LEH - It is a cold desert lying at an altitude on 3500 mts in the rain shadow of the Great Himalayas and other smaller ranges. Little rain and snow reaches this dry area, where natural forces have created a fantastic landscape. Surrounded by rugged mountains this land is completely different from the green landscape of many parts of the Himalayas. Bounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karokaram, it is a land which has no match.
Leh was once the central meeting-point for trade caravans from Central Asia and the plains of India. Religious ceremonies and monastic festivals are regular features of the Ladakhi landscape. It is one of the only few places where one can experience Tibetan Buddhism being practiced in its original form. The town is still dominated by the now ruined Leh Palace, former mansion of the royal family of Ladakh, built in the same style and about the same time as the Potala Palace.
Hemis is one of the largest and richest gompas of Ladakh.The two-day festival of monastic dance in June-July has raised the reputation of Hemis particularly high. The festival is dedicated to Guru Padmasambhava, popularly known as second Buddha and responsible for spreading Buddhism in the Tibetan world.
Leh Palace is one of the most captivating architectural ruins that attract the attention of the tourists almost immediately with its majestic setting at the edge of the Namgyal hill and overlooking the town. Built in the 17th century, it was built as the residential palace for the King Singge Namgyal. Much smaller but resembling the Potala in Lhasa, Leh Palace is now in ruins. It has nine storeys and has been deserted since the royal family shifted to the Stok Palace in 1830s. nine storeys, but it is now dilapidated and deserted. It was the home of the royal family until they were exiled to Stok in the 1830s. The Victory Tower set above the palace was built to commemorate the victory of brave Ladakhi soldiers over the invading armies of Balti Kashmiris in the early 16th century. Today, Leh Palace serves as an office for the Indian Government's archaeological conservation organization.
The monastery Namgyal Tsemo Gompa is placed in the backdrop of Leh palace. King Tashi Namgyal, one of the Namgyal rulers constructed this Gompa in 1430. The Gompa is placed in a steep hill overseeing the whole city. An amazing statue in gold of the Maitreya Buddha as high as three stories together with many idols and Buddhist scriptures are attractive to visitors.
It also enshrines nearly 10 feet high of statues of Manjushri and Avaloketesvara. The splendid view from the top is worth viewing and alone is well worth for a tourist. An ancient fort, which is in ruins at present, is an attraction nearby.
Phyang, Located 22 Kms from Leh. The monastery is remarkably built on the hilltop, similar to the Likir monastery. This monastery belongs to the Degungpa order. It was the first monastery, which introduced the Degungpa teaching of 'Skyob Jigsten Gonbo' in Ladakh that was founded by Chosje Danma Kunga, during the reign of King Jamyang Namgyal in the 16th Century A.D. It has about 50 monks in residence. Phyang also has a festival called 'Phyang Tseruk' on the 2nd & 3rd of the 6th month of Tibetan Calenda
There is no road to Rizong Gompa hence one has to walk to the monastery which is deep into the mountains. Rizong Gompa is known as the paradise for Meditation. Guru Padma Sambhava is believed to editated here for years. One can still find the small caves where Lamas used to meditate for years cutting themselves from the rest of the world except for a one feet square outlet window from where they accept the one time meal of the day.
Located at a distance of approximately 3 km from the town of Leh, the Sankar Gompa of Ladakh is a subsidiary of the Spituk Gompa. Belonging to Gelukpa Sect, it is also the official residence of The Kushok Bakul, Ladakh's head of this sect. Ladakh Sankar Gompa has specific timings for the public, since, out of the 25 monks of the yellow-hat sect attached to it, a few reside here permanently. The entrance of the Dukhang is adorned with the paintings of the Guardian of the Four Directions, on either sides of the door.
Shanti Stupa of Ladakh is located on the hilltop at Changspa. It can be reached quite easily from the Fort Road. The Stupa was constructed by a Japanese Buddhist organization, known as 'The Japanese for World Peace'. The aim behind the construction of the stupa was to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism and to promote World Peace. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama inaugurated the Shanti Stupa in the year 1985. A magnificent white-domed structure, the Shanti Stupa of Leh Ladakh offers spectacular views of the sunrise and sunset. The stupa looks best at night, when it is beautifully illuminated with glittering lights. A large number of tourists come to Ladakh every year to visit this amazing stupa.
Shey the ancient capital of Ladakh. The monastery here has a huge gold-gilded statue of Buddha Sakyamuni with a large silver lamp burning in front of the statue.
Spituk Monastery, established in the 11th century, was named by a scholarly translator Rinchen Zangpo as Spituk. It is located on the mount of a hill in Leh on the Shore of Indus River. Spituk Monastery is famous for its wide and varied collections of ancient masks, icons, antique arms and numerous Thangkas. The Buddhist Monastery is attracted by many tourists during Spituk Gustor, the annual festival which is celebrated in grandeur.
Stok Palace Museum, which is about 12 kms from Leh across Indus River. It houses some old statues and other equipment. Matho is about 6 kms from Stok and houses some incredible statues and paintings.
Thiksey Gompa an impressive complex rising tier upon tier on a hill above the village. The monastery has a beautiful 30 m high gold-plated statue of Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha of the future.