After a night of blissful sleep we awoke to a crisp October morning in Leh. As the sun started rising over the horizon, the nip in the air gave way to a warm feeling which just made perfect sense.
A little while later we got into the car for our drive. The plan was to visit Hemis, Thikshay, Shey monasteries and Stok palace and village. On the way we were to stop at Sindhu Ghat at the banks of the Indus river for soaking in and just breathing the fresh air.
Hemis the largest and wealthiest monastery in Ladakh is about 45Kms from Leh town. The drive to Hemis is along the Indus river and the astounding landscape of Ladakh just makes the drive a delight. Barren landscapes dotted by yellow trees (it seems they become Yellow around October) looks more like an artists canvas than a natural landscape.
The monastery was founded in 1630 by the first incarnation of Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso on the west bank of the Indus river. The Hemis monastery belongs to the Drugpa sect (red hat sect – Tantrik Buddhism) of Buddhism and is dedicated to Guru Padmasambhava. The monastery celebrates its annual festival dedicated to Guru Padmasambhava and has a whole bunch of masked dances which depict the win of good over evil. Similar masked dances are performed in Bhutan as well. A glimpse of the Bhutanese dances at: http://www.gomissing.com/travel/bhutan/bhutan-traditional-dances/
While we were at the Hemis Monastery, it started snowing lightly and just made the experience even more overwhelming. For a few of the expedition members, it was their first snow experience and the silly grins we had when we got off the aircraft were back 🙂