Kargil | Aryans Villages

Aryans villages are situated near the India – Pakistan Line of Control ( LOC ), it is a 65 km drive from Kargil, after crossing over the Humboting-La pass. Just before the villages on the banks of river Sindhu (Indus) a road goes up to Batalik village on LOC it is a restricted area.  Darchik village is on the left bank of river. there are other Aryans villages within 45-50 km Garkon , Dah and Hanu and few more at some distance on the banks of Sindhu river.

Red Aryan Lady from Darchik village, Batalik, Kargil

Red Aryan Lady from Darchik village, Batalik, Kargil

 

Red Aryan Man from Darchik village, Batalik, Kargil

Red Aryan Man from Darchik village, Batalik, Kargil

Settlers of these villages are different from other villagers in neighboring villages , they are Brokpa, Dard people claim to have migrated from Gilgit , they have lived in isolation in their inaccessible villages , they claim to be pure bloodline of Aryans, they also claim to be the descendants from Alexander’s army solders who never returned with their contingent while retreating in 326 BC from the banks of river Indus ( Sindhu) , they also call them self “Minaro”. According to a legend there were three brothers Dulo, Galo and Melo who came in search of fertile land and got settled here and people from these villages are their decedents.

Lady from Red Aryans Darichik village, Batalik, Kargil

Lady from Red Aryans Darichik village, Batalik, Kargil

Red Aryans village , Garkon, young man , Batalik, Kargil

Red Aryans village , Garkon, young man , Batalik, Kargil

 

These people are tall, high cheek bone, green or blue eyes, fair complexion and few have blonde hair, they are not shy of wearing the modern cloths but their traditional dress men wear a long maroon gown a cloth tied on waist, woolen trouser , women weat a long gown made of goat skin without arms , decorated with shells, silver and pearl ornaments . The headgear called “Tepi” is with silver base decorated with fresh and dried flowers from the mountains , they wear sheep wool shoes.

Red Aryans village, Darchik, Buddhist monastery, Batalik, Kargil

Red Aryans village, Darchik, Buddhist monastery, Batalik, Kargil

 

They are nature lovers strict vegetarians except for their festival “Bon Na” when they sacrifice a goat to their God “La”, they follow “Bon” which is older than but similar to Buddhism of Tibet , they follow the Tibetan solar calendar and celebrate the “Lohsar” the Tibetan New Year , they also use “Swastika” sign in their celebrations probably this is the one of the identity their being Aryans. Ibex are sacred for them

Red Aryans village Garkon, school kids, Batalik, Kargil

Red Aryans village Garkon, school kids, Batalik, Kargil

 

These villages are in a narrow valley with warm weather due to low altitude, dry rocks on higher reaches but these villages are green due to their positions near the drains pouring their water in Sindhu river. they grow Millet, Barley, Apples, Apricot, Walnut, grapes, tomatoes , they take two crops in a year. they extract oil from Apricot seed which is therapeutic and used as medicine, their staple food is roasted barley flour with salted butter tea (cha tsampa) . they do not consume Cow milk or its products , eggs and chicken, they take goat milk,  Festivals are celebrated with wine of grapes ( gunchang), they are experts in making Apricot red and white wine . Dancing and singing is part of any celebrations with drums and pipe called “Dingjangs”

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Churu Havelis Fresco Paintings

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Churu Havelis Frescos Paintings

Churu is a small sleepy town in Rajasthan on the edge of Desert , also known as the gateway to Thar Desert. This place was founded by The Jat Chieftain – Churru in 1620 and the it was later taken over by The Rathores of Bikaner in 1871.

One of the abandond haveli at Churu

One of the abandond haveli at Churu

 

Main entrance of a Haveli

Main entrance of a Haveli

This town was on the caravan trading route during the 18th century when the Marwari merchants had established themselves in Central Asia , Iran, Afghanistan , Nepal, Tibet, Burma and Thailand dealing in Horses, Silk , Ivory, Opium, wool and spices they had established themselves by migrating with the Rajput and Mughal armies , setting up the banking system , became money launderers , even the royal families gave them the rights of collecting revenue in exchange towards the loan for the state . These Marwaris with simple food habits made their homes showcasing their wealth.

Fresco painting outer wall of a haveli in Churu

Fresco painting outer wall of a haveli in Churu

 

Inner walls Fresco paintings , courtyard Haveli in Churu

Inner walls Fresco paintings , courtyard Haveli in Churu

Havelis are compact with a courtyard , tall buildings with 1.6 ft. thick stone walls with small openings of shaded projections covered with perforated stones screen , rooms with roof minimum 15 feet height  plastered with limes mortar , paintings were not possible on the local available rough surface stones, smooth white surface was created , paintings were done in variety of colours obtained from natural stone or vegetables, many places extensive work in gold and mirror added to the beauty , in Churu havilies were built from 1840s until 1950s .

Fresco paintings inner walls of haveli in Churu

Fresco paintings inner walls of haveli in Churu

Apart from these havelis (mansions), baithaks (reception space for guests), dharamshalas (caravan sarai), nohras (service area), dukans (shop), mandirs (temple), samadhis (memorial structure), chhatris (cenotaphs), bageechis (pleasure garden) and gaushalas(cattle shelter) were also made .

Fresco flower designs inner wall of a haveli in Churu

Fresco flower designs inner wall of a haveli in Churu

The presence of frescoes painted on the external and internal walls of most buildings. The region boasts of a unique collection of painted buildings.  a rare profusion of finely executed mural paintings across hundreds of beautiful havelis (mansions), temples, cenotaphs, dharamshalas (inns), shops, sarais, wells and tanks.

Shekhawati and Italian style pillars , guest area in a haveli at Churu

Shekhawati and Italian style pillars , guest area in a haveli at Churu

These paintings depict the lavish style of living, fashion style, jewellery,  activities of daily life, folklore tales, rulers, war heros , Hindu God and Godesses , events , train , cars, animals, British rulers and even film actors .

Pillars , Shekhawati and Italian style , haveli at Churu

Pillars , Shekhawati and Italian style , haveli at Churu

After the establishment of the British in India, Marwari merchants started migrating to Calcutta and other places in central India flourshing even more and spent and decorated more on the palatial houses for their families in Churu , with the time they have scattered and settled elsewhere ,

Bedroom wall and cealing paintings, haveli in Churu

Bedroom wall and cealing paintings, haveli in Churu

 

Cealing and wall of a bedroom , haveli in Churu

Cealing and wall of a bedroom , haveli in Churu

many of these havelis are in dilapidated state in the absence of proper care but still one can see their glorious past .

Fresco Paintings Cenotaph of a Marwari merchant at Churu

Fresco Paintings Cenotaph of a Marwari merchant at Churu

These painted buildings are unique to the region and worthy of not just national but international recognition.

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Chardham Helicopter Service

Chardham Helicopter Service from Dehradun started from 05 MAY 2017

The Holy Yatra Chardhma for the year 2017 starts from 05 MAY with the opening of Kapat at Sri Yamunotri ,  Sri Gangotri,  Sri Kedarnath and  Sri Badrinath .

Take Off from Shastradhara Helipad

To operate the Helicopter charters in this area the permission is granted by the DGCA of Govt. of India,  before the operations starts the Govt. Officials inspect the helipads situated at Kharsali ( Yamunotri ) Harsil ( Gangotri ) Guptkashi ( Phata, Sitapuri, Sirsi) Sri Kedarnath and the Sri Badrinath ,  these helipads are declared fit, only then the flights operations are allowed.

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There is a regular Shuttle service between Guptkashi and Sri Kedarnath but other places only chartered flights are allowed. There is difference between Chartered and Shuttle Service.

View of Sri Badrinath from a Helicopter

Normally following services are offered as chartered Service

a. Dehradun – Yamunatri – Dehradun  same day return

b. Dehradun – Gangotri – Dehradun  same day return

c. Dehradun – Yamunotri – Gangotri – Dehradun same day return

d. Dehradun – Sri Kedarnath – Dehradun same day return

e. Dehradun – Sri Badrinath – Dehradun same day return

f. Dehradun – Sri Badrinath – Sri Kedarnath – Dehradun same day return

g. Dehradun – Yamunotri – Gangotri – Sri Kedarnath – Sri Badrinath – Dehradun

Two days trip and Four days trip .

f. Guptkashi – Sri Kedarnath – Guptkashi Shuttle Service 

The Helipad at Yamunotri is at Kharsali about 7 km before the main temple , Palki, Horses and Pitthoos are available from here

The Helipad at Gangotri is at Harsil about 24 km from the main temple , Jeeps, Cars are available from here

The Helipad at Sri Kedarnath is about 1 km from the main temple, it is a easy walk or Pitthoos are available

The Helipad at Sri Badrinath is about 1.5 km from the temple , Car, Jeeps are available.

To book your charter / Shuttle service, visit our website  yatrachardham.com 

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Kargil | 5th Century Lord Buddha’s Rock statues

Kargil 5th century rock carved out statues are the only three statues left in the world after Bamiyan Buddha’s statues of 5th century were destroyed in Afghanistan .

Kargil in Ladakh region of India is an ancient town situated on the junction and a transit point to the Silk route, traders from Central Asia, China, Tibet, Zanskar, North India traded the spices, tea, textile, rugs, dyes,  through Kargil till 1947. Kargil which was also known as Purig , the popular language spoken here is Balti-Purig which is a dialect of a Tibetian , Zanskar people speak Bhoto . After the Shia Islam was introduced around 13th Century and in 16th Century The King Thi Namgyal directed his people conversion from Buddhist to Shia Islam, lots of Persian words and Phrases become part of the daily speaking language , the social celebrations like marriages still have Islamic and Buddhist common rituals.

There are many statues and impressions which were made during the Buddhism period are beautiful rock carved statues of Maitreya Buddha exhibiting the skill and dedication of artists and devotion of people from that period.

42 Kms. from Kargil town is a village Karstekhar near Sankoo, on Kargil – Suru valley road , here a ten meter tall statue of Maitreya Buddha is cut out from a greyish yellow rock , it has been carved by the skillful artists , holes around it suggest that scaffolds were used to get such a tall statue carved out with very fine details on face, it is supposed to be carved in 7th Century.

Matreya Buddha, Chamba statue, Karstekhar, Sankoo, Suru valley, Kargil

Maitreya Buddha, Chamba statue, Karstekhar, Sankoo, Suru valley, Kargil

The Bodhistva Maitreya is in “Abhya Mudra” with right hand  and left hand is carrying a “Kamandal” the water carrying pot , there are “Rudraksha Mala” tied on wrist and arm above the elbow , here we see “Janeu” and “Kardhani” the waist band are also of “Rudraksha” , decorative necklace and a headgear . Knotted hair are falling over the shoulders.

 

Matreya Buddha, Chamba statue, Kartsekhar, Sankoo, Suru valley, Kargil

Maitreya Buddha, Chamba statue, Kartsekhar, Sankoo, Suru valley, Kargil

 

Matreya Buddha, Chamba statue, apati village, Sod valley, Kargil

Maitreya Buddha, Chamba statue, apati village, Sod valley, Kargil

Apati village is about 25 km from Kargil, one is to walk through a small green village settled along a water stream, after crossing the village and drain a beautiful Maitreya Buddha statue with right hand is in “Abhay Mudra” and in left hand is a “Kamandal” to carry water, the eyes are protruded out like Frog eyes, one can see the red colour in the parts above the shoulders and on the wall behind which has faded out with time .

 

Matreya Buddha, Chamba statue, Mulbek, Kargil

Matreya Buddha, Chamba statue, Mulbek, Kargil

Mulbek is 42 km from Kargil on Srinagar-Leh highway , The Maitreya Buddha 9 meters tall  is carved out in a rock with four arms , first right hand is in “Varada Mudra” , second right hand carrying “Rudraksha Mala” the Rosary, first left hand is carrying the “Kamandal” the water pot and second left hand is carrying branch with leaves. both the arms above the elbow and wrist are having Rudrasha mala tied around ,long ears are with “Kundals” ear rings ,neck is adorned with decorative necklaces . one can see a “Janeu” hanging from left shoulder till below the naval . knotted hair are falling over the shoulders . The statue here is completely different from Apati and Kartsekhar statues.

Drass is 65 km from Kargil on Leh-Srinagar highway , there are few stone statues partly recognizable as a Maitreya Buddha , Avalokivtesara , a horse rider , a Lotus flower and a stupa. These figures are supposed to be of pre Tibetan influence in the valley .

These three Buddhist rock carved statues in Kargil , India are only left in the world after the demolition of Bamiyan Buddha statue in Afghanistan .

 

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Kargil | Sayed Mir Hashim Tomb | Suru Valley

Sayed Mir Hashim a Islamic preacher and scholar came to Suru Kurchay upon invitation from Thi Namgyal a Buddhist king of Purig Kurchay,king had one of  Muslim queen Rigyal Khatoon also known as Thi Lah Khatoon wanted him to educate and train their son Thi Mohammad Sultan in 17th century .

Dargah Sayed Mir Hashim , Karpokhar, Sankoo Valley, Kargil

Dargah Sayed Mir Hashim , Karpokhar, Sankoo Valley, Kargil

Sayed Mir Hashim is decedent Mir Shamsuddin Iraqi who came to Kashmir to preach Islamic teachings and made lots of followers , Sayed Mir Hashim came to the Suru with his disciple Akhoon Fazil , due to their teachings and training Thi Mohammad Sultan became a popular king and worked to spread Islam in the valley .

Dargah Sayed Mir Hashim Karpokhar, Sankoo valley, Kargil

Dargah Sayed Mir Hashim Karpokhar, Sankoo valley, Kargil

Sayed Mir Hashim was then invited by King of Wakha Regyalde Cho on the birth of his son Babar Khan to bless the newly born, after staying for some time and preaching Islam he left Akhoon Fazil at Wakha and return to Suru Karchay and stayed here till his death, his Tomb is located at Karpo Kharon near a small town name Sankoo in Suru valley 42 km from Kargil . It is a shrine with great reverence for the people of Ladakh .

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Majuli | Mishing Tribe Culture

Mishing Tribe of Majuli 

Mishing or Miri migrated few century ago from the hills of Arunachal in search of fertile and safe land, they are one of the most colorful tribe fun loving enjoying the life, have their own music, musical instruments, dance and songs for different occasions.

Worship mother Sun and father Moon and believe that their ancestor Abotani ( the first man on earth) as their son, they have their own religion “Mishing Faith” the two forms, Animism and Vaishnavism, are two different ways of religion, but they have coexisted in the Mishing society without any conflict .

Mishing Tribe girls performing Bihu, Majuli Island

Mishing Tribe girls performing Bihu, Majuli Island

Strict rule for not to marry in same clan or different clan but have a brotherhood.Most of the marriages are with elopement and then seek the blessings from elders, arrange marriages are quite often when two three meetings are done over a plate of rice and home brewed Beer .

Mishing Tribe enjoying Moran Bihu, Majuli Island

Mishing Tribe enjoying Moran Bihu, Majuli Island

Houses are stilted made of bamboo over the wooden posts and beams, floor and walls are of bamboo, it has a thatched roof, houses are in cluster with granary and cowshed, poultry, piggery and goats are quite common, Fishing and growing different variety of paddy rice, mustard, pulses, maze, tobacco, vegetables is main job, they prepare two type a rice beer and greet their guests with it.

Mishing village family home, Majuli Island

Mishing village family home, Majuli Island

Traditional institutions like Murang is a community bachelor boys home which performs the protecting role for the village , Mimbir Yame  is a group of young unmarried boys and girls who are taught Mishing ethics, discipline and community rules, farming , house making , wedding arrangements or any where help is needed they take care .

Each village has its village chief and ( Kebang) council who take care of village community his words are final in matters to the faith , small disputes and crime , person found guilty are punished. The Bane Kebang is group of two or more villages council Jurry consisting of selected elderly people , judgement delivered is honored by all.

Mishing village home , Majuli Island

Mishing village home , Majuli Island

Weaving is part of every household. they have been making cotton and silk cloth even with growing of cotton , rearing the silk worms , spinning the threads, dying and then weaving the famous varieties from Assam .

Mishing Tribe lady on hand-loom, Majuli Island

Mishing Tribe lady on hand-loom, Majuli Island

Mishing textile piece, called gadu. It is the traditional Mishing blanket, fluffy on one side, and it is woven on a traditional loin loom.

Mishing Tribe Hand-loom Mekhla , Majuli Island

Mishing Tribe Hand-loom cloth , Majuli Island

Making use of bamboo for their daily use items , wood work is limited to boat making only. one can see a canoe with each house hold.

Mishing man making bamboo trap for fishing, Majuli Island

Mishing man making bamboo trap for fishing, Majuli Island

There are several dances and festivals of the Mishing tribe. Their dances are called Paksong or Soman similar to Bihu , three type of songs are sung , Aku singers sings about the history and culture , Oi and Anu nitone are love songs , modern instruments along with traditional Bansuri (flute) clapping of metal bells are used.

One can reach Majuli from Jorhat by road to Nimatighat cross river Brahmaputra 1.30 hr. ferry to Kamalabari Ghat and then jeep/bus to Gramur , it is also a port of call for river cruise M.V. Mahabaahu 

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Lamayuru Gompa , Monastery, Ladakh

 Lamayuru is one of the largest and oldest gompa in Ladakh, situated in Kargil district on Srinagar- Leh highway at a height of 3510 meters,127 km from Leh about 15 Km from Fotu-La, it was originally the Bonpo Monastery   called gYung-drung Monastery, a Swastika symbol and  gYung drung bon  is the name of the Bon religion , The Maha Sidhachrya Naropa founded the Lamayuru Monastery , he was a Buddhist scholar from Nalanda University who came here in search for his guru Tilopa, a master of Tantra,  the oldest temple  Seng-ge-sgang  was built by Monk Rinchen Zangpo who came from Tibet , great translator of Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Tibetan, he under the patronage  from  King of Ladakh founded 108 Gompas in Ladakh, Spiti , Kinaur and Zanskar region.

Lamayuru Gompa ( Monastery)

The monastery is made up of a number of shrines and also has a very rich collection of thankas and magnificent wall paintings.

The Dukhang (Assembly hall) is on the right side of the courtyard  with a colourful depiction of the Guardians of the Four Directions. The mural on the left wall of the verandah depicts the proper way for a lama to live ,The temple has an image of Vairocana or the Teaching Buddha is seated on a lion serving as a throne and a Garuda (mythical bird) and sea monsters surround his head . In the wall on the right side of the Dukhang is a small cave with three statues known as Naropa’s cave, where he is supposed to have meditated ,  other two statues are of Marpa (Naropa’s student who became a translator of religious texts and famous poet) and Mila Ras-pa (Marpa’s student and a spiritual head of the red-hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism). The right side of the Dukhang has three complete sets of the Kandshur (the 108 volumes of Buddha’s teachings)

Lamayuru Gompa Assembly hall

 

Stupas at Lamayuru Gompa

Legend is that this valley there use to be a lake  at the time of Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha). Nags (holy serpents) used to reside in the lake. Bodhisattva Madhyantaka pridicted that  the lake would eventually be dried, making way for the construction of a Buddhist monastery.  Maha Siddhacharya Naropa,  meditated for years in one of the caves  , a crack developed in the hillside surrounding the lake. When the lake dried out he found a dead  tiger, he constructed the first temple at this site , known as the Singhe Ghang (Lion Mound).  Later, Dharmaraja Jamyang Namgial offered the monastery to Chosje Danma and started  observance of the rituals of the Digung Kargyud School, the monastery was  renamed as Yungdrung Tharpaling. At present the Lamayuru Monastery is served by the successive reincarnations of Skyabsje Toldan Rinpoche.

Mahasidhacharya Naropa meditated in this cave

Lamayuru Gompa plays host a masked dance, The Yundrung Kabgyad festival which takes place on the 17th and 18th day of the 5th month of Tibetan lunar calendar which falls in the month of July. The monks from the monasteries of the nearby areas also come to take part in the celebrations.

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Mulbek , Ladakh

Mulbek is located on a Srinagar – Leh NH 1 D National Highway 45 km from Kargil and and  Leh is further 197 km , it is at an altitude of 3304 meters from sea , just a kilometer from the town is the famous statue of Chamba  the figure of Maitreya Budha , represents the important part of Gandhara Art , on the main National highway.

Rock cut 9 meters tall statue of “Future Budha” the Maitreya

The scholars believe it to be of 8th centenary but there is a thought it is of a Kushan period about 1800 years old.

Mulbek rock carved Buddha

There is an inscription on a near by rocks  orders from the King  Lde for not to sacrifice a goat at the altar of a deity , there is also an inscription that this order of King is too hard if goat is not sacrificed what will the deity say .

 Shergol It is a  picturesque village of the Wakha river Valley  it  is situated across the river, right of the Kargil-Leh road. This village is full of Popalar trees , orchards of Walnut and Apricots The main attraction is a cave monastery which is visible from a far as a white speck against the vertically rising ochre hill from which it appears to hanging  out. Below this small monastery is a larger Buddhist nunnery with about a dozen residents. The village is accessible by the motorable road that branches off from the Kargil-Leh road, about 5 km before  Mulbek. Shergol is a convenient base for an exciting 4-day trek across the mountain range into the Suru valley. It is also the  base for visiting Urgyan-Dzong, a meditation retreat lying deep inside the mountains surrounding the Wakha River valley.

Nature’s art , Rock called Mother and Child at Mulbek

 Wakha Rgyal tucked away inside the picturesque upper part of the Wakha Valley, up streams of Mulbek.                         Mulbek Gompa : Situated  atop a rocky cliff, Mulbek Gompa (monastery) dominates the valley. It is easy to see why in bygone times this site served as an outpost to guard the caravan route. Like all Buddhists monasteries it is adorned by frescoes and statues .

Shergol Cave Monastery

Rgyal gives the appearance of a medieval settlement of cave dwellings transported in to the modern times with some improvements and extensions. The houses, neatly white-washed and closely stacked, are dug into the sheer face of a vertical cliff that rises high above the green valley . From a far the village looks like a colony of beehives hanging from the  Cliff side

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Kargil , Ladakh

Kargil lies on National Highway 1D which connects Srinagar to Leh , it is on the banks of Suru river , the name is from two words “Gar” means in local language “Any Where” and “Khil” means central place “where any one can stay”. Total population of Kagil 80% follows the Shia faith of  Islam and are inhabited in Kargil, Drass and lower Suru valley, Tibetan Bon Buddhist are mostly in Zanskar valley with small population in Shergol, Mulbek and Upper Suru valley.  There are about 4%  Hindus and Sikhs . Most of the people are of Burig and Balti of Tibetan origin mixed with Dard , Mon and Aryan people.

Kargil City view from Leh-Srinagar Highway

The Tibetan influence is seen in Kargil and Leh people , the Islam came here with Persian influence which has lots Persian words , phrases and even the religious songs in their language , the marriages are solemnize with common rituals of  Buddhist and Islam customs .

Mt. Nun & Mt. Kun from Suru valley trekkers hot spot

It was a transit point of caravans on their way to and from China, Tibet, Yarken and Kashmir till 1949, but since 1974 with the influx of tourists the region has been replaced as center for tourism related activities. Tourists traveling between Zanskar, Leh and Srinagar stop for  a night stay , before proceeding for onward  journey.

People visit Kargil with the memories of 1999 India and Pakistan conflict as it lies very close to the line of control .

Bomb Shell splinters holes fired from Pakistan

The Suru river flows through Kargil , Suru valley extends till the Pensi-la where there is a famous peaks of Nun and Kun , Karaste kar is a small village on Leh highway where 9 meter tall rock carved statue of Maitriya Buddha attracts the tourists from far places . There are other magnificent Stupas and rock carved statues to be seen in Suru valley . Most of the trekkers take a hike to  the Nun- Kun view saddle (3810mtr. ) in the Parkachik ridge. It is a  3 hours of walking along the slopes  overlooking the fertile valley below.

Pakistani post was captured and pushed behind this peak

The road connection from Srinagar is open from May till November , rest of the year there is a heavy snow in the Zoji-la , this area is cut off by road in winters from rest of India , the Indian Air Force  operates few flights to help the local people to come in out of the valley. summers are warm with cold nights , Drass which is 56 km from Kargil is coldest inhabited place in India. The only  road link to Zanskar  is from Kargil .

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Ladakh the Moonland, Last Shangrila, Little Tibet

Ladakh is located in the North-Eastern part of Jammu & Kashmir state in India , it is a remote Tibetan plateau, primarily Buddhist and Tibetan in its culture and in a very clear contrast to rest of Kashmir, indeed to the rest of India as well.

Small Ladakhi girl

Ladakh is located in the North-Eastern part of Jammu & Kashmir state in India , it is a remote Tibetan plateau, primarily Buddhist and Tibetan in its culture and in a very clear contrast to rest of Kashmir, indeed to the rest of India as well.Little Tibet , The Moonland and The Last Shangrila are the alternate names for Ladakh, Himalayas are the most effective barrier to rain. A very few clouds creep across their massive height and as a result this land is barren beyond belief, The Plants and green belt are near the river’s bed that carry water from glaciers in the peaks of the Himalayas. A land of freezing winds and burning hot sunlight, this land is completely different from the green landscape of many parts of the Himalayas. Bounded by two of the world’s mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karokaram, it is a land which has no match. In this region there is a long narrow valley known as Zanskar even more isolated than Ladakh Valley.

The Moon Land Ladakh

This land is connected to rest of India by a 434 km road from Srinagar, passing through Zozi-la Pass with an overnight stop at  Kargil , the first village after the Zozila is Drass the second highest, coldest habited place in the world , Kargil was once an important trading post. It was from here that one could turn south to Zanskar or go to Ladakh, en route to Leh one passes through village Shergol which is the dividing line between Muslim and Buddhist areas. Around Leh are the Age old Budhist Monastries and two highest motorable roads in the world the Chang – la Pass ( 17586 ft) the Khardung – la pass    ( 18400 ft) the crystal clear water lakes , Pangong, Tsmori, Tsokar etc. with breath-taking views.

 

Dry barren land and Popular tree of Ladakh

Another famous route to reach Leh is from Manali connected by road 479 km, road opens from mid June till September end every year , one is to stop at Keylong after crossing the Rotang-la ( Pass) 13051 ft  or at Sarchu or the last village of Himachal Pradesh before entring the Ladakh and Jispa in Ladakh  region, one is to cross the Baralacha- la ( Pass) 16050 ft, Lachulung -la (Pass) 16598 ft and Tanglang – La ( Pass) 17470 ft  . Due to low oxygen and high altitude many travelers face mountain sickness , this road was the main trading route  to Yarkand till 1962,

Leh is located in the Indus valley at an altitude of 11562 ft from sea, once very important trading route as it is on the junction of trading roads to Tibet, Kashmir and Kashgar. There is no recorded history before 7th centenary but the history of surrounding Arabs, Mangols and Chinese  indicate that  of a Greater Ladakh was once a kingdom spreaded from Kailash Mansarover till Dardistan and Baltistan . The original inhabitants were Dards the Indo-Aryan Race but migration from Tibet since 10th centenary is now of Tibetan features , it was a strong hold of Buddhism and it reached Tibet from here . There were small scattered group of villages and their rulers  it was brought under one control by  King Bhagan of Namgyal dynasty and expelled most of the Central Asian raiders and united  it to form Ladakh , the Moguls in India who were ruling Kashmir in 17th centenary helped the Ladakhi ruler on a condition to build a Mosque in Leh and converted the ruler to Islam. In 1834 General of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab , Zoravar Singh annexed it to the Dogra State of Jammu & Kashmir and the Namgyal family was given the Jagir of Stok, which it nominally retains to this day, in 1947 the Dogra Ruler Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession with Govt of India and since then it is part of India. Before partition, Baltistan, was a district in Ladakh now under Pakistani control. Skardu was the winter capital of Ladakh while Leh was the summer capital.  China closed the border of Nubra and Xinjian in 1949 and closed the trade route, India constructed 434 km the Srinagar-Leh highway 16 days journey is now reduced to Two days .

Snow covered high mountains and passes all over Ladakh

Indus River is the back bone of Ladakh major historical towns are Leh , Shey , Basgo and Tingmosgang where as Kargil is on the banks of river Suru , the other two rivers are Zanskar and Shayok , Ladakh is a high altitude desert , the monsoon clouds are unable to cross the high Himalayan ridges, the main source of water is the winter snow fall in the region, Drass, Suru and Zanskar region in the north flank of Himalayas remains cut of most of the time  from the other part of India by road due to heavy snow fall temperature ranges from -20 to -30 degree centigrade , summers are short with temperature rages between 3-35 degrees Centigrade

Indus River , Green patches and Cold Desert

One can reach Leh by air from Delhi and Srinagar operating daily flights.

There are regular Jeep taxi service from Srinagar and Manali when high passes are open during the summer months , from Srinagar the pass opens in early May till October, while Manali side road opens little late end May  and closes early.

Places of interest in and around Leh

Shanti Stupa – It is the most impressive structure visible from  almost every where in Leh. it is on a hill top north of Leh.

Spituk Gompa – It is the temple about 1000 years old on a hilltop above the Indus river near the airport

Leh Palace – It is a mini version of the Potala Palace in Lhasa , Tibet , built in 16th century.

Leh Gompa – Little above the ruins of palce is Red Gompa built in 1430 AD

Sankar Gompa – This is a little gompa is an impressive representation of Avalokkiteavara with 1000 arms and heads.

Choglamsar – It is an important Tibetan refugee center for the study of Tibetan literature and history.

Shey – This was the old summer palace of the kings of Ladakh built  around 1450 AD

Tikse Gompa – It is about 17 kms from Leh , visible from Shey. It is very picturesque and superbly sited on a hiltop overloking village and Indus river . This gompa has an important collection of Tibetian style books and some excellent artwork , one can watch religious ceremonies.

Hemis Gompa – It is one of the largest and most important in Ladakh, about 45 kms from Leh on the other side of Indus , It is famous for Hemis festival which usually falls in second half of June or early July. It has excellent library and well-preserved paintings.

Stok Palace – Close to the Choglamnsar bridge , on the left bank is the 200 years old Stok Palace where the royal family still lives.

Beacon Highway – If one gets the chance to visit the Nubra valley , it is the highest road in the world , the Khardung – la highest point 18500 ft. from sea level road only opens in July end, August to October , rest of the time it is under snow and thick fog .

Mulbek – Just beyond Mulbek village is the huge 9 meters Chamba statue,  an image of future Buddha , cut into rock face beside the road , there are two gompas on the hillside above the village Mulbek. these gompas are made into the rock .

Lamayuru – After crossing the Namik- La pass and Futu-La pass 13600 ft higest pass on Srinagar – Leh highway is the first of the typical Ladakhi gompa .

Alchi – Just before Saspul this Gompa is built on a low land , it has massive Budha statue and lavish wood carvings and art work.

Likir Gompa – It is shortly after Saspul it has a monastry school and a fort which is damaged , Basgo gompa has intresting figures of Buddha ,wall paintings are damaged due to water .

Gurudwara Pather Sahib –  Guru Nanak Dev Ji traveled to Tebet passing through Ladakh and stayed here for some time , the image in the rock is said to be of the Guru when he was hit by a rock which turned soft as wax upon touching his meditating body .

Sindhu Ghat – The river Indus ( Sindhu) flows through the Ladakh before entering Pakistan , every year a Sindhu festival is celebrated upon the banks of the Sindhu river.

Ma Kali Temple – It is an old temple dedicated to Ma Kali .

Chang-la – It is the second highest road in the world passing through the pass while traveling to Pangong Lake.

Pangong Tso lake –  This salt water lake  154 km from Leh , after crossing the Chang la , 4 km wide  about 136 km long , only 25% of it is in India rest is in Tibet / China at a height of 4250 meters .

Tsomoriri lake – This lake is 215 km from Leh, 19 km long and 3 km wide one of the largest high altitude lake situated at a height of 4595 meters in India .

 Khardong-la – It is the highest road crossing the pass ( 5359 mtrs.) in the world about 1 hr. drive from Leh city towards Nubra valley .

Nubra Valley – It 150 km from Leh , after climbing the Khardong-la pass the beautiful valley, Cold desert and home for Double hump camel, it extends as far as Seachin Glacier, it is also the fruit and food bowl of Ladakh

Fotu-la –  It is the highest point 4108 meters on Srinagar Leh highway .

Kargil – It is the second big town in Ladakh which got more popularity after the 1999 war , it is on the highway from Leh to Srinagar, from here one can travel to Zanskar Valley.

Drass Valley– It is the second coldest inhabited place on earth after Siberia in Russia one can have the beautiful views of Tololing and Tiger Hill famous after the Kargil war and pay a visit at War Hero’s Memorial.

Zanskar Valley – The most isolated , accessible in summers for four months only , kept the original Tibetian Budhisim alive.

Zoji-la – It is the dividing pass, on the one side is the Ladakh and the other side is the Kashmir valley.

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