available materials and perform dances in circular and other formations in the courtyard of the Hemis Monastery. The monastery itself is well decorated with colorful paper and fabric based adorations. People gather all around to witness this reveling and encourage the performers with their cheers.
Another important dance is the War Dance. This is associated with legendary figure Gesar and is called Spano Dance in local parlance.
The males wear the colourful clothing which is well decorated. Quite a good number of souvenirs in the form of head gears, neckless, anklets and others are worn by the dancers. The bows and arrows along with the swords are used in this dance. This is not a contest but only a celebration.
Leh and Ladakh were totally a different experience, soothing to nerves, relaxing, delightful, enchanting, thrilling and gave a feel of being into a new world altogether that has its own rules, traditions and beliefs of living peacefully and in harmony with nature.