Stok Palace , Leh , Ladakh

Stok Palace was built in 17th centenary by King Sengge Namgyal but after some time Royal family shifted to Shey Palace which was constructed in 1655 . When the Dogras army under Zorawar Singh of Jammu invaded Ladakh in 1842, the Namgyals shifted back to Stock across the Indus river  and made it their permanent residence.

Stok Palace Leh, Ladakh

It is located at 14 km from Leh across the  Choglamsar bridge on river Indus.

The Royal Palace is a four-story structure , sporting a mix of ancient and modern architectural style,  on top floors are the Royal family residence , the lower floors which were used as stables and stores are now converted into a museum having rich collections of royal jewels, an 8 prong engagement ring, ornaments, ceremonial dresses , crowns and centuries-old pieces of royal jewellery. Sooth paintings which are more than 450 years old paints prepared by crushed and powdered Gems and stones , the brightness of colors give a look of a new ,  the ancient headdresses still worn on important occasions , thought to have originated in Tibet, are encrusted with slabs of flawless turquoise, polished coral, lapis lazuli and nuggets of pure gold interesting collection of Buddhist art, weaponry, coins, seals, antique ritual objects are at display. The best display is the knotted swords , legend is once someone questioned the credentials of the Royal Oracle in the presence of the King , to display his supernatural powers he pulled out the sword of the King and tied a knot with it .

 

Stok Palace main entrance and Building

The location of Stok palace is gives excellent views of Stok – Kangri mountains in Zanskar range to the south across the Indus River and Ladakh range is in the south behind the palace. The Stok Palace is the best place to view sunrise and sunset from its roof top.

The Stok Kangri and Markha valley treks starts from here .

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Shey Gompa , Monastery Palace, Leh , Ladakh

Shey is on Leh Manali road , located near Thikse monastery on a hillock about 15 kms from Leh. Large number of rock carvings, stupas and monastries are on this road , it has also the biggest Chorten field with hundreds of various size of shrines scattered across the desert land scape . Shey Palace and Gompa complex was built in around  1650 AD by the King Deldon Namgyal used it as a summer retreat by the kings of Ladakh, it is in ruins now. Shey Monastery was built in the memory of his father Singay Namgyal within the palace complex .

It is famous for the giant statue of Shakyamuni Budha second largest in Ladakh made of Copper with gold plating. Dogras of Jammu invaded Leh in 1834 Namgyal King abandoend Shey and made Stok acrossed the Indus river as their permanent residence.

Shey Palace Leh , Ladakh

It is famous for the giant statue of Shakyamuni Budha second largest in Ladakh made of Copper with gold plating. Dogras of Jammu invaded Leh in 1834 Namgyal King abandoend Shey and made Stok acrossed the Indus river as their permanent residence.Sahakyamuni Budha statue is 12 meters in height the wall behind has the immage of Sariputra and Maudgalyayana the two disciples of Lord Budha, walls around the statue are painted with images, this statue in the monastry is in three levels , the lowest level shows the sole pointing upwards, murals of Shambunath on middle floor are  in different postures of Budha, the upper dark floor is having butter lamps that burns eternally at altar. Number of wall paintings are displayed on the upper floor , lower flower is has a library and murals of Budha in various hand gestures ( mudras).the temple is constructed in such a way to allow lots of sun light to falls on the walls directly because of this the murals look bright.

Some distance from the palace is a small shrine built by Sengge Namgyal it houses Sakyamuni large statue in sitting position , here murals and images are similar to the palace shrine it also depicts the 16 Arhats the original deciples of the Budha along with the teachers Padmasambhava , Atisa and Tson-Ka-Pa , carvings are seen on rocks on road to the palace they are of Dhyani Budha one near the palace and other four near the chorten .  All these were crafted by the sculptor from Nepal Sanga Zargar Wanduk and few others their decedents are still living in a village called Chilling.

The official residence (phatong) Lama of the monastery is at the edge of valley and there is a beautiful sight of Indus valley.

There are two  festivals held here every year. The first festival is held at Shey Palace on the 26th and 27th day of the first month of the Tibeten Calander which falls in July or August month  This festival is called “Shey Doo Lhoo” to mark the beginning of the sowing season. The two day monastic celebration is marked by special rituals performed by the monks in the main monastery.  Villagers throng to the monastery in large numbers in a spirit of celebration . The second festival is called the “Shey Rupla” that marks the harvesting season. On this occasion farmers offer the first fruits of the corn at the monastery. A dance called the “Rhupla dance” is performed by two men in tiger costumes. Other forms of folk dances are also performed.

There is a belief that women without children offer special prayers here to Buddha seeking blessings to beget children.

Shey Chortens

Close to the palace is the funeral ground. The dead are carried in a chair after due rites are performed at home. The body is placed on a chair then carried to the funeral ground in a procession of Lamas and the common people of the village. The chair is then laid in a “tubular walled oven”, as prayers are chanted. The ashes are later scattered in the river.

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Thikse Gompa, Leh , Ladakh

Thikse Gompa ( Monastery) is 19 km from Leh at an altitude 3600 meters from Sea , it is a Tibetan Buddhist Monastry establised in early 15th Centenary of Gelugpa School . It has a resemblance of Potala   Palace in Lahsa . It is a Twelve Story structure , built as a Fort Monastery it is the largest structure in Ladakh , its position is such that is gives excellent East and West view of Indus plains , Matho Gompa in the East, Royal Palace of Stok across the Indus and Shey Palace to the West have excellent views

Thikse Monastery Ladakh

The main attraction is fifteen meter tall Maitreya Buddha statue largest in Ladakh besides Buddhist art stupas, Thangkas, wall paintings and arms.  Sherab Sangpo one of the Six disciples of  Tsongkhapa founder of Gelugpa school carried bone powder and drop of blood of his Guru Tsongkhpa and a small statue of  Amitayus as a gift for king of  Ladakh in early 15th Centenary in 1433 with the help from King a small monastery in a village of Stagmo, to the north of the Indus river was shifted to this place , legend is when Sangpo  after the prayers, offering kept in a plate  were taken away by two  crows, later it was found the offerings with plate were lying at a stone   in an undisturbed condition , it was taken as a divine directive to build a monastery here . Thikse became prominent second to Hemis Monastery in Ladakh . Around 1770 the Lama of Hanle dictated that the elder son will be the King of Ladakh while the younger brothers will serve as Lamas at Thikse and Spituk Monasteries

Thikse , Beautifull roof

The main attractions are the Bhavachakra the wheal of Life  has insignia images of a snake, a bird and a pig that signify ignorance, attachment, and aversion . Next to this is the main assembly hall for prayers , a number of old manuscripts and hand painted collection of books along with 225 volumes of  Tangyur warped in silk are kept , it also have a Eleven headed Avalokitesvara with Padmasambhava . There are murals of Mahakal and Dukar  In the center of hall is a seat for His Holiness The Dalai Lama and on right is the seat of head of the monastery .

Two stories tall Maitreaya Budhha Statue at Thikse

A temple dedicated to Tara with 21 images , a small shrine of protector  deity of Thikse the Cham-spring ,  an image of the Buddha with two of his disciples and the deity Yamantaka can be seen. In the courtyard murals of   Tsong Khapa, the Buddha , the Padmasambhava , Palden Lahmo and Mahakal are there.

Only men are allowed to enter the top floor of the monastery  the Lamokhang temple above the temple  local boys from the villages near by are students , among them few are chosen as Lamas , there is also an Nunnery  located within the precincts of the monastery  is managed by the Monastery Administration. In Ladakh, nunneries were held in a grossly inferior status ,  In the 1990s, awareness was raised on the status of the nuns  to ensure a shift in their functional role of servitude and to one of true spiritual practice the Chief Lama, Thiksey Rinpoche of this Monastery was  important in the positive developments in the betterment of nuns.

Gustor Ritual is celebrated every year from 17th to 19th day of Ninth month of Tibetan calander which falls in October/November . Scared Mask Dance or Cham Dance is performed as a part of the ritual . Morning prayers are followed by chanting of Buddhist sutras , people from far villages gather and meet the other villagers, a trade fair is also held where locals barter trade items .

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‘Leh’ Jayenge ‘Leh’ Jayenge – Let’s go to Leh!

Frozen lake along Chang La [pass]

Pangong Tso Panorama

When friend Anil Rajput knew that I was planning on two options for this summer holiday, Conoor in Tamil Nadu and Leh, his shocking expression was ….”What comparison! You must go only to Leh!”.
I was desperate for a date with Leh for the last four years, but my travel team was giving me the most impossible rates and dates. Anil came to my rescue and made our dream-plan, a reality!
Our Delhi friend Anjali quickly decided to join us and more the merrier it was!
With a lot of anticipation spiced up, wife Jayashree, daughter Nishkamya and I set off from Chennai by the evening SpiceJet to Delhi. Night halt was at Anjali’s place and catching up with years and years of talk, we then hit the Delhi airport at 4am for the Go Air check-in. Prompt to take off, we had a very comfortable touchdown at the Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Airport at Leh, on the dot at 8.15 am. I am sure you are aware that it is the highest altitude commercial airport in India at some 3500 metres. Jayashree rightly quipped, “There is no great height for the plane to descend here at Leh!” Continue reading…