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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

Ladakh Part 10: The Last Stretch - Mulbek to Srinagar

The spectacular landscapes of Ladakh continued to astound us as we continued on our way past Lamayuru. 

Somewhere along the route, the Wakha river joined us, and along her canyon were stunning natural rock formations, which reminded me of the ancient temples of central India.

This continued all the way to Mulbek, where we stopped to see the colossal Maitreya Buddha carved into the rock. We had seen many colossal statues of Maitreya in Ladakh. But this one is different. Those are made of clay and stucco. This one is carved into the rock, and is dated to the 9th century CE. It is considered one of the finest such figures seen in the region. 

The figure of Maitreya is carved on a huge boulder, standing in the middle of the village, right by the side of the road. He is shown with 4 hands, and richly adorned, holding a lotus stalk and rosary in his upper hands, the lower hands in varada mudra, and holding a kamandalu. There has been a lot of speculation regarding his identity, but the stupa seen on his forehead marks him out as Maitreya.

Around him is built a small shrine, with the eleven-headed Avalokiteshwara on the altar. The rock relief rises over the structure, open to the elements.

We halted for the night at a homestay barely a km from the statue. Staying here was a memorable experience, and this was the last place on the journey where I sat down to write in my diary. Here is my last entry…

Our host says, that this house is over 50 years old. He lives here with four generations of his family – from his grandparents to his sons, 14 members in all. The house took Shankar back down memory lane, to the old house at Karugudi near Thiruvaiyaru (Thanjavur dist.) where he was born. He noticed many similarities between the two houses, and appreciated our host for preserving it as it is.

We had originally been allotted a room in a newer structure built right next door, but because we like this one so much, he allowed us to stay in one of the guest rooms in the old house itself. Since we had missed Alchi, we had arrived early, and thought of walking around, exploring Mulbek. However, my legs are still wobbly, after that steep ascent and descent at Saspol, and I have no energy to walk any more. I am happy to sit here by the window, the light streaming in, looking at the photos I have clicked today, and writing in my diary. We have to leave early tomorrow, by 5 AM, since its Independence Day, and our driver says it is prudent to cross Kargil before the roads are hogged by VIPs. He seems to be in a hurry to drop us off at Srinagar by noon. I never imagined being here on 15th August would be an issue. Hope things go off well.

I never managed to pick up the pen after this, and complete my thoughts of the journey from Mulbek to Srinagar. However, the memory is still quite fresh, despite the passage of years.

We started off early, as planned, and stopped for tea at Drass, said to be the second-coldest inhabited place in the world. Our driver sped past Kargil, as if we were on fire, so scared was he, of being stopped. Since everything was closed anyways, on account of the national holiday, we didn’t complain or protest.

The landscape began changing soon after we left Drass and Kargil. As I mentioned before, in one of my earlier posts, this is the one region where the landscape seems to change across the border. At the time we visited, this was all Jammu and Kashmir, but the landscape was markedly different as we left Ladakh and entered Kashmir. The mountains changed, as did the land, greenery began to appear, and most importantly, we began to see cattle along the road!

Our driver pointed out various landmarks as we passed them – many of them related to the Kargil war, and also camps on the Amarnath Yatra route. As we approached Srinagar, the landscape changed yet again, forests of pine trees covering the mountain slopes. 

While we appreciated the landscape, our driver’s tension was on the rise. This was not the first time I was made aware of the fear that anyone outside Srinagar (or Kashmir for that matter) had, of the city and its constant tensions. It was apparent he couldn’t wait to drop us off and leave. This did cast a certain gloom over the end of our trip. While we didn’t really want this experience to end, he was of the exactly opposite opinion. We reached Srinagar as planned, before mid-day, and our driver barely waited for us to collect our luggage before he rushed off, eager to get back home.

Our idyllic sojourn to Ladakh ended on the sombre note.

We stayed in Srinagar for a couple more days before flying back home to Mumbai. I have no diary entries of our stay there, but lots of photographs and lots of wonderful memories to share. But all that is for another series, which I hope to write soon.

Meanwhile, there is one post I have yet to write – one that will hopefully be useful for you, if you ever plan a visit to this beautiful state of Ladakh. We barely managed to get a glimpse, but hopefully our experience will help you in some way. Look out for the next post. 

Earlier posts in series -

Coming up -

  • Ladakh - Planning the Trip


  1. Amazing! I know nothing about traveling all over the country, what a wonderful looking place to explore.
    Visit website: "".

  2. Beautiful pictures. So much greenery in every corner. would love to visit soon.

  3. Such a wonderful place in India! These kind of travel blogs are a great experience to the readers also. Keep doing more!

  4. This is very good and helpful information. Thanks for sharing the details with maps and pictures.

  5. Such a great article! thank you for sharing and keep posting

  6. Great Post. Thanks to share the Wonderful Information.

  7. i also wish to visit such places no doubt such a beautiful view


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