Sankar Gompa , Leh , Ladakh

Sankar Gompa the official residence of the head of Gelukpa Sect of Buddhists in Ladakh The Kushok Bakula Renpoche  he died in 2004  , this monastery is branch of Spituk Monastery

Sankar Gompa official residence Head of Gelugpa Sect. in Leh

 

The main entrance of Courtyard attracts the visitors for its beautiful  decorations. The left wall  is having a “Wheel of Life”, held by Yama. The other side  is the Dukhang, decorated  with paintings of Guardian of the Four Directions, a throne reserved for the head monk of monastery.  This Buddhist monastery have fabulous collection of exquisite paintings and murals of the Guardian divinities of the Four Quarters of Heaven, the Old Man of Longevity, the Wheel of Life and Sakyamuni Buddha with his sixteen sages and thirty-five benevolent Buddhas. There is also statue of Avalokiteshwara Padmahari with 1,000 heads and arms and Yamantaka (God of Death). Sankar Gompa also treasures Kanshur, 108 volumes of Buddha’s teaching and idols of three Buddhas – Sakyamuni, the Present Buddha and Maitreya (Future Buddha).

Inside the Sankar Gompa

 

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Hemis Gompa, Leh , Ladakh

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Hemis Gompa in Hemis town 40 km from Leh city , it is a famous monastery founded by King Senge Nampar Gyalva  in 1672 AD , every year in the month of July a colorful festival is held in the compound attended by not only the locals but people from all over the world. Hemis gompa is also believed to have been established in 1630 by Lama Tagstang Raspa and built by Palden Sara under the patronage of King Sengge Namgyal on a site previously sanctified by the construction of a cave hermitage dating from the 12th century. This monastery is the oldest one in the area belonging to the Kargyu school .

Hemis Gompa main compound

This two-day festival depicts a dance-homage to the birth anniversary of Lord Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche. The festival is the largest and biggest of the Tibetan Buddhist Gompa festivals in Ladakh. It is celebrated across three days from the 9th to the 11th day of the fifth month of the lunar Tibetan calendar, vibrant and endless dances are accompanied by discordant sounds of cymbals, large-pan drums, small trumpets and large  size wind instruments . The lamas  get transformed into demons and gods , bang on drums and crash symbols together as others gyrate and leap to fight off demons.

 

Hemis information display at entrance

The predominantly practiced religion in Ladakh is the Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism is based on the eighth tenet of the concept of the eight fold part as propagated by Lord Buddha. This form of Buddhism stresses on meditation and concentration. One of the most innovative concepts introduced by the Mahayanists is that of the bodhisattvas. 

As one enters the courtyard, to the right are two large temples up small flight of stone steps. The fronts have a wooden verandah of Kashmiri style, rising two storeys. As one faces them, the temple on the left is the Tshogs-khang and on the right is the Dukhang. The Dukhang contains the throne of the Rimpoche and seating areas for the lamas.  Tall wooden pillars rise in the center to a square cupola with windows that supply light to the throne. The walls also have paintings of Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha) with the blue hair, other Buddha figures and paintings of Tantric deities such as Hevajra and Samvara. In the Tshogs-khang is a large gilded statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha with blue hair surrounded by several silver chortens decorated with semi-precious stones. In front of the Buddha is a throne made of painted and lacquered wood, a present from the former Maharaja of Kashmir to a former Incarnate Lama of Hemis

Pehar Gyalpo the protective Deity of Hemis

Pehar Gyalpo, revered as the protective deity of Hemis. It is said that Pehar was once the lord protector of Sam-Yas monastery and a monk from there by hiding the spirit of this deity inside a cymbal had brought it to Hemis. Each day sacred rituals are performed to evoke Pehar’s blessings.

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Zoji – la, Ladakh

Zoji – La is a high altitude pass  11575 ft from sea level on Indian National Highway NH-1D , connecting Kashmir valley from Sonmarg to Ladakh Valley , it is 9 km long the second highest pass on Srinagar – Leh highway always covered with snow it is closed in winters due to heavy snow fall.

Zoji-la , frozen river and Leh – Srinagar highway

The pass links a Valley of Kashmir with Ladakh. For many centenaries various trade routes took merchants to China, Tibet, and Central Asia. Renchen Shah of Leh moved into Kashmir via this pass and was the ruler of the territory in the 14th century. Mirza Haider Doughlat also marched on through this pass to raid Kashmir. The previous name of the pass was Shurji La, which stands for the mountain of Lord Shiva.

Rock called the India Gate , entrance to Kashmir valley Zoji-la

Zoji-la , at a height of 3,528 meters, which  is the lowest drivable pass on the Great Himalayan Mountain Range. It witnesses violent winds  because of the conical shape and severe snowfall. Over 60 risky landslide spots have been identified on this route. Every year the young enthusiast  motor cyclist from all over India cross this pass with a high adventure spirit to visit the Ladakh from Kashmir side.

Historically this pass till 1815 was in control of Amir of Afghanistan as Punjab Hill States, it came under Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Flag of a Sikh state , in 1846 after the Anglo-Sikh war the East India Company and Sikh Empire had a Treaty of  Lahore , as an indemnity the Sikh State could not pay then Rs.1.2 Million , the Dogra King  was allowed to take Kashmir by paying Rs. 750 Thousand to East India Company , Gulab Singh became the first Maharaja of a new state of Jamu & Kashmir. After the partition in 1947 India signed the accession document with Maharaja Hari Singh to be part of India.

It was here in 1947 when Pakistani army who had reached till Srinagar had a surprise to see the Indian army’s Battle Tanks and artillery guns , had to withdraw from this area , since then the Zojii-la pass is under the controls of  India .

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Zanskar , Ladakh

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Zanskar is located in the Great Himalayan range on the banks of  the Zanskar River formed by the confluence of its two Himalayan tributaries, the Stod/Doda and the Lingti-Tsarap rivers,  the most isolated of all the trans-Himalayan valleys, it is a remote, ancient kingdom in the northwest Indian Himalaya in Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir State. It remains inaccessible for nearly 8 months in a year due to heavy winter snowfall resulting in closure of all access passes, This geographical isolation and the esoteric nature of Buddhism practiced here have enabled its inhabitants to preserve their identity in a chain of far- flung monasteries, most of which occupy spectacular fortified locations, high on rocky ridges in isolated valleys. These isolated valleys are linked across high passes by a number of long established pathways.

Reaching Zanskar the only  240 km road connection is from Kargil Suru Valley crossing the Pensi – la Pass at a height of 4400 meters from sea . Padum also called Padam the main village or town on the Doda river in the center of Zanskar valley and there are several small villages scattered around it.

Gateway to Zanskar Pensi-La (4400 meters) connects Suru and Zanskar valley

Access to Zanskar is difficult from all sides as it is located sandwiched between High mountain ridges on both sides of the Doda and Lingti–kargyag valleys, which run north-west to south-east. On the south-west is the Great Himalaya range it separates Zanskar from the Kisthwar and Chamba valley . On  the north-east is  the Zanskar Range, it  separates Zanskar from Ladakh. The only way out for the whole Zanskar valley is the Zanskar river, which cuts a deep and narrow gorge through the Zanskar range. In winters the commuting to this area is maintained across mountain passes or along the Zanskar river when frozen. Walking on Frozen river of Zanskar is an ultimate experience,  it had been trade route for centuries for Zanskari valley. Now the route is also famous as winter trekking among adventure lovers. Kargyag river which originates from Shingo – la and  Tsarap river which originates from Baralacha – la joins near village Purne  to form the Lungnak river (  Lingti or Tsarap) this river flows towards the Zanskar central and meets the Doda river at  Gzhung Khor  to form the Zanskar river . From Lahul Valley one can reach here by crossing the The Shingo- La  at a height of 17000 feet from sea level .

New road is being built from Darcha to Padum and then to Nimmo meeting at Kargil-Leh highway after its making Manali-Leh an all season road bypassing Barlacha la, Nakee la, Lachung-la and Tanglang-la along with building up of Rohtang Tunnel to bypass Rohtang,  until that would be operational only motor able approach to Zanskar is  from Kargil.

Village near Padum, Zanskar, Ladakh

The Great Himalyan range acts as a barrier for protecting Ladakh and Zanskar from most of the monsoon,  May to September it is warm  and dry hardly any rainfall or snow in this period , water comes from the melting glaciers,  winter snowfalls are of vital importance, since they feed the glaciers which melt in the summer and provide most of the irrigation water,  barley, lentils, and potatoes are grown by farmers at the lower heights.

People of Zanskar have origin from  an Indo-European the Mon and the Dard who came from Baltistan , the Buddhism came here from Kashmir about 2200 years ago,  in the 7th century  the Tibetans introduced Bon ,  8-10th centenaries  the monasteries of Karsha and Phugtal  were built. Zanskar existed as a more or less independent Buddhist Kingdom ruled by between  related royal families till 15 th centenary. Since the 15th century, Zanskar has been subordinate to Ladakh .

Two main branches of Tibetan Buddhism are practiced  here , the Drugpa , Sani Monastry ,Dzongkhul Monastry , Stagrimo and Bardan Monastery  affiliated with Stakna . The Gelugpa control monastries are  Rangdum , Karsha , Stongde  and Phugtal under the Ngari Rinpoche,  his main seat is Likir Monastery  in Ladakh,  the Ngari Rinpoche is the younger brother of the His Holiness Dalai Lama.

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