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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

Do-Drul Chorten, Gangtok

It was evening, and the light was fading as we arrived at the Do-Drul Chorten (also sometimes spelled as Duddul Choedten) in Gangtok. Samhith was tired, and all he wanted was to get back to the resort, and to his games with his friends. Leaving him behind in the car, we walked up the short path to the Stupa, which was so recognizable from the photos we had seen.




A board at the entrance told us an interesting story… of the place being haunted by spirits. Apparently, the spirits caught hold of anyone who came here. Eventually, a Lama from Tibet came here, subdued the spirits and set up a monastery. His successor later built the Stupa to keep the spirits away even after the demise of the Lama.  It reminded me of the scores of temples built to ward away evil spirits!



As we walked around, I was astounded by the sight of these rows and rows of lamps lit inside an enclosure…



The lamps reminded me of temples, and I wanted to light one too. There was no board, no information, and no one I could ask, though the place was full of monks. They were busy with their evening meals, which were being served. We approached one of them, and he gestured to us to take a plate. We did, and shared it between ourselves. Then, reverting back to our question, started looking around for someone who could help us out. Language seemed to be a major barrier, but eventually, we found a visitor who was happy to help us.




She had come from Bhutan, on a pilgrimage, one she made every year. The lamps, she said, were lit in memory of ancestors, to show them the path in the world they were in. Could we light the lamps? Yes of course, but they had already been lit for the day. We would have to come again in the morning and arrange for one. That wasn’t possible, but the thought was a good one. As we walked back towards the car and Samhith, it wasn’t the evil spirits we thought of, but the souls which, somewhere were grateful for the light provided by the lamps! 


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