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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

Viceregal Lodge, Shimla

This Independence day, let me take you to Shimla, where the Indian Flag flutters over the erstwhile Viceregal Lodge.




Today, this building is home to the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies. Before that, it was Rashtrapati Nivas, but it was built to be the home of the Viceroy of India. The name itself is interesting, since it is not a lodge by any standards! Regal, it certainly is, and I don’t think the nomenclature can be attributed to anything but the classic British understatement!



The entrance led us to a path lined by huge stone walls which made us wonder if it was intended to be fortified!




From the outside, it looked like a massive castle, fully made of stone.



On the inside, the delicate woodwork complemented the look, giving us a glimpse into how impressive it must have been, as the residence of the Viceroy.



The structure has an interesting history, being the first permanent residence of the Viceroy, built in 1886. This was the first structure to get electric supply in India, and most interestingly, some of the original electrical fittings still work, after the passage of centuries!!!



This was also where the meetings for the famed Shimla Agreement were held, deciding the fate of India and Pakistan. Many of the memorabilia from the time have been preserved, such as the original table on which the agreement was signed, and old photographs of the meet.



Post-independence, this became the residence of the President of India, to be used during the summer. However, the residence was rarely used, and under Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, it was handed over to the Institute of Advanced Study, to ‘provide an environment suited for academic research’. Part of the building still functions as such, with an impressive library on the ground floor, and rooms for the scholars on the upper floors. Part of it is closed to visitors, while a section is opened to tourists, albeit under the supervision of a guide, to give us a glimpse of its magnificence.



Back on the outside, creepers have crawled up the stone, and provide a splash of colour to the grey of the stone…



The British lion glares down at us from the Royal coat of arms. This is one of the few places it hasn’t been replaced by the Indian symbol – the Ashoka pillar.





On the arch, the building’s name has been replaced, but the names of the architect, Henry Irwin and the executive engineers – F.B. Hebbert and L.M.St.Clair stay on, a reminder of their art.



Information:
  • The Viceregal Lodge is closed to visitors on Mondays. On all other days, there are regular guided tours every hour.
  • There is a caferteria cum shop on the grounds where you can await your turn for the guided tour, and while you are at it, you can stock up on postcards, momentos, or, if you are literally minded, publications of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS)
  • The IIAS website has more details about the building – architectural, historical as well as photographic.




Comments

  1. I don't know how trustworthy those old electrical circuits are ! :) Fascinating to see the old British architecture. It would have been wonderful to wander the library there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Natalie, I was surprised to hear that these were really trustworthy!!! still working after all these years! and in any case, they were special.. apparently, this was the first residential building to get electricity in India! surely they made sure they were given the best! after all, it was for the viceroy!! i would have so loved to get into the library, but its only for the scholars! wish i could go there and study too!

      Delete
  2. excellent blog
    awsm images :)
    keep bloging :)



    www.itarsia.in

    ReplyDelete
  3. It is beautiful .. and the rest of the pics brought so many memories .. of shimla .. it use to the weekend haunt for us when we were in college friday evenings ride to shimla and come back early monday mornings :)

    Bikram's

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Bikram! you were lucky guys indeed to go off on weekends! and that too to Shimla! this was my first visit and i loved the place, though it was crowded. hope to go again sometime when the crowd is less :)

      Delete

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