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Ladakh Diaries Part 9: Lamayuru

Lamayuru is one of the most ancient monasteries in Ladakh, the oldest surviving structure dating to the 11 th century CE. What makes this monastery particularly fascinating, is its location, amidst what is today called the “moonscape”, for the spectacular natural rock formations, which truly are “out of the world”! As per legend , there once existed a huge lake in this area, populated only by the Nagas (serpents). It was prophesized that there would be a great monastery built here. This prophecy came true when the great acharya Naropa (756-1041 CE) arrived. He emptied the lake, meditated for many years inside a cave, and built the first monastery here. The present structure is a new one, built around the cave where Acharya Naropa is said to have meditated. This legend seems to fit well with the geological formations seen in the area, which suggest this was a paleo-lake, which disappeared around 1000 years ago. Lamayuru is about 130 km from Leh , and the Indus River flows along th

Book Review : India A to Z, An Alphabetical Tour of Incredible India



A for Aadhar, B for Bazaar, C for Cricket, D for Dabbawala… and so on… goes this version of the alphabet – a very identifiably Indian version. India A to Z: An alphabetical tour of Incredible India, compiled by Veena Sheshadri and Vidya Mani, for Puffin Books, with illustrations by Sony Bhaskaran and cartoons by Greystroke manages to put forth a huge amount of information, combining it with a good dose of humour and titbits of fun facts.


It is impossible to compress India into 160 pages and 26 alphabets. But the team has done a wonderful job in putting it together. All the usual, popular, typically Indian things are there, but so are bits and pieces of the less known ones.

B, for example, covers not just Beaches, Bazaars, and Bollywood, but also the Bhopal Gas Tragedy; M, among Monuments and Monsoon, also lists the Metros and Mythical Monsters; R talks of Religion and Railways, but also the Rupee and the Rajasaurus; and my favourite is X which tells us of the X Avatars of Vishnu and Xuanzang.

The information is short, with multiple illustrations or cartoons on every page. The writing is wonderful, and the editing excellent, because it comes through, not as terse and educational, but concise, informative and engaging.


The target audience is obviously children, and here, they have tapped a booming market. Among the masses of huge encyclopaedias which aim to cover just about anything and everything, the size of the book itself is inviting. The only negative of the size is that there are so many things which are not included, but then, I don’t think it is possible to squeeze India into a book at all! The idea is to engage with young and emerging readers, and encourage them to explore more of India by themselves. This is a cause I heartily concur with, and feel that the book is well placed to do just that!

This book was sent to me for review by Penguin India. The views expressed are my own.





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