Leh Ladakh, India
Where heaven Meets Earth
Approaching Leh via the sloping seep of dust and pebbles, one can’t help but step out of the car and look at the surroundings in awe. The azure blue skies, the snowcapped mountains from an ethereal experience. And we’re only on our way.
Rewinding to a few weeks before setting on our quest to see what many only can imagine, many meters below from where we were standing now, we sat on couches with computer screens, trying to paint a picture of paradise. It was safe to say that we were trying to sketch a Shangri-La – a fictitious place described in the famous book penned by James Hilton – Lost Horizon. A place which had adjectives like mystical and harmonious, Shangri-La sat enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains But how does one paint a definite picture of that which is unseen, unknown and unexplored.
Seeing is believing, after all. And that’s what set our ball rolling – All the way to Ladakh.
Standing at the height of 3505 meters above the great seas, a stream of cold air hits our uncovered faces, welcoming us to this cold desert on the earth epitomized by the abstract sculptures forming out of rocky dunes shaded in tones and tints of blue and ochre. Welcome to Leh and Ladakh.
Back in the ages, the region of Ladakh once formed a part of the erstwhile Kingdom of Ladakh and for about 900 years from the middle of the 10th century, it existed as an independent kingdom. After 1531, it was periodically attacked by the Muslims from Kashmir until it was finally annexed into Kashmir in the middle of the 19th century.
While the Mons are believed to have carried north Indian Buddhism to these highland valleys, the Darads and Baltis of the lower Indus Valley are credited with the introduction of farming and the Tibetans with the tradition of herding.
Leh, the capital of Ladakh is situated towards the eastern parts of Jammu and Kashmirs and is watered by the Zanskar River, which flows into the Indus River just below. This Ladakhi capital sprawls from the foot of a ruined Tibeton style palace – a maze of mud-brick and concrete flanked on one side by a cream-
colored desert and on the other by a swathe of lush irrigated farmland.
With endless number of visual treats to offer, Leh has been the center of the Tibeto-Buddhist Culture for ages. It colorful gompas have attracted the devout Buddhists from all over the globe. And did we forget to mention that Leh is famous for some of the best hikes in the country?
After traveling on four wheels, we got down to our two feet to continue experiencing the inexperienced. Leh has more of a tranquil persona which makes it a much more pleasant place to unwind after a long drive. We then started ambling to the various attractions of the town which included the former Palace and the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa which is perched amid strings of prayer flags above the narrow dusty streets of the Old Quarter.
Among the string of picturesque village and Gompas which we reache by bus are Shey, the site of a derelict 17th century palace and the Spectacular Tikse Gompa. But we realized that until one has attuned himself to the altitude the only sight that one would probably feel fascinated by will be from a guesthouse roof terrace or garden, from where the snowy summits of the majestic Stock-Kangri massif (6,120m), magnified in the crystal clear Ladakhi sunshine, look so close that one feels at all one has to do is extend their hands and one can touch it. Some feeling cannot be expounded – because some feelings are best felt and this sight is just one of those experiences.
Beyond the old frontiers lies the land of wilderness with its unaltered character and overwhelming natural beauty beckoning the more intense and adventurous of travelers.
Ladakh is simply alluring and awe-inspiring. It shapes up a perfect tourists’ abode thanks to its landscape, sky, shooting stars, silence, wizened faces, rosy cheeks, dragon and Zen – all making it an exhilarating experience for any soul with adventure in his blood as hidden behind this harsh and forbidding façade is an ancient civilization, captivating people, an experience to be felt and a story to be told.
While some come here for adventure and some for the landscape, for me its some ginger, lime and honey and the state of Zen.
(*Some pictures are taken from public website)