Mahayana or Buddhist Tibetan gompas (monasteries) dominate the Ladakh landscape. They are still active places of worship and teaching.

Colorfully clad with flags and wheels relaying prayers through the breeze, they’ve become popular tourist attractions with their shrines and stupas  embellished with ancient colorful  frescoes.

Gompas  usually have a  caretaker monk on site who finds visitors  and shows them around  for an expected donation of 10 to  20 rupiahs. Some gompas provide  cheap accommodation for determined students  of Buddhism.

Guidelines  when visiting a gompa are:

  1. Your arms and legs should be covered;
  2. Remove your shoes before entering a shrine;
  3. Don’t drink, smoke or spit.
  4. Never touch religious objects.
  5. Don’t disturb monks during prayers, including festival ceremonies.
  6. Never use a camera flash , the frescoes are very fragile.
  7. Always pass chortens (Tibetan for stupa), mani walls (Tibetan stone walls with sacred inscriptions) and prayer wheels in a clockwise direction, keeping them to your right.

From Leh which served as our homebase, we visited the Sankar Gompa which is two (2) kilometers  from the north of the town center.

The upstairs part of this Gompa belongs  to the Gelupka order which has the image of  Avalokitesvara, the Buddhist deity of compassion with 1000 arms and 1000 heads.

We visited also the  Tiksi Gompa  which is  seven (7) kilometers from Leh. This is also under the Gelupka order. It is part of the former palace of the king of Ladakh with the nice overview of the Indus Valley.

We also saw the Hemis Gompa which is forty five (45) kilometers  from Leh  and was founded on the 17th century. My companion due to severe stomach ache failed to accompany me to my whole day trip to Lake Sudan which would pass through the Himalaya range.

Although it would be an unchivalrous  move on my part   as I would be leaving a sick female companion in a strange place, I just asked  the Divine Providence  to allow me to go  due to the enormity of the travel cost involved which had already been paid for and that I would be foregoing a perceived once-in-a-lifetime experience and sight.

The sight was  something  to behold with high mountain ranges with oases  in many places. Luckily, everything went well as she recovered due to the frequent visitation of male doctors, male travel agents providing jocular stories and even waiters offering food assistance. When I arrived, the male waiter even asked permission from me thinking I was her dad for a picture taking with her (which could be too close for comfort). I took everything in strides  though I have a bit resentment to the waiter who was too presumptuous.

My past experience at the Kashmir airport was repeated at the Ladakh airport while checking in for our departure. Tour groups despite their late arrival were given preferential attention thus our tour guide (who is a shorter version of  Dustin Hoffman) had difficulty of asserting our right.

My important carry-on bag containing valuable documents could not be found for about twenty (20) minutes thus adding to the anguish and confusion.

Thanks God we survived the ordeal. Reminiscing the historical importance, beauty and abundance of the Indus Valley overwhelms the negative experiences we have had.

Leave a Comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Insert an advertisement TheTYME Iron is a revolutionary hair tool that creates ANY curl from waves to bouncy curls and ringlets, and also straightens your hair with its rotating swivel cord! Now you can create a beautiful head of curls in a matter of minutes! Even better, the curls should last 2-3 days!