One of the least known Buddhist kingdoms of the western Himalayan with a main elevation of 12000 feet
One of the least known Buddhist kingdoms of the western Himalayan with a main elevation of 12000 feet, Zanskar valley is bounded by Zanskar mountain complex on north to the west and south west by the greater Himalayan range and to the east by the Rupshu Plateau.
Owing to its geographically inaccessibility this land locked valley has nurtured one of the last surviving cultural entity of Tibetan Lamaism. The ancient yet active monastic establishments are the centers of the spiritual and social activities. These monasteries are treasure of priceless icons, frescos, scrolls and painting.
Attractions of Zanskar
Some of the major monasteries in Zanskar are now accessible by motor able roads and other need trekking for a couple of days.
- Sani Monastry: Sani (232 Km from kargil; 8 Km before Padum 11,560) This is a roadside village that has an ancient stone engraving, a grove and a small spring. More important Sani has the image of famous Indian yogi Naropa and it has ancient and medieval frescoes.
- Padum, the Capital Town: (3,505 Mtrs; 240 Km. from kargil sometimes spelt as Spadum) This is the headquarter of Zanskar.
The Padum fort: This used to be the seat of the kings of ancient and medieval Zanskar. It is now in ruins. The Turkmen army of Mirz Haider Gurgan captured and held it for a while. Inscriptions and icons: There are inscriptions and icons on a rock near the Padum fort. They perhaps date to 8th or 9th century AD. They were probably etched by the Mons around the time that Buddhism was replacing the Bon religion in Zanskar.
Around Padum: Several places of Tourist interest are the vicinity and within walking distances.
- Pipithing Stupa: (1 Kms. From Padum) An impressive stupa atop the hillock believed to be the burying site of a legendry demon by Padmasambhava.It is a good modal of stupa architecture which holds commanding view of the triangular Valley.
- Karsha Monastry 9 Kms from Padum. The largest monastic establishment in Zanskar. The complex of white washed structures are imposing and can be seen from Padum. This complex houses 150 monks, eight temples, two assembly halls, valuable icons, artifacts, scrolls and Thankas. The foundation of this monastery was laid down by phags-pa- shasrab in mid via11th century. A two day Festival with mask dances held around mid July each year.
Karsha Itself has been built entirely on the steep slopes of a tall mountain. Therefore you can see Karsha quite clearly from Padum. The houses have all been painted white with lime from the nearby hill. What is unique about Karsha –apart from the architecture is that most of the people who live here are either monks or have something to do with Karsha’s famous monastery.
- Stongde Monastry: Stongde village is at 15 kms from Padum, on the right bank of River Zanskar. In between Kumi and Thongde is a stretch of about 2 kms. There are large number of boulders with rock engravings of primitive type.
- Zangla is 35 Kms. from Padum. The Zanskar river ,which leads from Padum to Zangla and then to Leh freezes so hard in the winter that for a few weeks one can walk on it.This is known as the “chadar”. The trek from Padum to the motor able road in Leh district can take week.
Zangla Fort: The blissful remains of the old fort atop a nearby hillock, however, is Zangla’s main attraction.
- Lungnak and Phuktal Monastry The Lungnak gorge leads to Kargyak on the way to Singkunla which borders Hamachal Pardash .Between Padum and Testa is a huge cave called Phugtal in side which is a fairly big monastery. Csoma-de-Koros spent considerable time in this cave monastery, writing his celebrated Zanskar Chronicles. The onlyway to get to Phugtal Monastry is on foot or horseback. Phugtal is also known as ‘Jewel of Zanskar’
- Zongkhul Gompa The meditation retreat of famous Indian yogi,Naropa around 10th century A.D.Zungkhul is situated in a side valley near Ating village and fall. Naropas foot prints is embedded in the rock here. It is on the old trekking route from Kishtiwar to Leh Via the Umasi la. There is a famous glacier trek from here to Kishtiwar It is on the right bank of a tributary of River Zanskar.