Spituk Monastery Ladakh : After a good experience at the Nyamgal Tsemo monastery, I decided to visit the Spituk Monastery. It is a Tibetan monastery with Kali as the presiding deity. This amazing architecture at the height of about 10 feet was really beautiful .The legends connected to the monastery are quite intriguing.
After visiting the Sankar Monastery, we could see that the sun was already down. So we decided to stop for the day and returned to our hotel where all of us fell asleep pretty early. We had some more places to cover the next day and we didn’t want to be late for that. Accordingly, we got up early in the morning and after getting ready quickly, left for our next destination which was the Nubra Valley in Ladakh.
The Valley is a trimmed one located on the north eastern part of Ladakh. It is like a cold desert located at a height and hardly receives any kind of precipitation. The Shyok River, a tributary of Indus, runs close to the Nubra Valley. You can find some scant vegetation on the banks of the river.
We learnt that the valley is extremely fertile and can be irrigated for producing different types of fruits, mustard, nuts, peas, barley and wheat. We could see that the locals in this part of the world were followers of Buddhism; they extremely friendly and peace loved people. On the northern part of the valley, there was the Siachen Glacier. We also came to know that we were very close to very important spots like the Karakoram Pass, Sasser Pass and most importantly the LOC between India and Pakistan.
There were several villages located in the Nubra Valley in the Siachen River. These included Turtuk, Panamik, Tirith, Sumur and Kyagar, also known as Tiger. We could spot another monastery known as Samstanling between Sumur and Kyagar villages. We also visited the hot springs for which Panamik is extremely famous.
Then we went to the Ensa Gompa which is an isolated place near Panamik. There was also Diskit Monastery at Diskit which is the main village of the valley. We learnt that there was the Chamba Gompa in another site called Hundar. We also walked across the sand dunes between Diskit and Hundar where we could spot some Bactrian camels grazing. We also visited Baigdandu and touched the goats which are the main sources behind the world renowned Pashmina Shawls.
Hotel Lasermo Leh : If you want to know the true traditions and culture of Ladakh in your stay I would definitely recommend hotel Lasermo Leh. The architecture and furnishing is exquisitely local. You can get the feel of the mountain life and have a gratifying service. The restaurant is exceptional. Staying here was a decision I am happy about. It did make my journey even more rewarding.
There is no doubt about the fact that Leh is abound with a number of Buddhist monasteries and stupas which are extremely serene and peaceful and located at some picturesque sites. We were already done with two such structures and were on our way to the third one. This time, it was the Sankar Monastery Leh. The availability of the private car enabled us to cover all the distances without any kind of hassle. On our way, we captured some mind boggling pictures which can make anybody go crazy for Leh and its surroundings.
It acts as the residence for Spituk’s Abbot, the Venerable Kushok Bakula who holds the position of Ladakh’s senior incarnate lama thanks to the association of personal authority and ancient lineage. The Sankar Monastery is the daughter version of another monastery known as Spituk.
We could see that the monastery was very big and made up of a number of buildings located amidst dense green trees situated at a height over the actual town. The buildings were relatively new and built in an attractive manner. We were inside the lee of Khardung La which is a pass with a length of 5,359m and located at the back of Leh connecting up to Nubra and Shyok valleys.
We were extremely overjoyed with the peace and tranquillity of the place as we could hardly have that experience on the busy roads of the cities. The monastery was extremely neat and clean and served as home to around 20 monks. But at the time of our visit, we could spot only 15 monks because the remaining of them was not permanent. Since the sun was about to set, the lights were on and we were simply dumb struck by its beauty in the dark.
We also climbed the steps to reach the two doors which further continued up to the assembly hall or dukang, as it is locally known. There were some green drums positioned at the doors’ right side and served as the site for the Gyeskos. The rich paint on the entry door and the wall made it look extremely attractive. We also saw the figure of Avalokitesvara having 1000 heads and 1000 arms equipped with weapons.
From the serene and peaceful monastery located in the backdrop of breathtaking blue coloured mountains, we went to another hilltop located in Ladakh where we visited the Shanti Stupa Ladakh. Since we had a private cab, it didn’t take much time or effort to reach the place. We were simply mesmerized by the panoramic scene of the landscape in the surroundings. In addition to the religious significance of the Stupa, the panoramic view plays an important role in attracting tourists throughout the year.
The Stupa belongs to the Buddhists and was constructed to promoted prosperity and peace in the world. It stands tall as a symbol of existence of Buddhism for more than 2,500 years. Some people believe it to be a symbol of bond between the people of Ladakh and Japan. We knew that there were relics of Buddha at the base of the Stupa.
The history associated with the stupa is said to be an exciting one. It was jointly built by Buddhists from Ladakh and Japan. Initially, the motive of building the stupa was Nichidatsu Fuji’s aim to construct temples and peace Pagodas in different corners of the world. With these structures, he wanted to restore the golden days of Buddhism in India.
Though the construction of the stupa started way back in 1914, it was only twenty two years ago that Kushok Bakula, a Ladakh’s lama and Bhikshu Gyomo Nakamura, a Buddhist from Japan, resumed the original construction. It is believed that Buddhists from Ladakh and Japan volunteered as labourers to construct the Stupa. The then PM of India, Mrs Indira Gandhi even sanctioned a road leading to the Shanti Stupa in 1984. It was only in 1991 that the Stupa was finally completed and inaugurated by Tenzin Gyatso, the present Dalai Lama.
We could see that there were two level structures inside the Stupa. There was a Buddha’s image made of Gold sitting on a platform in the centre of the first level. It is said to represent the Dharmachakra or Dharma’s turning wheel. The second level boasts of reliefs which show Buddha’s birth, Buddha’s death or Mahanirvana and Buddha’s win over the devils while meditating. We could spot a number of small sized meditating reliefs of Buddha on both the levels.
Namgyal Tsemo Monastery Leh : Nyamgal Tsemo monastery is a beautiful monastery with a peaceful ambience. The mountains in Ladakh give you such a serene and peaceful environment and definitely monastery adds on to the beauty. This monastery at the mountaintop is a must visit destination. The three storey high gold statue of Buddha was beyond words. I left the place with a strange tranquility within me.
After having a tight sleep on the warm and comfortable beds, we got up quite early the next day. We had to start the journey early as we had a lot of places to cover. We had our breakfast at the hotel and jumped inside the cab that we had booked to take us to all the pre-decided locations.
We started with the Phyang Monastery since we had to cover some distance before we could reach it. It is located at a distance of 17km on the western part of Leh and is the only second monastery which belongs to Tibetan Buddhists’ Dri-gung-pa sect. Since we were travelling in the month of May when there was hardly any snowfall, all the entry points were open. We had to pay a nominal entry fee of Rs 20 per head.
We came to know that the term Phyang has been obtained from Gang Ngonpo which in turn refers to the blue mountain which could be spotted at the backside of the monastery. Legends say that it was Denma Kunga Drakpa who had laid the monastery’s foundation. It is believed that he was meditating inside a tent at this place when he spotted protectress Achi riding her beautiful blue horse. It was this dream which drove him to build the monastery on the hill.
Some people even sat that Denma Kunga Drakpa got a number of offers from the then Dharmraja Jamyang Namgyal regarding monastic properties. We were extremely mesmerized with the collections of age old wall paintings, murals of Mahakala and ancient thangkas. We learnt that the monastery serves as home to around 100 monks and is equipped with a school that offers modern education along with training related to Buddhism.
We also visited the museum inside the monastery which is equipped with Mongolian, Tibetian and Chinese weapons and firearms, scriptures, Kashmiri bronze statues and idols which are said to be more than 900 years old. A monk also told us the festival celebrated at the Phyang monastery attracts different types of tourists who come to enjoy mask dance, music and cham dance.
Leh Palace : Leh palace overlooks the whole town of Leh. It is a small palace with nine storeys inspired from a palace in Tibet. The palace is very quiet and the view from the top is splendid. The palace has many rare artifacts and a rich collection of royal jewels. It makes you wonder, to see the palace so in tune with the mountains.
Travelling is the only thing that can add vigour and enthusiasm in my otherwise pretty boring life. In my younger days, I have spent a lot of time in travelling to different parts of the world, first with my family and then with my friends. I am a big foodie and never miss out an opportunity to try out the different types of cuisines available in different corners of the country.
I haven’t had the opportunity to make any such tour for the past few years thanks to the busy schedule at my workplace. But due to the long weekend that I had got a few days back, I was able to plan a wonderful trip to boost my spirit. I could also convince some of my close colleagues who also wanted to get away from the same old schedule.
After a lot of conversation over the destination for the trip, we decided to go to Leh Ladakh. I used the travel app stored in my smartphone to do the booking for the mode of transport. It had enabled me to plan tours before and I was sure that it won’t let me down this time as well. Since there was no mode of transport to take us directly from Kanpur to Jammu and Kashmir, we had to do a break journey. First, we had to travel to Delhi from Kanpur Central and then board a flight from Air India Airlines to reach Leh.
The train was to depart from Kanpur at 12.25 in the afternoon and accordingly we reached the station one hour earlier. We did some shopping inside the station so that we didn’t face any problems inside the train. We bought some food items and some books and magazines since we needed to spend 10 hours in the train before reaching the country’s capital.
We were so engrossed in the happiness of our trip that we hardly realized when we had reached Delhi. From there, we went straight to the Indira Gandhi International Airport. We had to spend the night there since our flight was to depart at 6.13 am. Thanks to the travel app and the Air India Airlines flight that we landed at Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee without any problem.
One afternoon, after randomly gorging on street food in Odisha, I landed up at a local restaurant. It seemed like any other eatery with people snacking on their favourite stuffs. On a table nearby, I saw a couple taking delight in one of the regional-based fares called Lauki Kofta Curry. Of course, it looked attractive and I too decided to place an order for it.
With rice, the dish tasted heavenly. As a complete foodie and a passionate cook myself, it took me no time to figure out its ingredients.
I returned to my hotel and did a bit research online regarding Lauki Kofta Curry method of cooking. It was pretty simple and hassle-free. Let us have a look at how to make gourmet Lauki Kofta Curry at home.
Things you will need for Kofta-
- 1 medium-sized bottle gourd, peeled and shredded
- 4-5 garlic flakes chopped
- 2 green chillies chopped
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- ½ tablespoon turmeric powder
- ½ cup Besan
- ¼ cup water
- oil for frying
- salt to taste
Ingredients for gravy-
- 2 tomatoes pureed
- 2 onions, 4-5 garlic flakes, 1-inch ginger, 2 green chillies grounded in a paste
- ¼ tablespoon turmeric powder
- ½ tablespoon roasted cumin powder
- 1 tablespoon garam masala powder
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- cilantro leaves, chopped
- salt to taste
Method for Kofta-
- Heat little oil in a pan; add green chilli, garlic, and sauté for a minute.
- Add shredded bottle gourd, turmeric powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder, and salt, and mix well.
- Keep stirring the mixture until the water evaporates. Off the flame and let the stuffing cool down.
- In another bowl, take Besan, salt and water to form a batter.
- Now divide the stuffing into small balls of equal size.
- Dip each bowl into the Besan batter and deep-fry it in hot oil.
- Take them out one by one once the Kofta turn golden brown.
Method for Gravy-
- Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds and sauté.
- Add the onion-ginger-chilli paste and mix well.
- Let it cook until the mixture separates from the oil.
- Add tomato puree, turmeric powder, garam masala, and salt to taste.
- Add Kofta one by one to this gravy and let it all cook for 5-10 minutes.
Finally, take the preparation off the flame. Serve in a serving bowl/dish and garnish with cilantro leaves.