Duration : 05 Nights/ 06 Days
Trip Highlights :Arrive Leh/ Stok and Leh/ Shey, Thiksey and Hemis/ Raft Trip/ Spitok and Phyang/ Leh/Delhi
Price : On Request
Early morning departure from Delhi on the spectacular flight to Leh. You are met at the airport and transferred to the Ladakh Sarai. Rest of the day at leisure to acclimatize to the high altitude and rarefied air. overnight stay in Leh.
After breakfast visit Stok palace. The palace houses a fine private museum, which is open to the public when the Rani (queen) of Stok is in residence. There is a superb collection of thangkhas, said to be the best in the world. Some of them have been worked in pure gold and paints made of crushed semi-precious stones. Also of interest are antique robes and royal jewelry, specially noted for its turquoise and red coral. The collection also includes artillery and animal skins. Stok Gompa is a subsidiary of Spitok and both were founded by the same lama, Nawang Lotus, during the reign of King Takpa Bumlde. Stok belongs to the yellow-hat sect of Buddhism and currently has about 20 lamas living there. The oldest parts of the gompa are some 550 years old though the Dukhang or main assembly hall is only about 50 years old.
In the afternoon visit Leh, a fascinating labyrinth of winding streets and quaint bazaars. The main street is open and airy, with rows of shops on either side. On either side of the market are seen a long line of Ladakhi women in traditional dress and colourful jewelry of coral and turquoise, seated behind enormous baskets, selling vegetables. The spectacular eight-storey Leh Palace looming above, overlooking the town, was built in the 16th century, about the same time as the Potala in Lhasa which it resembles.
The stroll through the town is followed by a visit to Sankar gompa, about 2 km from the market. It has a number of pure gold icons and richly painted walls, its pictures depicting different stories, including some from the Panchtantra. overnight stay in Leh.
After breakfast explore some of Ladakh's ancient gompas. Shey Palace was built in 1645 by Deldan Namgyal as a summer residence for the kings of Ladakh. It is the oldest palace in Ladakh and above the palace is an even older ruined fortress. In 1655, in memory of his father, this same king built the two-storey Shey gompa adjacent to the palace. Hundreds of chortens of all shapes and sizes stand below the palace and gompa. These chortens demonstrate the interest taken in Shey by the Ladakhi kings and queens who succeeded Shey's original builder.
Sacrificial offerings such as grain or jewels, holy signs and mantras are contained inside the figure. In front of the Buddha is a large bowl of wax with a central flame that burns for one year before being replaced. This flame represents divinity and purity and is present in front of all Buddha statues in Ladakh.
Thiksey Gompa is the most picturesquely situated monastery in Ladakh, perched high on a hill above the Indus. Its buildings are arranged at various levels, leading up to the private apartments of the incarnate lamas on the summit. From here one commands a magnificent view of the valley. The gompa possesses a rich and beautiful collection of hundreds of hand-written or painted prayer books. A new temple contains a 15-meter tall Buddha statue, constructed in 1970 to commemorate a visit to Thiksey by the Dalai Lama. The statue, made of clay and covered with gold paint, is the largest Buddha figure in Ladakh and took four years to construct. Inside, the statue is filled with the Kandshur and the Tandshur - volumes of Buddhist canonical texts. The statue was made entirely by local craftsmen and represents Maitreya, ("compassion" in Sanskrit) the Buddha of the Future. The prophecy made of the Future Buddha is that the world will be undergoing such chaos that He will teach compassion to the people.
Hemis Gompa is one of the most important in Ladakh, the largest and also the wealthiest. It was built in 1620 by the king-architect Singe Namgyal, a great patron of Buddhism. He filled Hemis with golden statues, stupas set with precious stones and thangkhas brought from many places, including Tibet. The lamas of Hemis were associated with the Ladakhi royal family and became quite prosperous, owning much land and supervising many smaller, scattered monasteries. Although only about a dozen lamas actually live here, Hemis has several hundred lamas attached to its subsidiary monasteries. The Rimpoche or spiritual head of Hemis is a reincarnation of the monastery's founder Stagtshang Raspa. The last Rimpoche was a reincarnation who, as a five-year old child, was being taught in Tibet when the Chinese invaded. There has been no communication with the Rimpoche since the 1960s. During the 1975 festival, Drugpa Rimpoche, a 12-year old youth, became the new Rimpoche as a new incarnation.
Hemis is the location for numerous religious festivals throughout the year, although the most important one is in summer (July 4 and 5 this year) when a huge thangkha, one of the largest in the world, is hung in the courtyard. It takes about 50 monks to carry the thangkha to its place and unfold it. The thangkha is made of fine heavy silk and embroidered with pictures of various gods as well as of the founder of Hemis. The dances in front of this thangkha represent the forces of good, symbolized by legendary heroes and saints, overcoming demons. Eventually, the violence of the demons is overcome by the superiority of virtue resting on wisdom and the demons are driven from the courtyard. Spectators watch these dances from the upper storey verandahs around the courtyard.
Hemis also has a thangkha, reputed to be the largest in the world, that is displayed once every eleven years. It was last shown in July 1992. The hands of the artist who painted this thangkha are preserved at Hemis as holy relics, though they are not shown to the public. overnight stay in Leh.
After breakfast drive up the Indus valley to begin a raft trip. The journey downstream is a fascinating experience as you pass between amazing rock formations and granite outcrops interspersed with open stretches of cultivated land. An occasional gompa dots the landscape with the ever present mountains, stark and awe inspiring, looming above. Around midday stop for a picnic lunch on one of the many sandy beaches. Back on the river continue downstream, passing an occasional settlement until your destination, where you will be picked up and driven back to the Ladakh Sarai in the early evening glow of the setting sun. Dinner and overnight in Leh.
After breakfast visit Spitok Gompa. It built about 550 years ago by Gyalpo Bumlde, although one temple, dedicated to Mahakala was built about 900 years ago. Spitok gompa contains both old temples and those built in the 1970s. Ancient thangkas are preserved here, some having been taken from the Potala Palace and Lhasa after the Chinese invaded. The name Spitok is probably derived from the Central Tibetan language and means "Effective as an Example", referring to the fact that this was the Tibetans' first monastery in Ladakh. The head lama of Spitok is the head Lama for Ladakh and represents Ladakh as a member of Parliament, spending much of his time in Delhi.
About 125 yellow-hat sect lamas are considered Spitok lamas, but at least half of them live and pray at Spitok's dependent monasteries at Sankar, Stok and Sabu. All the lamas gather together for a major festival.
Continue on to Phyang Gompa. It is also known in Ladakhi as the Gouon Gompa, meaning "blue peak", for it is beautifully situated on a hilltop above the small village of Chhiwang, about 22 km west of Leh. The monastery was built by King Lkra-Shis-Namgyal, founder of the Namgyal dynasty, in 1500 after defeating the last of the Lha-Chen kings. He ruled from 1500 to 1532 and during his reign, filled the monastery with beautiful statues, thangkhas and copies of the Khandshur (the translated word of the Buddha) and the Thandshur (the 225-volume commentary on the Khandshur, compiled by the religious teacher Du-ston, 1290 to 1364 AD). These extremely valuable texts are still at Phyang gompa. Phyang is a monastery of the red-hat sect of Buddhism with over 100 lamas. The head lama studied Buddhist philosophy at a university near Lhasa for eight years and had much of the gompa renovated in 1975. The walls of the Dukhang are decorated with murals of Vajradhara (a Buddha manifestation), the Five Buddhas (Vairocana and the Supreme Buddhas of the Four Directions) and small paintings of the Thousand Buddhas in the background. Hanging on the columns on the right side of the Dukhang is an enormous rolled-up thangkha. This thangkha, embroidered with depiction of all the guardian divinities, is unfurled during the Phyang festival, usually in August, and is four stories high when completely unrolled. Return to LEH for dinner and overnight stay.
Transfer to the airport for the return flight to Delhi.