Perched on top of cliffs or slopes of hills, the Buddhist Monasteries spread across the Empyrean landscape of Ladakh have remained an enigma because of their rich culture, art and traditions by Sindhu Murthy
The first day of our visit to Ladakh was spent in our hotel, The Ladakh Himalayan Retreat, overlooking the Stok mountain ranges. Since we took a direct flight to Leh from Delhi, we had to spend a whole day in getting acclimatised to the high altitude. The Landscapes of Ladakh that we could see from the flight window had already enthralled us. We could not wait to head out the next day to explore the areas surrounding Leh. After visiting the Magnetic hill and the confluence of Indis-Zanskar rivers near the village Nimmo, we headed towards the Stakna Monastery which was located on the other side of Leh. Ideally, one would get back to Leh from Nimmoo and then take the Leh-Manali highway and then cross a shoddy bridge to reach Stakna. To avoid the traffic and dusty roads in Leh, our driver suggested that we take a detour before Leh to cross over to the other side of Indus river.
We were glad we agreed to change course because the land scapes changed dramatically on crossing the bridge across Indus. The moon like rocky terrain was gone and all we could see was lush greenery. The road we took meandered in the valley with Indus river to the left and the snow capped Stok ranges to the right.
All through our journey to Stakna along the deserted road, we could see the city of Leh nestled between dusty peaks and the greenery in the valley. The towering popular trees and the yellow mustard fields were a sight to behold in the backdrop of the barren terrain. With the journey so beautiful, we were sure that the Stakna monastery set in such a location would be more captivating and we were so right.
We were the only visitors to the gompa and all we could hear was the reverberating music of the drums and hum of the monks chanting. After clicking a few pictures of the prayer hall and having a short conversation with the monks, we headed to the roof of the monastery which had a Chorten. The best thing about the Stakna Monastery was the panoramic view of the Stok ranges, Indus river, the green valley and the barren peaks as seen from the monastery’s roof. Far across the Indus valley, we could also see the popular Thiksey monastery raising on a small hill from the green valley.
How to reach Stakna:
Stakna Monastery is located at a distance of 25 Km from Leh and around 9km from Thiksey monastery. It is easily connected by road. From Leh, take the Leh-Manali highway and take the right turn to cross the Indus river after the Thiskey monastery.
Here are a few things you should know before visiting the Monasteries in Ladakh.
- Photography is not allowed in some parts of the monasteries. Refrain from taking photos of such areas.
- Monks are sure a great subject for photography. But not everyone is happy to be photographed. So, take permission before you take their photos. Do not bribe the monks to pose for your pictures.
- Dress modestly while entering the monasteries.
- The monasteries are a place of worship. Make sure you remain calm and maintain silence. Do not spoil the sanctity of the monasteries by smoking and consuming alcohol.
- Most of the monasteries have clean toilets which are free for tourists. Do not pollute the area by relieving yourself in open.
- Women are not allowed into certain monasteries in Ladakh. Read upon any such restrictions before you plan your visit.