Majestic Ladakh : Fotu La to Lamayuru, Alchi and Likir Monastery

Lamayuru Monastery and The Moonland!

Long ago when I saw a photo of ‘Moonland’ I was very much impressed and keen to see the place. But where it is? Though “Moonland’ does not have any Indian postal code or a milestone but it locates none other than in the mystical land of Ladakh, a village called Lamayuru! The moonlike landscape of ‘Lamayuru’ is popularly referred to and called by the traveler as ‘Moonland’!

Moonland at Lamayuru!

Moonland at Lamayuru!

Lies on the way from Kargil to Leh, the village Lamayuru comes after the highest pass on the Srinagar-Leh highway ‘Fotu La’. It was a short drive downwards from Fotu La for half an hour and we arrived at a view point of Lamayuru. The view point is constructed along the highway so that travelers may enjoy the splendid view of the Lamayuru Monastery which locates on a barren mountain top and was built in 10th century.

Lamayuru Monastery

Lamayuru Monastery

We reached the Monastery. Butter lamps, prayer wheels and colourful prayer flags all were extending to the atmosphere a spiritual touch.  The monastery, though so old, looked to me very well maintained. Neighboring to the monastery, on the mountain tops, were the houses of Lamas (monks). We were told that the monastery housed more than 400 monks in earlier times which now sized down to about hundreds.

Prayer Wheels

Prayer Wheels

Houses of Lama

Houses of Lama

Next to the monastery was awaiting the dreamy Moonland! Stunningly beautiful was the landscape! The soil there was strange and looked like lunarscape! I was standing in broad daylight imagining how this part of earth would look in the moonlight!

Entry to the Monastery

Entry to the Monastery

Inner Sanctum of Lamayuru Monastery

Inner Sanctum of Lamayuru Monastery

As I entered inside the monastery I saw in the middle of rear wall, the idol of ‘Shakyamuni Buddha’ which is surrounded by many small golden idols of Buddha. I saw many religious texts wrapped in red cloths and preserved in the wall racks. A relic was kept open on the table of head Lama. I went close only to find its scripts were unknown to me.  But, I had no doubt that it contained spiritual prayers and teachings.

Shakyamuni Buddha at Lamayuru Monastery

Shakyamuni Buddha at Lamayuru Monastery

Buddhist Relic

Buddhist Relic

Alchi Monastery

Next to come on our way to Leh was Alchi Monastery. Actually it was not exactly on the highway but about 5-6 km off the Srinagar-Leh highway. Alchi is 57 Km from Lamayurur. A road branches off to the right, crosses over the river Indus and reaches the small village ‘Alchi’.

Road to Alchi Monastery

Road to Alchi Monastery

Standing on the bank of river Indus, ‘Alchi’ Monastery is also a monastery of 10th century. It was famous for the mural paintings decorated on its wall. But we saw many of them were destroyed and barely in repairable condition. Photography inside the monastery was not allowed which was not a good news for me! However, photography around the temple is allowed and one is to satisfy with that!

Entry Door to Alchi Monastery

Entry Door to Alchi Monastery

Prayer Wheels at the Monastery

Prayer Wheels at the Monastery

There are many small temples but two of them are most significant. The main temple (Du-Khang) is the assembly hall and is the largest and oldest preserved structure of the complex. Another building (Sum-tsek) is a three story building surrounded by wooden pillars and is carved with the figures of animals. The middle arch of the temple depicts seated Buddha with deity ‘Tara’ in the right and ‘Bodhisattva’ to the left. It houses a tall statue of Maitreya Buddha.

Wood carving at Sum-tsek

Wood carving at Sum-tsek

Outside the monastery we saw mani stones nicely decorated with colourful flags. There are also many road side shops selling idols of Buddha, Buddhist deities and many souvenirs to take home. Small ‘Rampuris’ (knifes) were selling there at an exorbitant price of Rs.6000/-. With all of our curiosity, we availed its free of cost look and demonstration!

A shop near the Alchi Monastery

A shop near the Alchi Monastery

The Alchi Monastery is managed by monks from the Likir Gompa which was our next destination. Likir Monastery is only 19 km from Alchi and we covered it in half an hour drive.

Likir Gompa

Alongside the valley of river Indus, Likir Monastery is located on the top of a hill. Once we entered inside the gate we saw big red prayer wheels on each side of the entry gate.

Road to Likir Gompa

Road to Likir Gompa

Entry to Likir Gompa

Entry to Likir Gompa

We climbed up stairs to enter inside the courtyard and saw the assembly hall on the other side. Few stairs led us to the inner sanctum. An eleven headed statue of Avalokitesvara (the bodhisattva – Deity of compassion) with thousand arms is placed in the middle of rear wall.

Likir Monastery

Likir Monastery

Avalokitesvara

Avalokitesvara

The side walls are painted with images of Shakyamuni Buddha and thangkas are hanged downwards from the ceiling. We also saw a good collection of manuscripts in this monastery.

Thangkas

Thangkas

We went through the exit door and saw a tall gilded statue of Maitreya Buddha (Future Buddha) that was shining bright in the sun sitting on a roof.

75 feet tall Maitreya (Future) Buddha

75 feet tall Maitreya Buddha

Maitreya Buddha

Maitreya Buddha

The Route Map from Fotu La to Likir Gompa

The Route Map from Fotu La to Likir Gompa

We continued our journey towards Leh which locates at a distance of 64 Kms from Likir.

Places I Covered on the Srinagar-Leh Route: Sonamarg – (24 Km) ZojiLa – (39 Km) Drass – (60 Km) Kargil – (36 Km) Mulbek – (15 Km) NamkiLa – (36 Km) FotuLa – (15 Km) Lamayuru – (57 Km) Alchi – (19 Km) Likir – (25 Km) Sangam (Confluence of Zanskar and Indus River) – (8 Km) Magnetic Hill – (4 Km) Gurudwara Pathar Sahib – (21 Km) Spituk Monestry – (6 Km) Leh.

Date of my journey from Fotu La to Lirik : 13.07.2014

I will come back soon with stories on Basgo Palace and Gompa, Confluence of Zanskar and Indus River, Magnetic Hill, Gurudwara Pathar Sahib and Spituk Monastery in my coming post. Till then-

 JULLEY!

23 Comments

  • Santanu says:

    Dear Anupam,
    Oh dear, marvelous, splendid. What an article and lively pictures. Please keep it on.
    Regards
    Santanu

  • Uday Baxi says:

    Dear Anupam

    yes..this series was incomplete.. I was thinking to write to you on this.

    Anyway, in the meantime, we did enjoy to read about the Hornbill Festival and also about Muktinath.

    Coming back to this article, I must say that you have truly depicted the place with some nice shots. Your detours have really made this enjoyable.

    Thanks for sharing..

    Regards

    • Dear Uday,

      Yes there was a gap. I was always thinking of finishing the series. But could not. In between I travelled to Hornbill Festival at Nagaland, Kerala and Nepal. I think I need to take some break from travelling to finish my writings :-) Anyway, thank you very much for liking and appreciating the post.

      Regards

  • SilentSoul says:

    beautiful updates.. and colorful photos… five months gap is big and the continuation is broken..

    you should finish first log and then jump to another. :)

    Anupam hai

  • AJAY SHARMA says:

    Dear Anupam,
    Excellent post with awesome pics. But I agree wid SS, you messed the essence by discontinuing. Nevertheless, still its juicy enough to taste the taste. Keep going, looking forward a similar post on Kerala!!!

    Keep Travelling
    Ajay

    • Dear Ajay ji,

      Seriously I have realized my mistake for not continuing with the series. I will remember your suggestions and surely will continue with the Ladakh series first. I am blessed to have all of your love and support.

      Thank you for liking the post.
      Regards

  • Mohan Nair says:

    Anupam, you are truly blessed to experience your Ladakh journey. What a landscape, what a culture ! Truly magnificent. Would have loved to know your experiences of the food and interaction with the local populace. Thank you and continue to be blessed.

  • Archana Ravichander says:

    About an year after travel and the story is still so well narrated! Your posts are surely a class apart with excellent writing and great pictures! Kudos!

    The Maitreya Buddha statue looks really majestic. All the pictures are awe-inspiring and surely inspire us to go there. For many people who are tied down and cannot travel, I think your series will satisfy them with enough details and pictures to give them a wholesome virtual tour!

    Cant wait to read the next post :) Please get that out soon!!

    Best.

    • Dear Archana,

      Some travel notes, memories and photos helped me to write even after such a long gap. I will be more than happy if my Ladakh series comes to help of any future traveler.

      Thank you for appreciating the post and for the encouragment.

      regards

  • Naresh Sehgal says:

    Another marvelous post. Excellent writing and great pictures! Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    What pictures. The 2nd pic looks unreal, almost like of a fabled land, from Enid Blyton’s book. Thank you.

    A lot of Leh-bound folks, tell us about the tall passes and the marvellous views but only a few take the ‘road less traveled’ and present such vivid description of these monasteries. They look so clean, peaceful and inviting. Thank you again.

  • neora says:

    hallo,

    i like your posts
    ill be in ladakh in august for a month
    want to travel alone from the places with local buses (want to take my time in each place)
    do you thint its possible?
    thanks

    • Hello Neora,

      It may be possible depending upon your tour programme. Because some places does not have regular bus services and between some places bus runs at fixed departure time. You may enquire about it when you are in a particular place in Ladakh. There are so many places in Ladakh and without knowing your tour details I am unable to give you a comprehensive suggestion. However, all the major places have regular bus services though at fixed departure time.

      Thanks

  • Sudip Kar says:

    Dear Anupam,

    Lovely posts on Ladakh. I plan to visit Ladakh during end of May 2016. Request your view on Camp accommodation at Pangong Lake. How cold is it at night inside the camp and any breathing problem at pangong. The youngest member in my family is of 4 yrs.

    Forgot to mention…. Great Photography.

    • Dear Sudip,

      The road to Pangong Lake opens in mid May and during that time you may see some part of the lake in freezing condition. You will have to cross over world’s third highest pass Chang La which is covered by snow through out the year. So do expect to see more snow and tough road during May. O’ dear it will too cold in May. Yes, there is less oxygen. I will suggest you not fly to Leh. Go by road from Srinagar. You will be acclimatize well then. Stay two more days in Leh after reaching there. Then if your itinerary include Nubra Valley, go there first. Take the Pangon Lake in your last leg of Journey. It is a high altitude lake where you may experience little breathing issue if you rush to there. So before proceeding or choosing May please consult with your local operators. Anyway, you may find more information in my Pangong Lake post here

      http://www.ghumakkar.com/pangong-lake-travelers-delight/

      Thanks
      Anupam

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