INFINITE CHARM

Children are always charming and in Ladakh the Charm is heightened to the Power of Infinity.

Do read up the blog titled “The 3 Idiots” on the Rancho School located near Leh,Ladakh.

steps of kids
Step by Step

This sweet charming kid rests against a colourful wall in the Monastery . His expression changed once he  became aware of the camera.

inside hemis
Camera makes even children conscious

The Coy Girl was shy and kept covering her face with the white stole till patience paid off and I captured this image within the Hemis Monastery outside the Upper Residence of His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa.

hemis and coy girl
Within the Hemis Monastery

This charming and extremely young Buddhist Child is on his way to becoming a Monk.

pic pls
Charmed by the Camera 

I was fortunate to sit amongst children near Leh, Ladakh and capture some delightful moments which I am sharing in this blog.

birth to old age
Cycle of Life

THE HIMALAYAN MONASTERY

The Beautiful and Amazing Hemis Monastery is hidden within the folds of the Himalayas , 40 kms from Leh in Ladakh, India.

Am sharing snippets of the  Awesome Hemis Monastery and the surroundings through pictures in a series of blogs.

You can check out http://www.drukpa-hemis.org for details on this Monastery and thus shall not repeat the same.

The featured Image and the picture below  are the first glimpses of the Hemis Monastery ( building in yellow) which is discretely located and practically invisible till you are literally at it’s doorstep.

hidden in the hills
Hidden in the Lap of the Himalayas

This picture was taken from the main courtyard of the Monastery where the Winter Hemis Festival is held  annually in February.

It is only now I realize the colour yellow is from the silken banners.

from within
Reach out and touch the Himalayas

Beautifully integrated into the landscape, the construction can be a lesson for modern architects.

behold
Behold  the Beauty

The Hemis Monstery is located at a Height of 13000 feet and does leave you gasping for breath in awe.

AMAZING WOMEN

Behold the Amazing Turquoise Attire of these Women of Ladakh.

These Amazing Ladies in  Traditional Dresses were Photographed during the Winter Hemis Festival at Shrey, Ladakh in February.

rear view
Absolutely Gorgeous Rear View of The Turquoise Headgear

The Ladies are carrying Gifts for His Holiness , the Spiritual Head of The Hemis Monastery in Ladakh.

the face
Happy adorning the Magnificent Headgear

A fascinating expression of faith can be witnessed during the Winter Hemis Festival when devotees line up in hundreds to Offer Gifts to their Spiritual Leader His Holiness and be blessed by him.

gifts for his holiness
Beautiful and Happy Faces

Is it a coincidence that today also happens to be Women’s Day ( 8th of March 2016) ?

HIMALAYAN SUNSET

Pictures were taken at the Shanti Stupa in Leh, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir,India.

These Breathtaking Views need no words, so am Zipping Up.

Enjoy yourselves and witness the Setting Sun during the Freezing Winter Month of February in Leh.

golden
Golden Pagoda looks over Leh, Ladakh
leh view
Sun Sets over Leh Ladakh

 

leh at sunset
Crimson Clouds over a Monastery as the Sun Sets
golden pagoda
Gold From Clouds to the Pagoda

FOOD FOR THE GODS

Mountains of Food resembling the Himalayan Hills in the background were lined up before His Holiness during the Winter Festival at Rancho School,Shrey, Ladakh. ( do read the previous blogs titled EMPTINESS,SEA OF MAROON and THREE IDIOTS)

juices

Banner reads”Live To Rejoice”

The Food was Blessed by the Spiritual Leader His Holiness and then distributed amongst the Devotees at the End of Each Day.

piled high
Unique Bread baked in Ladakh

Many Monks were seated on the Dias and chanted from Buddhist scriptures. Mountains of Biscuits and Food are Piled Up High in front of them.

monks
Praying with Food

Graceful Dance  performed before His Holiness, the Spiritual Leader of the Hemis Monastery, seated on a High Pedestal.

The entire festivities are part of the Birthday Celebrations of His Holiness.

food
The Nuns dance around Food in front of His Holiness

The attire and form of Worship are Unique to the region and has probably mutated over centuries to adapt to the way of Life in Ladakh.

THE THREE IDIOT SCHOOL

Movies have a Huge Impact on our Lives.

This statement is underlined and highlighted many times over at THE RANCHO SCHOOL at Shrey, Ladakh.

A huge blockbuster of a movie titled THE THREE IDIOTS highlights the creative educational practices followed at this Himalayan School in the desolate landscape of Ladakh.

The school is managed by the Hemis Monastery which was founded in the 11th Century. The Naropa Temple ( seen in the picture below from the Rancho School) is dedicated to Naropa, the founder of the Drukpa lineage of the Hemis Monastery.

temple overlooks the school
The Rancho School and the Naropa Temple

The school was closed during the Winters when I happened to visit the Region.

himalayan playground
Himalayan Playground

The Rancho School Coffee Shop doubles up as a restaurant or Dining Area during the Winter Festival which coincides with the Birthday of His Holiness . ( do read the previous blog titled SEA OF MAROON)

The building blocks of the entire school are Locally available Stones and not Bricks.

The entire school  premises are powered by Solar Energy .

rancho coffee shop
The School Coffee Shop

The School is surrounded by the Lofty Himalayas , Buddhist Temples and Stupas.

The picture below was taken from one of the Hostels at Rancho School.

 

himalayan view
Buildings integrated into the Beautiful Landscape

The Rancho School makes Movies come to Life.

Domestic tourism  from other parts of India to Ladakh  increased 500% after the movie rocketed to the top of the Charts.

A SEA OF MAROON

In the first blog on Leh, Ladakh titled CHARMING LEH AIRPORT, I had mentioned certain signs which forecast what was to be unveiled in the hours and days to follow.

The posts SIGNS OF BUDDHA , EMPTINESS and FROZEN unraveled Three such Symbols, this post is the fourth in the series.

On reaching the Naropa Temple ( Famous for the Hemis Festival or Kumbh of the Himalayas) and the Rancho School ( made famous by the Bollywood movie 3 Idiots) at Shrey, Ladakh   I was greeted with a SEA of MAROON.

Buddhist Devotees  draped in shades of Maroon had reached Shrey in thousands to celebrate the Birthday of His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa.

welcome
All paths led to His Holiness

An Awesome and Stunning  Gate crowned by two Dragons around the Buddhist Circle of Dharma . Unfortunately my illiteracy prevents me from reading the script on the Golden Gate.

dragon gateway
A Beautiful Gate at the Entry to the  Naropa Temple Complex

The Grey Wall is the Boundary between the Naropa Temple and the famous Rancho School. Both of which are managed by the Hemis Monastery which in turn is headed by the Spiritual Leader His Holiness of Drukpa Lineage.

The Himalayas look upon the Celebrations taking place in the valley below. The Birthday Celebrations coincide with the Winter Festival held at the Hemis Monastery.

happy birthday

The Dragon Flag is the Symbol of the Hemis Monastery

Devotion and Faith help thousands of Monks and Devotees brave the Icy Chill of Winters at Ladakh as they sit in the open , under the gaze of the snow capped Himalayas, listening to their Spiritual Leader His Holiness the G. Drukpa .

maroon and himalayas
The Barren landscape is awash in a Sea of Maroon

Despite an extremely hard and tough life all you see in Ladakh are Happy and Cheerful Faces.

Was the Secret of Happiness their faith in Tibetan Buddhism  or the Colour Maroon they adorned , or both ?

maroon all over

If you recall the initial picture in the CHARMING LEH AIRPORT showcases  cheerful Buddhist Monks in Robes of Maroon greeting us.

Who says you cannot see the Future ? Travel with Mukul and Behold the Faithful.

EMPTINESS

Ladakh has a unique barren and serene Landscape.

The region is classified as an High Altitude Desert or a Cold Desert.

The vast barren Vista compels you to look inwards.

Buddhism is a Way of Life in Ladakh and seems to blend in beautifully with the Barren, Simple and Tranquil surroundings.

gateway to buddha
Gateway to Buddha

A drive from Leh to Shrey ( a village which is home to Rancho School made famous by the Bollywood blockbuster 3 Idiots)  reveals the vast tracts of EMPTINESS.

the vast emptiness
To the Himalayas over tracts of NOTHINGNESS

There are kilometers of Land with nothing but Rocks and Barren Hills, a Land stripped Bare. An unusual but Divine Vista to behold.

An Emptiness that peers into your Soul within.

Flat roofed homes indicate that precipitation( rainfall) is rare or totally absent.

cold desert
Rocks strewn all over

A tiny tot of a  Buddhist temple breaks the monotony of the Brown Barren Himalayas laid bare by the powerful  Rays of the Sun.

Sunrays are intense in the high altitude  Air of Ladakh and quickly melt the Snow on the Hills exposed to the Sun.

barren hill and a small temple
Snow survives only in the Shadows

Temples and Monasteries are built on Hills and Hillocks and can be seen from miles all around.

The Pagoda style is Strangely seen only on Temples and not on Homes which are largely flat roofed.

I think I surprised the cyclist while taking this picture.

Temple on hill
A Temple in Ladhakh reminds me of a Lighthouse

Do read the earlier Blogs CHARMING LEH AIRPORT, SIGNS OF BUDDHA and FROZEN to connect to this absolutely mesmerizing region of India.

Stay on Board as we reach the now famous  RANCHO School to celebrate the Birthday of HIS HOLINESS. You will be swamped in a Sea of Maroon.

Watch out for the next post.

FROZEN

The Frozen Ice on the Bucket Chairs outside the CHARMING LEH AIRPORT ( please do check a previous blog thus titled for continuity) were a clear Sign of the sub zero temperatures in Leh, Ladakh during the Winters.

Barren Hills and Poplar Trees overlook a Ladhaki Home adorned with fluttering Buddhist Prayer Flags.

The Rays of the Sun at an high altitude are Welcoming and  Intense as they keep you warm and comfortable.

home and hills
A Home in Leh, Ladakh

Thick layers of Grass are stacked on rooftops so that the Homes remain warm once the Sun Sets and temperatures dip to minus twenty or thirty degrees centigrade during the winters in Ladakh.

 

grass on roofs
Grass acts as a Bio Insulater

The Cows in the region are small and of  have a dense fur to keep them warm. The Magpie glistens in the Sun and finds food amongst  Heaps of Snow.

Picture was taken outside the entrance to our Hotel Mahey Retreat in Leh, Ladakh, Jammu& Kashmir, India.

Mud Packed stone walls are a great ecological alternative to Cement and Bricks.

snow and cows
Snow, MagPie and Cow

A Quiet peaceful alley lined with Snow is the Hallmark of Leh during the Winters.

 

snow on alley
A quiet alley lined with Snow

Remain aboard as I keep unraveling the telltale Signs captured by the camera at the Charming Leh Airport.

CHARMING LEH AIRPORT

For me the first point of entry into Leh, Ladakh was the KBP Airport and there were many signs captured by the camera which foretold me of the sights to follow.

The Unique Blankets hung over doorways charmed me at the Airport. By the time I left I realized it was a practical Local way of retaining the Heat during the Bitterly Cold Winters of Leh.

airport at leh
Small Charming Airport at Leh

Volunteers from the Hemis Monastery welcomed us with White Silken Scarves. Theie gorgeous traditional woolen attire ensured they remain warm when temperatures fall to minus thirty degrees centigrade.

saropa and mountains
Traditional Welcome at the Airport

Ladakh is classified as a COLD DESERT as Rainfall is a Luxury. It falls in the rain shadow of the Lofty Himalayas ensuring Rain bearing Clouds seldom reach the region.

The result is a unique and stark Landscape bereft of even a blade of Grass as can be seen in the picture below taken at the Airport at Leh.

stark mountains at car park
Watching the International Borders

The temperature was minus Ten degrees Centigrade at 1000 hours when we landed. The frozen water on the chairs outside the airport bear testimony to the  statement above.

It was another sign that Ladakh will be Freezing Cold.

ice on chairs at airport
Brrr Freezing Cold

Having understood little of the signs and symbols at the time of arriving I now see in hindsight that many sights had already been foretold the moment I stepped out at the Airport at Leh.

 

car top
Off we go in the Powdered Sugar Car

Stay on Board as the Signs and symbols are unraveled as we travel through Ladakh.