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Report 1932: Ladakh Takes Your Breath Away

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2011

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Page 18 of 25: Lamayuru Gompa and the Old Road

photo by Michael

View from the old road

Lamayuru Gompa is reached by a steep road. It was founded in the 11thC and thought to be one of the oldest monastic sites in Ladakh. There are small meditation buildings on the hillside above the main Assembly Hall, large new guest house and restaurant. There are chortens and mani walls. Small monks were playing cricket on the roadside. Others were scrambling up a concrete ramp and then sliding down again.

The main Assembly Hall, the Dukhang, is built on the edge of the cliff and reached by a narrow path round the outside. There is a small carving of a cardinal King on a slab of slate set into the wall by the doorway. A flight of steps leads to the courtyard in front of the hall.

Photographs are not allowed inside any of the Lhakangs.

Inside the Dukhang there are several statues on the wall facing the doorway and on the right hand wall behind glass is the cave where the great Kashmiri sage, Naropa, meditated over a thousand years ago. There is a small statue of Naropa with his two disciples inside but it is too dark to make out much detail. The walls are hung with Tankas. Behind is a smaller room with more statues and butter sculptures.

There are more steps up to the smaller Chenresig Lkakhang with more statues and three chortens given by the king and decorated with gold and jewels. Chortens represent peace. Statues can be quite fearful, so chortens are often considered a more powerful way of spreading message of Buddhism.

From Lamayuru we took the old road which climbs above the Gompa and contours round the top of the ‘Moonlands’. The road surface is in much better condition than the new road. It is a magnificent drive through high mountain country looking down into deep valleys with the new road far below. Rocks vary in colour from yellow, brown, purple to orange. There is some vegetation - mainly melilot, calomel, Stachyis tibetica and Capparis spinosa which spreads with long trailing stems with spines and pretty white flowers. There were a few cows grazing with small round stone enclosures where dung is left to dry during the summer.

The road drops steeply down through many hair pin bends, which can be seen looking like a tangled piece of string below. It rejoins the main road just before the lorry park.

This is a very well worthwhile drive and makes a nice loop going to Lamayuru along the new road and back by the old road.

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