Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Travelogue - The Gompas of Leh

Hemis -
Hemis is among the oldest gompas in the region - dates back to 1630 AD and is built on the site of a 12th century cave monastary. When I was there, they were celebrating the Hemis Festival. Like most Gompas, it's on top of a hill. Outside is a big courtyard which is where the festivities take place. Inside is a 17th century heritage frozen in time. Cramped in the small space are monks and commoners alike. Golden statues and old cloth paintings stare at them.

Thiksey -
The most beautiful of all monastaries. Little cubes stacked up, taper heavenwards. From atop the monastary behold a barren desert-land, and patches of green. In their midst hides the city of Leh.

Shey Palace -
The old palace of the kings of Ladakh. It looks good from the outside. But the insides are eaten up by a parasite called time. The Gompa here, is a simple one. If you can brave the heat, the scorching sun and the unsteady steps, climb up to the top of the structure - Shey offers you a view, you won't forget.

Stok -
The new palace. And a little a museum that adjoins this palace. Couldn't get a glimpse of the queen.

Shanti Stupa -
A gift from the Japanese. It is the highest point in the city and you can spend hours out here, staring at the cityscape.

Spituk -
A buddhist monastary like any other. Except the Hindus believe, that the deity is Goddess Kali. A rich Hindu patronage has had even the Buddhist Lamas encourage this belief. The 'Kali' temple, is on a hill above the traditional Gompa - looks great at sunset.

The Lonely Flame

The wind sneaks in,
Through the yawning door,
To tease a lonely flame.
In the eternal night of this place,
Red monks chant prayers,
In an earthy voice.

The trembling shadow of a hand,
Rings a bell,
In the mind of the transfixed listener.
All sounds will die within.

Yet, somehow, through the sleepy gate escapes,
The musty smell of hope,
Soft sighs of tranquility,
And the simple smile of a face,
Made alive by a timeless, flickering flame.


Vasu said...


Did you see many Bhikshus? Did you talk to them?

Lucky you...


Wriju said...

The lamas are friendly people, eager to be photographed. Some of them are quiet, and the others are as talkative as you can imagine! I remember speaking to a group of 3 lamas - they laughed at everything I said and made me feel like a schoolboy!

Elsewhere I made friends with a lama who showed me his living quarters and told me all about the place :-)

How do we know said...

did you write these gems there, or now, as you write the travelogue?

Wriju said...

I wrote some poems there - the travellogues are written right here right now - whatever I can remember ;-)

erikku said...

The shots of inside the monastary are the best. So colorful, so alive.

Now I really want to go to India. ^_^

Chloe said...

i haven't seen anything so magical and beautiful in a long time.
i like nature but i am always more interested in things made by man. And i understand myth as a man made thing, that's why i like your travelogue so much.

Trailady said...

Beautiful pictures! Are you in India? I love to dance the Bhangra from Punjabi. Someday I hope to visit India as I love the culture and the colors.

Your poem is lovely. :o)

PS. Life is Beautiful is one of my favorite movies also.

V N said...

Theres something so fiercely expressive of the spectacular hues thrown together in a monastery that makes it an efficient blend of variegated emotions that lie across the horizon. Am reminded of a journey that i had to Byle Kuppe, a Tibetan settlement in interior Karnataka, a few months back.

Wonderful pics, pal!

Wriju said...

Be my guest :-)

I am fascinated by people too. By their faces, their stories and their nature. By history, by monuments and by myth too.

Yes, you should visit. It'll be a place so different from what you have ever seen. Don't come with expectations - come with an open mind :-)

I have been to Bylekuppe too. Close to Madikeri in Coorg. But there is something else about this place. May be its the harsh ladscape of Ladakh or may be its just their history.

Hiren said...

Very comprehensive. Great photographs. Hope to go to leh and ladakh someday.

sunshine said...

grreeeaat pics!!! and the poetry is lovely too... glad i visited :)

Wriju said...

Thanks. I wanted to be comprehensive as I am making memories!

Thanks :-)

How do we know said...

Wriju: You got one thing wrong.. its not brunettes!! ;-) Aah! What I could have been! Nicaragua!!
But I am sooooo Indian!!

sophie said...

I'm going to Ladakh!!!!!