Magnetic Hill , Leh , Ladakh

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Magnetic Hill is in Ladakh 30 km from Leh , on Leh-Srinagar Highway. It is something to experience and one of the wonders of Himalayas ,

Megnetic Hill , Leh – Srinagar Highway

It is situated on Leh-Srinagar highway about 50 km from Leh the hill is having the megenatic properties , any car parked engine off in neutral gear at a specific point marked as white box , moves towards uphill defying the law of Gravity .

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Tiger Hill, Tololing, Drass Valley,Kargil, Ladakh

Tiger Hill is over looking the  Drass Valley on Srinagar-Leh Highway 1D , it is also known as Point 5353 is the highest peak in this area (16500 feet) . It is the most dominating feature in Drass Valley , is on a confluence of number of spurs and over looks the long stretch of Srinagar-Leh highway.  In the local dialect “Baltic” Dras means “Hell”. It is at a height of 3230 meter or 10990 ft. The surrounding mountain ridges however range from 16000 feet to 21000 feet. It has become famous as the second coldest inhabited place in the world . Winter temperature is sometimes comes down to less than minus 60 degrees.  It is often called ‘The Gateway to Ladakh’ . It also became famous during mid 1999 due to invasion and capturing of surrounding tops by the Mujaheddin with the help of Pakistani army which led to a war from Indian army to recapture the territories back from the intruders.

 

My Salute to Brave Indian Soldiers , Plate at Drass Valley War Memorial

It was mid June of 2010  early morning  when we left Kargil , our driver wanted to cross the Zoji-La pass as early as possible to escape from melting snow and heavy traffic on Leh-Srinagar Highway 1D. We entered the Drass  Valley around 0530 hr. it was very cold and when I checked at the War Memorial which was closed at that time the temperature was -5 degree Centigrade , while waiting to open the gate my heart became so heavy I could not control my self and tears started rolling out of my eyes , imagining the Kargil War and my country brave soldiers who fought not only the enemy but the cold adverse weather , they preferred bullets to be carried with them instead of food. The soldier with his INSAS Rifle on duty at Memorial Gate was having a cylinder with a burner on top with a flame to keep himself warm told me that in this cold the fingers become num .

My first glimpses of Tiger Hill from Leh-Srinagar Highway

While travelling from Leh , we stayed a night at Kargil , early morning when we entered the Drass valley ,  moon was still shining over our left side of the mountains , our Ladakhi driver who was very quite since we started from Kargil broke the silence ” woh dekho Tiger Hill “ and my reaction was ” Wah” I was stunned with the beauty of it .

Beauty of Tiger Hill from Leh-Srinagar highway

Most of the Cab drivers want to cross the Zoji-La early morning because after the sun rise the warmth of sun rays causes the melting of Glaciers , and  water flows on the roads and it is difficult to drive in this patch, the War Memorial opens at 0800 hr. in the morning the war museum is worth visiting and paying respect to the Kargil War Heros.

 

Drass War Memorial , Snow cap Tololing Ridge in backdrop

If one is entering the Drass valley from Kargil , it is about 2 hr. drive,  make sure you leave from Kargil in time when you reach Drass the War Memorial is open . Take care of your woolens as Drass valley is the second highest coldest inhabited place on earth

Drass War Memorial at foot hill of Tololing Ridge, Kargil, Ladakh

“Sir, I’m on Tololing Top.” a simple message from Col. M.B. Ravindranath of  2nd Rajputana Riffles minutes after recapturing the Top ,  “Tololing being bang on the road, it choked our throats,” says a field commander. “That pressure is now off.” The victory earned by Ravindranath and his men a rare, direct “well-done” from then army chief Gen. V.P. Malik .

I could feel that chill in my body while standing at the War memorial which is just below the Tololing top.  It took just six days for Indian troops to give final touches to the  successes by evicting well-entrenched intruders on four nearby outposts with names echoed all over the World — Point 4590Rocky Knob, Hump and Point 5140. It could lead to the recapture of a similarly strategic height of Tiger Hill.

Tiger Hill Battle Plate at War Hero’s Memorial Drass, Ladakh

Tiger Hill has sharp conical features, which stands among the mountain tops a few kilometres north of Drass. During the Kargil war, the picture of Indian troops after having captured the Tiger Hill became the symbol of the Indian victory in the war. Indian Armed  forces involved  to recapture the Tiger Hill were from the 18 Grenadiers ,  2 Naga and the 8 Sikh Regiment  it was one of the costliest operations for the Indian forces in the entire conflict, with casualties of nearly forty personnel killed and nearly a hundred wounded in the entire operation.  In the 36 hour operation, the first meal our soldiers had were the dates left behind by the retreating Pakistanis.

Batra Top battle Plate, Drass Valley, Kargil, Ladakh

Captain Batra, the soldiers of 13 JAK Rifles charged the enemy position and captured Point 5140 set in motion a string of successes, such as Point 5100, Point 4700, Junction Peak and Three Pimples with fellow Captain Anuj Nayyer who was awarded Maha Vir Chakra  , Capt. Batra led his men to victory with the recapture of Point 4750 and Point 4875. He was killed when he tried to rescue an injured officer during an enemy counter attack  against Point 4875.   Captain Vikram Batra was awarded the Param Vir Chakra .

 

Tiger Hill, with Rhino Horn feature and a pimple called Batra Top

I saw very few local people in the morning , houses with door closed it was very cold , even  stray dogs or animals not visible anywhere in the valley. People I saw on the highway here either they were soldiers or truck drivers from Kashmir and Punjab.

Honor to a soldier in religious texts who lays his life in Battle field

 

Tololing Ridge and War Hero’s Memorial at Drass Valley

 

Plate , Battle of Tololing , Drass Valley, War Memorial, Kargil , Ladakh

Leading the brave men right from the front were the officers. It was the Captains and Majors considered to be the cutting edge of the Indian army who once again proved their worth . Sacrifice has the words ‘For our tomorrow, they gave their today’  this been true in the case of our gallant soldiers. And yet, the nation generally tends to forget the ordinary soldier in times of peace.

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What price we paid to in terms of  men, who laid their life just for IZZAT , Fellow comrade ,Call of Duty  keeping aside their own personal safety , it will always be in my mind that because of these above the extra ordinary men, I was able to travel to this place without any fear and took the pictures of this most beautiful place of our motherland .

On the base of Tiger Hill, Drass Valley, Ladakh

 

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Karsha Gompa, Monastery, Zanskar, Ladakh

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Karsha Gompa is the biggest monastery in Zanskar situated in scenic surroundings few kilometers from main Zanskar town, Padum , is an imposing complex of neatly white washed building blocks comprising several chapels, besides residential cells for its nearly 150 lamas, who belong to the Geluks-pa sect. Built picturesquely along the steeply rising mountainside above Karsha village,  It was established by Lama Phagspa Sherab in the 11th century above the Stod river.

 

Karsha Gompa, Monastery, Zanskar, Ladakh

Karsha is the largest and most important monastery in Zanskar. It is didicated to Padmasambhava, and there are ancient rock-carvings at the site. The oldest remaining structure, an Avalokiteshvara temple, Chuk-shik-jal, contains wall paintings which belongs to the era of Rinchen Zangpo , The bone relics of Dorje Rinchenare is a part of this collection at Karsha Gompa.

 The Karsha area include an old nunnery called Dorje Dzong,  occupying a hilltop to the west of the main monastery. The ruins around this nunnery are believed to be the original monastic foundation of Karsha ,  the monasteries of Khagsar, Purang and Phagspa , two Temples – the ‘Thugsjechhenpoi Lhakhang’ and the ‘Lhakhang Karpo’ the present monastery was founded during the 14th century. An old stupa surviving among the ruins is still adorned with the original murals, which reflect Indian artistic influence. Nearby is the ancient temple of ‘Chukshik-jal’, which houses an exquisite figure of Avalokitesvara as the main image.

View from Karsha Gompa , Chortens in Zanskar Valley, Ladakh

Mons of the Khesa race became Buddhist in Kushan period under the King Kaniska are the dominant population in the Zanskar their features do not match with that of the local tribes or with the Mongolians, Mons are credited with building Kursha Monastery in the main Zanskar valley along with other 30 monasteries, chortens and temples .  Kursha monastery houses the mummified body of an incarnate lama called the Rinchen Zangpo and sealed in a wooden box with silver lining.

The most important festival, known as the Karsha Gustor, is held with masked cham dances on the 26th to the 29th day of the 11th Tibetan month, which is usually in January.

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Sani Gompa, Monastery , Zanskar,Ladakh

Sani Gompa Monastery of Ladakh also known as Turtot Gyat situated on the road to Kargil, at a distance of approximately 6 km to the west of Padum. belongs to the Drukpa Kagyupa School,  it is believed that the monastery was associated with Kanishka, Kushan ruler of 2nd century AD because of  the Kanika Stupa in the back yard and construction like a fort,  the gompa is not built on a hill or mountain but on flat land. It is in the form of a castle and the Kanishka chorten is in the backyard of the enclosing stone walls with chortens mounted at intervals. Next to the Kanishka chorten are ten standing stones with engravings of deities in a pre-Tibetan style.  The entire Sani Monastery of Ladakh has been constructed in parts, each dating back to a different century. The chorten inside the oldest part of Sani Monastery is believed to be erected in the 2nd century AD. On the other hand, the Dukhang (assembly hall) of the monastery is said to be constructed in the early 17th century.

Sani Gompa , Monastery

the famous Indian Yogi Naropa. It is believed that the Yogi meditated under the Kanishka Stupa, situated in the backyard of the monastery. The same spot, where the Yogi sat in meditation, now houses a small room with a veiled bronze statue of the Yogi. It is on displayed on the eve of the Naro-Nasjal Festival every year in late July  or  in the first week of August, between the 15th and the 20th of the sixth Tibetan month. It takes place during the blooming of the  Guru Neropa Flower, the Lamas from Bardan Monastery perform masked dances as ritual offering. a magnificent plantation of huge old poplars adjoining the gompa is unusual as this region is mostly treeless

Stupa at Sani Gompa back yard

The Dukhang (assembly hall) of the monastery is said to be constructed in the early 17th century. The central praying hall is situated in the main building of the monastery and stands ornamented with a rich collection of the statues of popular Buddhist divinities and Kargud-pa high lamas ,the walls of the praying hall are decorated with frescoes and Thangkas. The Assembly Hall or Dukhang has 16 columns and houses images of Chamba, Chenren and Padmasambhava as well as others. Behind the altar is the Gongkhang, a small room containing an ancient figure of Cho Rinpoche

This place is also among the  eight most important cremation grounds of Tibetan Buddhists is outside the monastery complex and the cemetery is ringed with ancient rock-carvings which show Indian influences there is also a  two metre high boulder with a painting of Maitrya on it  the pilgrims pour the sacrificial oil over it .

Drukpa  Kargyu school  is the only one of this order in Zanskar which has nuns, A group of Kargyu nuns established a small retreat centre at Starkhugnza in the 1990s ,  It is a site above Sani which was founded by Ngawang Tsering (1657-1732), a famous Zanskar meditator.

One can see the white opening to a cave in a cliff across the river from the monastery where Padmasambhava is also said to have meditated for several years and it is still used as a meditation cell

Every year in the winters a Great Prayer Festival is held in which the  firewood provided by villagers of the surrounding villages in which prayers from the Tibetan holy books are chanted.

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Alchi Monastery , Ladakh

Alchi monastery is situated on a low land unlike the other monasteries which are constructed on  high lands or hilocks it is situated on a down stream 70 kms from Leh about 6 km from the main Leh Srinagar Highway on the banks of Indus river in the Alchi village at a height of 3100 meters from sea , it is one of the oldest well preserved dates back to about 1000 years, main attraction is thousands of minature paintings of lord Budha on a wall three large clay images of Budha in bright colours, past 500 years no religious activity has taken place here it is looked after by a monk from the Likir monastery.  The monasteries of this period did not belong to any of the established Tibetan schools, they were initially brought under the control of the Kadampa  Sect . When the condition of the monasteries deteriorated, they were mostly taken over by the Gelukpa Sect .

Wooden carvings at main entrance , Alchi monastry

Alchi is part of three villages the other two villages are Mangdu and Sumnda Chun . It was built between 958 AD – 1055AD by the great translator Guru Rinchen Zangpo, assembly hall and the main temple is three storied are built in Kashmiri style, Manjushri is the third temple , there is a huge statue of lord Budha , walls of temple have the oldest preserved paintings of that time and reflects the Hindu and Budhist artistic and spritual details, there were 108 monasteries built in the trans Himalyan region to spread  Vajrayana Budhism from Tibet also known as Lamaism , Kashmiri artists were engaged to create sculptures and paintings .

Manjushri Temple, also called ‘Jampe Lhakhang‘, is built around the four central images of Manjushri (seated back to back) seen on a common platform each of the four images is single-headed with four arms that are adorned with a sword, a book on top of a lotus, a bow and an arrow. Each wall in the shrine is dedicated to a Buddha image. Manjushri is depicted on the main wall, seated on a lion throne; the side walls have images of Amitabha  on the right and Aksharabhya on the left. The images are set around the central image of Manjushri in a niche in the wall. Manjushri is adorned with jewellery (pearls and other moulded forms) and a crown made of a flower band. In the base of the throne on which the Manjushri image is deified, is a depiction of ‘Seven Jewels’ and ‘Eight Suspicious Symbols’ (flanked by lions) enclosed in a square frame that is distinctive. The top of the throne frame has Makara mountings.

Alchi Monasrty , Information display

This village is very fertile and it is all green with apricot trees on both side of road. This region had influence of Islam , Hinduism and Budhism because it falls on the route to Turkestan of China but its isolation helped the village and gompa to keep their cultural traditions safe from the outer influnces. The effect of Tibetian culture can be seen here , there are five shrines in the Choskor temple complex.

Green fertile land at Alchi Village

Alchi , ages old Chortens

These chortens are decorated gateways known locally as Kakani Chorten  are considered unique to Alchi with historical link to other monuments. More chortens were added between the 13th and 14th centuries. In the Alchi complex, there are also three other chortens, which have ancient paintings .

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Phuktal Gompa, Monastery, Zanskar, Ladakh

 Phugtal Gompa , Monastery also called Phuktal a Tibetan buddhist monastery of the Gelupa Buddhist sect is situated in Zanskar valley of Ladakh at a height of 3850 meters , established by by Lama Gangsem Sherap Sampo in the early 12th century, the monastery is a unique construction the foundation of the monastery, made up of twigs and muds built into the cliffside , on the mouth of a cave on the cliff face  onto an almost perpendicular drop. When entering the gorge (on foot, no road) one turns round a bend in the valley and are presented with the view over a  gorge of a major tributary of the Lungnak (Lingti-Tsarap) River on its right bank .

 

Phuktal Gompa , Zanskar

Phuktal meaning through caves, It is a 2-storied structure painted in traditional Ladakhi colors of red, black and yellow, the highlights of the monastery include frescoes and ceiling decorations in an old Gompa which belong to same era as that of Alchi Monastery. There are  three large and one small prayer room and a library. One of the main attraction here is a hollow in the rock in the cave over the monastery, the level of water in this hollow never drops down  despite any amount of water being drawn from it , this water is believed to have curative powers.

One can reach here from Kargil to Padum by road and then a two days trek route that leads to Manali diverges off from the Purney Bridge leads  to a 7 km trek to Phuktal monastery.

The monks of the monastery carry out the sacred Cham dance during the Gustor festival which is celebrated during the 18th and 19th day of the Tibetan 12th month.

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Stongdey Gompa, Monastery, Zanskar, Ladakh

Stongdey Gompa , Monastery also called Stongdey Marpaling. One of the most fascinating attractions in Zanskar on a hill-top about 10 km from Padum on Zangla road, established in 1052AD by famous translator Lama Marpa Larsawa desciple of Lama Naropa , four centenary later it was taken over by Gelugpa sect of Buddhism . It belongs to the Tsongkhapa order, which was introduced by Lama Gyaltsanpa Tundup Palzangpo.

Stongdey Gompa, Monastery, Zanskar, Ladakh

One can reach here trekking for three hour from the main road.

 

Stondey Gompa, monastery , Zanskar, Ladakh

The sprawling whitewashed complex has a number of temples, each a repository of the region’s rich monastic legacy . There are seven temples in all. The Tshogs-khang is decorated with exquisite painting including some with deities on a black background outlined in gold , major attraction of the monastery consists of the gorgeous wall paintings adorning its interiors.

Stupas at Stongdey Gompa Zanskar, Ladakh

The Lamas serving at Stongdey are the successive reincarnations of Nari Tulku  over 950 yearsaround 60 monks who live in the monastery have built a school for the Tibetan children of the area to keep the Tibetan culture and language alive .

Every year the  Gustor Festival is held on the 28th and 29th day in the eleventh month of the Tibetan Calender, the monks perform the sacred dance in the monastery.

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Bardan Gompa, Monastery, Zanskar, Ladakh

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Bardan Gompa is situated in Zanskar valley about 12 km from Padum , It is one of the first monastery in Zanskar belongs to the Dugpa-Kargyud monastic order. it was one of the first centers of Dugpa-Kargyud monastic order to be set up in Zanskar.

Bardan Gompa , Monastery, Padum, Zanskar, Ladakh

It is a branch of Stakna Gompa. About 45 monks live here. Bardan monastery was founded in the 16th century. consists of a large Dukhang, assembly hall. All the other structures within the monastery are  around the hall. There are some of the most magnificent statues of Buddhist divinities, along with some small stupas in clay, bronze, wood and copper. A shrine devoted to Maitreya.  A number of smaller monasteries in the region come under the management of Bardan monastery one such monastery is Sani Gompa.

Bardan Gompa , main entrace, Padum,Zanskar, Ladakh

The monks of Bardan Monastery participate in the unveiling of the idol in Sani Monastery. During this festival they perform the masked dances, as a part of the ritual. The other monastery lies very close to Bardan Monastery is Muney that is famous for its splendid architectural treasures.

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Rangdum Gompa,Monastery, Suru valley, Ladakh

Rangdum Gompa , Tibetan Buddhist monastery belongs to the Gelugpa sect administered from Karsha Gompa, situated at a height of  3,657 m (11,998 ft) on top of a small but steep  hill  at the head of the Suru Valley, in Ladakh. The monastery is built over a hillock , entrenched around by the bifurcated route of a mountain stream. The Rangdum Gompa of Ladakh gives the appearance of an age-old fortification. It was built 200 years ago by Gelek Yashi Takpa in the period of King Tsewang Mangyul . 

Rangdum Gompa, Monastery, Zanskar, Ladakh

Rangdum is 130 km. from Kargil at far end of isolated part of  Suru valley it is on a mid way to Padum and Kargil. On one side are the colorful hills while on the other side are rocky mountains and Glaciers . The small mani walls here and towards Padum are more ornate than in Ladakh , some of the stones are carved not only with the usual “Om Mani Padme Hum “ mantra but also with pictures of chortens and mandalas .  It is next to the tiny village of Julidok, and about 25 km from the Pensi-La  which leads into Zanskar valley,  it is physically in the Suru Valley, but culturally part of Zanskar

Holy Scripts kept at Rangdum Gompa Zanskar, Ladakh

The Rangdum Monastery of Ladakh owns the entire valley around it , there are more than 50 Monks who depend upon the offerings of grains and butter from the villages  , the  villagers who tilled the fields are decedents of serf-tenants of the monastery. The small villages of Yuldo and Julidok, at the end of the valley are entirely Buddhist. The people are socially and culturally part of Zanskar and support the  Rangdum Monastery,The country surrounding  is very bleak crops sometimes cannot ripen in the brief summer. The locals depend on their flocks and supplies from lower down the Suru Valley from Kargil or over the pass from Zanskar.  it is also the destination of the nomadic herds people called Bakaarwals, who trek up every year from the Himalayan foothills from around Jammu area , bringing their flocks of sheep and goats to grow fat on the rich summer growth of grass.

The road conditions are very bad near Rangdum.  There is no access to electricity, phone or internet.

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