Mysterious Buddhist Monasteries and the Lamas (Monks) in Ladakh

The Buddhist Monasteries of Ladakh is predominantly different in shape-size-culture-custom from the other Buddhist study centres of the world. Mostly these monasteries are  isolated from the world on the top of the hill in a beautiful serene place amidst Mother Nature. One has to climb up the hill a little to get into these monasteries, made of bricks, stones and woods. The main house for prayer and the resting place for the Lamas (Monks) – mostly the monasteries are constructed along these lines.  The inner apartments of the monasteries are in some way  mystery-clad. The main entrances of the monasteries are generally low in height so that one has to bow down his head before the almighty while entering.

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Mostly these monasteries are isolated from the world on the top of the hill

The main entrances of the monasteries are generally low in height so that one has to bow down his head before the almighty while entering.

Once you enter the premises you are struck with the mysterious environment in the semi darkness. Nothing is apparently visible as it should be. On top of this, there has been a strong smell of resin, paraffin or something  of that sort. Once your eyes get accustomed with the thin ray of light trespassing  from the skylight, you would see all the walls are covered by the strange and vibrant images of god and goddess. Most of these images are made of mural. In the closet made of semi transparent glasses,  there exist candle-dolls, crafted by Lamas, utensils, bells, old and faded manuscripts worn to shreds. In the front, on a tall platform Gyani Buddha (Maitraya) conspicuously exists. In Ladakhi language the “Maitrayea” image of lord Buddha is called Chamba. Most of the times, chanting of mantras by the Lamas or the beats of deep-toned musical instruments are heard from the interior apartments of the monasteries. Interior apartments are called Dokhang.

Once you enter the premises you are struck with the mysterious environment in the semi darkness.

These are basically prayer halls of a monastery. Generally, in all the monasteries there exist another room adjacent to Dokhang – In this room they usually keep the idols of death’s god and strange masks that will surely make one terrified. At the time of mask- festival, the Lamas wear these staff while performing mask-dance. Outside  there are Chortens in rows (temple shaped construction made of brick) and series of prayer wheels.  Lamas from eight to eighty with their simple and innocent faces, always roam around in various corners of the monasteries.

If you are interested and want to know more please write your comments in the reply section.

Lamas from eight to eighty with their simple and innocent faces, always roam around in various corners of the monasteries.

Lamas from eight to eighty with their simple and innocent faces, always roam around in various corners of the monasteries.

kid Lamas are playing cricket

kid Lamas are playing cricket

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Human beings of Ladakh & culture of Ladakhis – a fascinating tale.

Ladakhis believe in superstitions and ghosts.

Ladakhis believe in superstitions and ghosts.

Ladakhis believe in superstitions and ghosts. It is said that in the ancient ages, entire Ladakh was under deep water. Approximately in 1100 BC, Pundit Mahasiddhacharya Naropa from Kashmir made this inaccessible  land habitable after his long religious austerity. By virtue of his prayer, it was said, the water level came down gradually and the mountain ranges  started raising their heads. This land subsequently became the grooming field of two tribal groups – Dard  and Tibetans.  In 2014, population of Ladakh was just more than 2.5 lacs, out of which many old tribal groups are seen.

The people of Ladakh mainly speaks Ladakhi - this language was actually originated from Tibet.

The people of Ladakh mainly speaks Ladakhi – this language was actually originated from Tibet.

Undoubtedly, Ladakh is significantly vast region but it has only two Indian Districts – Leh and Kargil. Leh is a Buddhist infested land while in Kargil, Muslims of Sia community are majorly seen.  There live a few Christian families as well. The Christianity came to Ladakh along with the Moravian Missionaries.   The people of Ladakh mainly speaks Ladakhi – this language was actually originated from Tibet.

They are very simple in nature, the filth of modern did not leave any impression on the minds of these round faced, flattened nose innocent people.

The people of Ladakh is very hard working like any other individuals  of hilly areas. They are very simple in nature, the filth of modern did not leave any impression on the minds of these round faced, flattened nose innocent people. It goes without saying that these smiling faced people have more similarities with Tibetans rather than Indians or the other races of Middle East.

Culture

History says, once upon a time Ladakh was the capital of Tibet . This capital was established by the last emperor of Tibet- Langdarma. In the first century, Ladakh was included in the empire of Kushan. Baltistan and Aksai Chin were also included in Ladakh. The then Baltistan is now under Pakistan and Aksai Chin is a part of China today.

Ladakhis take pride in calling Ladakh as "Little Tibet".

Tibet had influenced Ladakh to a great extent.

Ladakh, being the crown-holder of diverse commercial activities throughout many centuries, had adopted the culture of various countries of the Middle East. Out of those nations, undoubtedly Tibet had  influenced Ladakh to a great extent. The Tibetan culture got mixed with various local rituals, customs of other countries. Buddhism came to Ladakh from Kashmir, Kashmir was a Buddhist infested region at that point in time. As a matter of fact, Buddhism was spread to Tibet in the second century from Kashmir via Ladakh. Right from this era, Ladakh was considered to be one of the most important centres to cultivate Buddhism. When the adjacent places of Ladakh like Kargil, Baltistan, Afghanistan etc. were gradually  turning towards the Islamic religion, only Tibet remained as the most faithful friend of  Ladakh, in terms of exchange of Buddhist culture. Today also the influence of Tibetan culture is predominantly evident in the civil constructions – be it a dwelling house or Buddhist Monastery. One would also find impressions of Tibetan tune in Ladakhi music, even in chanting of musical Mantra by the Lamas(Buddhist monks). That is the reason why Ladakhis take pride in calling Ladakh as “Little Tibet”.

Ladakhis take pride in calling Ladakh as "Little Tibet".

Ladakhis take pride in calling Ladakh as “Little Tibet”.

Nature of Ladakh : a place of unique diversity

Almighty shines at the pinnacle of universe, likewise Ladakh has precisely secured the topmost position on the Indian Map, touching the peripheries of three foreign countries.

The diversified beauty of Ladakh is inexplicable.

Out of these neighbours, Tibet, situated at the eastern part of Ladakh, cannot be termed as “another foreign country” to India today, no matter what history says!  Although  Tibet was a separate foreign country, after 1976 it became a part of  republic of China, as an autonomous state. The border of political China, spreading from the northern side of Ladakh has touched Tibet towards the East. In the West, it is Baltistan, a part of Pakistan-ruled Kashmir. In the North and South, Ladakh is covered by two wrappers made of two most famous and large mountain ranges — the Himalayas and the Karakoram. The Karakoram spreads towards the North and in South, the great Himalaya stretches its arm from far-away Bhutan, as if hugging Ladakh with warm affection.

Map not to scale: downloaded from internet

The diversified beauty of Ladakh is inexplicable. Dazzling  snow capped mountain ranges in one hand and on the other hand there remains spectacular abstract sculptures on the bare mountain surface. You would find the cold desert in seclusion with silver sand dunes while lush greeneries are also waiting for you at some other parts of the land.

Blue sky and white clouds are Ladakh's monopolistic ownership

Blue sky and white clouds are Ladakh’s monopolistic ownership

Blue sky and white clouds are Ladakh’s monopolistic ownership, nobody dares to take a share of its possession. Amidst the tree-less deserted terrain, there have been mountain ranges with a thousand shades of black and brown,  mingled with more superior orange, violet, dark blue, blackish green and even with pink mountains peaks! Just extravagance of colours. One would surely feel that an engrossed artist is in the course of experimenting with vibrant colours and brushes on the vast canvas of nature. Dark blue sky and white clouds become the frame of this canvas.

‘La’ means mountain pass, ‘Dakh’ denotes country… in other words, Ladakh is a country of mountain passes. Ladakh does not have any significant peaks in its possession, nevertheless, it is covered by numerous mountain passes. One of these passes Khardungla (18380 Ft) has snatched the crown of highest motorable pass of the world.

Just extravagance of colours

In the subsequent chapters I shall describe as to how I have explored this land of pristine beauty in my own way!

Why I have started my blog writing with Ladakh… “Land of Broken Moon” in India

Perhaps I was 12 or 13 at that time. I still distinctly remember that I used to keep on looking at a six-paged calendar hung at our study room. I was a black and white calendar, containing six images. In those pictures there were Sky, clouds, mountain, people, birds and many more different objects, I used to get lost almost instantly in an unknown terrain by following the path of childhood fantasy and imagination. Closing my eyes, I used to see so many more bits and pieces of this mysterious land which was practically impossible to be accommodated in a such a short space of the calendar. I was told  that the name of this mystifying land is “Ladakh” –  at the extreme North-end of Indian map.

The layers of mountain around Leh

After some time that calendar was replaced by a new one in the new year, god only knows if that was of flower, bird or anything else! My endeavour will surely go in vain if I try to recollect those now. However, this is not at all important for me to remember now, not even the black & white calendar… lost forever. But, it is imperative that the images of the lost calendar had successfully planted a seed in my developing mind – “Ladakh”

After this episode, wherever I saw any picture of Ladakh, would get instantly engrossed, wherever came across any write up on Ladakh, started reading vehemently, many a times intrude into any discussion on Ladakh, almost as unwonted. From that time, I feel in love with Ladakh, silently.

After a long time, I got the opportunity to see Ladakh by myself… not through the printed words or images. After I observed this land minutely ,instead of the childhood fantasy,  the first thing came to my mind  was – “wonder”. Ladakh is wonderful by its nature, by history & philosophy, by custom & culture, by religion & human-relation, Ladakh is wonderful by all means! I don’t really know if any other place exist in India that is as versatile and wonderful as Ladakh!

A Ladakhi Lady with traditional ornaments.

In the meantime I had taken up photography as biggest passion in my life and discovered Ladakh to be an amazing place for expressing myself through the images I capture. Interest on Ladakh per se from my childhood in one hand (although through pictures) and Ladakh being a paradise for photographers of my genre …. this happened to be the most advantageous coincidence, if I may say so!

Double-humped camels at Nubra Valley… the cold desert at Ladakh.

I shall try and portray the culture, philosophy nature of various places of Ladakh in my subsequent posts.