an independent kingdom of western Tibet, the Kashmir valley was rewarded to
Raja Gulab Singh by the British after he enabled them to win over the Sikhs.
This welded the disparate region of Jammu, Ladakh, Baltistan, Gilgit and
Kashmir which later became the political entity under dispute between India
Ladakh is encompassed by two of the world's supreme mountain ranges, the
Great Himalaya and the Karkoram. Crumbling old monasteries perched on rocky
promontories command the barren empty vistas. In summer, it is sullen grey,
silt laden, sometimes turning to violet. In autumn, the Indus is at its most
graceful, weaving through golden banks of tall poplars and tumbling waters.
Ladakh is a high altitude plateau at India's furthest frontier, bordered by
Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Tibet in the north, Kashmir to the west and
Himachal to the south. The Indus river bisects the plateau. The place is at
a distance of 434 km east of Srinagar and 474 km north of Manali.
Winter is severely cold and is chilling through out the year. The best time
to visit is from May to the end of October.
Maitreya Buddha, Mulbekh -
At Mulbekh, a pit-stop on the
road to Kargil from Leh, is a startling 23ft rock engraving of Maitreya
Buddha, standing in splendid isolation. This is one of the earliest of
pre-Tibetan Buddhist sculpture dating back to 8th century. The attention to
the muscles, the high-arching eyebrows and full cheeks indicate that the
figure of the Buddha was formed out of rocks by the Kashmiri pandits.
Tak Tok Monasteries -
The first cave where Buddha is
said to have meditated. In the 16th century, the only Nyingma monastery of
Ladakh, Tak Tok, 50km south east of Leh grew up around the site above the
village of Sakti nearby the Pangong Lake. The cave is now a temple, dark,
gloomy and covered with soots from thousand of butter lamps.
Lamayuru Gompa -
Down the west lies the earliest
surviving monasteries of Ladakh, Yung-drung or the Swastika perched high
above the village at the bottom of the valley. The place was chosen by the
Kashmiri yogi Naropa in the early 11th century. The monastery was later
enlarged and embellished by Rinchen Tsangpo. The most important feature of
this cave is that its mouth is behind a glass wall, but it's still a thrill
to flash a torch in for a glimpse of the place of meditation.
The Sum Tsek Temple -
The temple's architecture is
unparalleled in the entire Himalayan region. Its mud walls rise to three
storeys and houses the giant figures of four armed Bodhisattvas. The ground
floor has a ceiling, the center is occupied by a stucco chorten, while the
Bodhisatattvas occupy the alcoves in the sides and far walls.
Leh's famous Alchi Choskhor, the religious enclave was
commissioned in the 11th century by Kaldan Sherab and Tsultrim Od. The
murals so remarkably preserved at Alchi are very different from the Tibetan
influence. Besides, two main temples the Alchi Du- khang and the Sumtek, are
four smaller structure.The 12th century Lotwasa Lha-khang has a sclupture
and a painting of Rinchen Tsangpo. The central image is of Buddha with
Bhumispar-shamudra on one of its side.
How to Reach
By Air -
Indian Airlines and Jet Airways operates
regular flights to Leh Airport from Delhi, Chandigarh and Jammu.
By Rail -
The nearest Rail Head is Jammu 620 Kms from
Leh. Jammu is connected to all parts of India through express trains.
By Road -
Ladakh is connected to Delhi by two routes -
via Srinagar-Zoji La Pass, and via Manali-Rohtang Pass. Regular bus service
operates on the routes. Cabs can also be hired from both Srinagar and Manali