Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Ladhak & Kashmir 2010 - Day 10 - Zanskar - Stongde

Stongde monastery (pronounced by the locals as Thongde, just as Spangmik, close to Pangong, is pronounced as Pangmik) is built on an abrupt hill overlooking the valley.

It was a bright sunny afternoon, when I started. Mother who had accompanied me to Karsha monastery in the morning, chose to stayed back in the room. I was alone, with the helpful gentleman and the driver in that blue truck.

From far away on the approach road we could see the tiny white dwellings that made the hill top monastery. The ride up was a rough one as the path below was stony and crude.

The truck stopped and we had to follow a well maintained trail flanked on one side by green poplar trees. There were little flowering plants covered with tiny yellow flowers and other leafy shrubs. A sudden garden after miles of uncultivated desert was such a lovely sight.

We reached a central courtyard surrounded by several chambers. Thangkas, wall paintings, statuettes, murals, the seat of the Dalai Lama, large fierce masks fastened to roofs, painted curtains, Buddhist writings on leaflets, wrapped in satiny yellow cloth and strapped between slim wooden boards, arranged in rows of niches along the wall. A monk, whom I chatted with unwrapped one bundle and showed me the texts.

I even managed to persuade him to give me one of the temple Thangkas. I promised him I would take it home, safeguard it and also do pooja everyday. He carefully rolled it, put it inside a sack and handed it to me.

I brought it home, had it framed and adorned one of the walls of my house with it. A precious souvenir it is, an original thangka, from a Buddhist monastery in Ladhak.

The most precious thing, not just about this monastery, but the whole trip I believe was the view this place offered of the valley below. It wasn’t natural, it was beauty created by man that seemed to surpass the wild nature all around it. It was a large patchwork made of tiny circles and squares of cultivated fields in varying shades of green. My delight was initially dampened by a batch of clouds that turned the green below into dull jade but then, the clouds parted, first revealing a shiny bright green area in the middle of the land and then, the clouds passed away entirely and all was green. My camera zoomed in and out in cycles of repetition. It moved slightly to left, then right, trying to capture the contrast in the scenery below.

I lamented briefly over what my parents had missed.
And then I thought, they didn’t like the Buddha, the Buddha didn’t like them much either.

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