Spiti is more of a mystery to resolve and an addiction to combat. The pictures or the readings can never say enough about the charm it accounts for. But the more you get in to explore, the more it traps you in its labyrinth of surprises and facts.
Visiting Spiti was no less than a dream for me, have stayed on my bucket list from always and finally the time came. Before going to Kaza, I stayed in the Tabo village and so I visited the thousand year old and the largest, Tabo Monastery.
The Tabo Monastery is one of the most pious, biggest and oldest surviving Buddhist establishment in the Trans-Himalayas. It was developed as an advanced center for learning and till date it has managed to preserve the Buddhist legacy with the same steadfastness. Flanked on either side by hills, surrounded by high boundary walls made of mud bricks, the monastery stands at a secluded, barren ground in the bottom of the valley.I was welcomed at the monastery by the Buddhist chantings. Early morning, cold breeze and bliss. I headed toward the assembly hall from where the sound was coming. After the prayer was over, a lama explained me the significance of these chantings and then guided on the details of the assembly hall, wall paintings, clay structure and other temples.
The monastery complex comprises of 9 temples, 23 chortens, a monk’s chamber and an extension that houses the nuns chamber. The monastery’s importance can be judged from the fact that its significance is second only to the Tholing Gompa in Tibet in the entire Himalayan region. Tabo is famous for its beautiful paintings and stucco sculptures which bear a striking resemblance with the paintings and sculpture in the Ajanta caves. The monastery also treasures some centuries old paintings which are not allowed to be photographed.
Above the monastery, there are a number of caves carved into the cliff face used by monks for meditation. It is believed to be used as abode for the Buddhist monks during the winters of the Himalayas. There was a big cave that was originally utilized as an assembly hall by the Buddhist monks. Most other caves were mainly used for the purpose of lodging and dwelling. Prayer flags outside these caves signifies that these caves are still used by monks for meditation.
I next went to a village of 5oo years old mummy which was a wonderful experience. After reaching Kaza, I checked-in to my hotel and rested for a while.
Tip: While the Monastery is always open, the temples and assembly hall of monastery opens at 5 AM in the morning and gets closed by 5 PM in the evening.
My journey till now had been full of adventure, fun and explorations. Whenever I closed my eyes, the flashbacks of the amazing moments made me feel all contented. It seemed like I have seen and experienced everything. But the journey I was undertaking in Leh Ladakh proved me wrong. One can never have enough of experiences and precious moments.
So did my travels to Leh and further, told me. I was getting ready to visit Pangong lake, the place so talked about. I started at 10:00AM and thought of visiting the Shey Palace, which was on my route, just 15 kms ahead. The Shey Palace is an ancient capital of Ladakh and also the ‘innovative ’school in the movie “3 idiots”. The place now is nothing more than the remains situated over a hillock. I felt nostalgic visiting there as the movie had took a hold of me. After spending almost half an hour, I continued. Another place on my route was Thiksey Monastery. Located on the top of the hill, the monastery is a 12-storey complex and houses the largest statue of Maitreya in Ladakh. I was unraveling some unique sights of a different culture and it felt good.
Driving further brought me to Chang la pass. Known as the second highest motorable road in the world, I actually felt the low oxygen levels due to a little headache I suffered of. I dint stay there much and proceeded further. In next 3.5 hours, I tasted the eternity by viewing the mesmerizing Pangong lake.
I have never in my life before that experienced the calm like that one. A wide span of blue brackish lake with the backdrop of snow covered mountains had literally left me with no words. And I continued staring the sight and absorbing it into my heart for like forever. Majority of the part of lake lies in China.
It was getting dark and I was tired of the whole day’s journey. I had already booked the camps there and checked in to take some rest.
Next morning was a beautiful one. I so wished and prayed for each morning to be like that one. The early morning sunrays over the lake reflected the pure charm of it. On my way back to Leh, I visited the Hemis Gompa, the largest monastic foundation of Drukpa Kagyu Order of Tibetan Buddhism. The cultural events are organized here from time to time.
The total journey took around 5 hours and I had a sound sleep that night as Leh had given me all.