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Report 1932: Ladakh Takes Your Breath Away

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2011

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Page 15 of 25: A Day Around the Nubra and Shyok Valleys - Sumur and Samtanling Gompa

photo by Michael

Wall Paintings at Samtanling Gompa

We spent a day exploring the Nubra and Shyok Valleys from Hundar.

As we drove along road towards Khalsar we could see the camels collecting in the sand dunes ready to give rides to tourists.

Children were walking down the road to school. None were using mobile phones or eating. Obesity isnít a problem in Ladakh. There was a traffic jam with an army lorry and truck stuck on narrow bit of road.

Before Khalsar, the road drops down to the river across the flat flood plain and a bridge to the police check point where permit and passports have to be shown.

We drove through the small settlement of Tirit. The road is lined with tall stone walls topped with sea buckthorn so we couldnít see the farms or fields. This has spines and is very effective at stopping animals getting over the walls. There were a lot of wild rose bushes along road. This is a very fertile area and it is possible to get two harvests per year. There are orchards with apple and apricot trees.

We had a brief stop in Sumur to walk through village. We stopped to watch two men painting traditional wooden tables. Each one takes a day to paint and sells for 1700 rupees (about £24). Across the road a woodworker was making window and door frames under a canopy shaded with poplar branches. There is a large modern prayer wheel in the centre of the village, several small shops selling dry goods and sweets, a printerís shop and several guest houses.

We drove up to Samtanling Gompa, past the old Gompa up on the hillside above the road.

Samtangling Gompa

Samtangling Gompa was founded by Lama Tsultims Nima in 1841 but has been extensively rebuilt with a new temple, built about 15 years ago. It has a commanding view of the foothills of the Karakoram ranges. A flight of red steps with two big cypress bushes on each side leads to the new temple. To the right is a smaller and older Assembly Hall with kitchen areas and butter lamp store beyond. To the left is the guest house and residence of the head monk.

The older assembly hall has a beautiful painted doorway. Inside are hangings with pictures of Buddha. The inside of the wall by the doorway is painted black with gold outlines of the protector gods. There are paintings of Buddha and the Arhats on the side walls. The benches for the monks are arranged at right angles to the entrance. On one was a 3D metal mandala with rice, which is thrown during prayers to spread prosperity and happiness.

The new temple has a large outside porch with paintings of the four cardinal kings (two original and two newly repainted) and 19thC paintings of the wheel of life, the five friends, Buddha teaching and two dancing skeletons.

Inside on the right is the throne for the Dalai Lama and on the left, the chair for the reincarnation of the founder of monastery, Tsultim Nima, both with their pictures. There are colourful wall hangings and paintings.

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