Sight Seeing in Ladakh
Leh Palace - Set on a small hill, Leh Palace towers above the town. It once the thriving royal residence of the ruling Namgyals and is said to have served as the model for the Potala, its more illustrious cousin in Lhasa and one-time residence of the Dalai Lama. A millennium-old, seven-storeyed structure in mud and stone, it is mesmerizing to wander through the crumbling remnants of royalty and watch the brilliant Thangkas on its soot-stained walls.
Stok Palace - Located in a tiny village on the outskirts of Leh, this palace has been the Ladakhi royal family's residence for the last 150 years since the Dogra armies invaded the Leh Palace. One may have a chance encounter with the royals here too. It houses a museum, which is said to have the best collection of exquisite Thangka paintings in the whole of Ladakh. The other things housed here are crown jewels, dresses, coins, peraks encrusted with turquoise and lapis lazuli as well as religious objects.
The Gompa Run - Gompas or traditional Buddhist monasteries and chortens or the smaller, whitewashed stupas form the ever-present features of the stark expanse of Ladakh. The two popular Gompa routes are:
- The Leh-Manali Highway covering Shey, Thiksey and Hemis, and
- The Srinagar-Leh Highway covering Spituk, Basgo and Alchi. One may also cover Ridzong and Lamayuru on this route.
The captivating Leh Palace rises from the edge of a hill overlooking the town and at once looks like a reminiscent of Lhasa's Potala Palace. Though deserted, it has some definite mystical quality about it. The Palace was built in the middle of the 16th century by King Singe Namgyal and still belongs to the royal family that now lives in the Stok Palace. The nine-storeyed monument is now in ruins. The palace remains locked and may be opened at request by a monk.
The Palace has a museum with some tangkhas (painted or embroidered scrolls) and paintings on its display. The view from the monastery above the Leh Palace is quite impressive. It is known as Namgyal Tsemo Gompa (monastery). The red monastery has some frescos, Buddhist scriptures, idols and a massive statue of the Maitreya Buddha (future Buddha).
The striking Shanti Stupa is a recent structure. A Japanese who harbored the ambition of spreading Buddhism across the world, had it constructed in 1985 with aid from the Japanese Government. A motorable road and a steep flight of stairs connect the Stupa to the town, where one can relax and enjoy the panoramic view of the chain of mountains and the peaceful little village of Changspa with typical Ladakhi houses. The stream flowing near the village and the towering Namgyal Tsemo in the distance, are also visible from here.
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