Traveling to Zanskar is certainly not for the frail heart. Zansakar is located in the interior of Leh Ladakh region and is considered best destination for rafting, trekking and mountaineering. The snow-capped peaks are other attractions in Zanskar. Leh is the entry point to Zanskar and the most economical and convenient way to reach Leh is to take a flight to Leh.
Situated almost the halfway along the Kargil-Padam road, standing on a hilltop above a broad valley floor, Ringdum Gompa is an 8 hour drive by truck or jeep from kargil. It was built in the 16th century and at present 40 monks live here. The walls are decorated with a beautiful frescoes and in the assembly hall stand the impressive statues of Buddha, Avalokiteshwara and Tsongkhapa.
Nun and Kun Peaks
The Nun Kun mountain massif comprises a pair of Himalayan peaks Nun (7,135 m), the highest mountain on the Indian side of Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, and Kun (7,035 m) are located in the Suru valley. Kun, the lower of the two peaks is separated by a snowy plateau of about 2 miles is north of Nun. Pinnacle Peak (6,930 m), the third highest summit on the Nun Kun massif, was first claimed to be climbed by Fannie Bullock Workman in 1906. Most conveniently accessed from the Kargil to Leh road, located about 60 miles east of Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir.
The twin peaks of Nun and Kun are located in the rugged and forbidding landscape of Zanskar in northern India and are the highest in the region. These two towering peaks and their satellites, Barmal, White Needle and Pinnacle Peak form a horse shoe above the Suru river on the boarder of Kashmir and Zanskar.
The ascent is a moderate snow and ice route suitable for those with previous climbing experience of Scottish grade 2/3 or Alpine AD, three camps will be establish. Our aim will be to summit Kun and then if time permits an attempt will be made on Nun from the snow plateau and our high camp between Nun and Kun.
The largest monastic establishment of Zanskar, Karsha Gompa is an imposing complex of neatly white-washed adobe blocks comprising several chapels, besides residential rooms for its nearly 150 resident monks. Karsha is 4-6 Km from Padum. Built picturesquely along the steep gradient of the mountainside above the Stod river, the monastery can be seen from far and wide. The Gompa, founded by Phagspa Sherab in the 11th century, has the largest library (Kahgyur Khang) in Zanskar and even beyond, there are eight temples and two assembly halls in the complex, which also houses a famous, large and priceless Thangka and smaller but valuable scrolls and precious idols.
The Thabrang (room of God and religion) has frescoes dating back to around the 15th century. There is a 14th century Chomo Gompa (Nunnery) called the Dorje Dzong at the other end of Karsha. The nuns go over to the main Gompa for all major festivals. Karsha is the biggest and richest monastery in all Zanskar.
Stongdey Monastery is ocated
18-km North Of Padum, Ladakh Region, J& K at an Altitude
of 3,500m. The Monastery is famous as
The Second Largest Monastic Establishment In Zanskar.
The monastery of Stongdey lies 18-km to the north of Padum, on the road leading to Zangla. An old foundation associated with the Tibetan Yogi, Marpa, Stongdey is now the second largest monastic establishment of Zanskar, inhabited by the resident community of about 60 Gelukpa monks.
The sprawling whitewashed complex has a number of temples, each a repository of the region's rich monastic legacy. Stongdey can be reached by foot in about 4 hours along the recently laid rough road. The climb up to the monastery is rather strenuous, but it is worth the trouble for the breathtaking scenery of the valley available from here.
People Religion and Culture
The travelers from India will look in vain for similarities between the land and people he has left and those he encounters in Ladakh. The faces and physique of the Ladakhis, and the clothes they wear , are more akin to those of Tibet and Central Asia than of India. The original population may have been dards, an Indo -Aryan race from down the Indus. But Immigration from Tibet, perhaps the millennium or so ago, largely overwhelmed the culture of the Dards and Obliterated their racial characteristics. In Eastern and central Ladakh, todays population seems to be mostly of Tibetan origin. Further west, in and around Kargil, there is much in the people's appearance that suggests a mixed origin.
Buddhism reached Tibet from India via Ladakh, and there are ancient Buddist rock engravings all over the region, even in areas like Dras and the lower Suru Valley which today are inhabited by an exclusively Muslim population. Islam too came from the west. A peaceful penetration of the Shia sect spearheaded by missionaries, its success was guaranteed by the early conversion of the sub-rulers of Dras, Kargil and the Suru Valley.
The demeanor of the people is affected by their religion, especially among the women. Among the Buddhists, as also the Muslims of the Leh areas, women not only work in the house and field, but also do business and interact freely with men other than their own relations. The Natural joie -de-vivre of the Ladakhis is given free rein by the ancient traditions of the region. Monastic and other religious festivals, many of which fall in winter, provide the excuse for convivial gatherings. Summer pastimes all over the region are archery and polo. Among the Buddhists, these often develop into open air parties accompanied by dance and song, at which chang, the local brew made from fermented barley, flows freely.
Padum: Once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Zanskar. Padum (3,505 Mtr) is the present-day administrative headquarter of the region. Padum is 240 Kms from Kargil and almost 80 Kms from the Penzila. It has a decent government tourist bungalow and several private hotels and restaurants. Today Zanskar has telephones with the facility to call any part of India- and perhaps the world, a facility not available elsewhere in the Suru valley. The Town's highlights include the mud "Palace" of the local "Raja". There is also small monastery in the town. There are 8th century rock carvings near the river bank in Padum (There are 25 villages in Zanskar which had two "Kings".
One each at Padum and Zangla. Each ruled over six or seven villages, because there were several villages that were under neither "King" through they might have loosely allied with either of these. It is doubtful if either "King" ever had more than three thousand subjects. Across the expanse of cultivation lies the old village of Pibiting, dominated by its picturesque hilltop monastery, a superb manifestation of Stupa architecture.