M A I N   N E W S

Divine power? All Ladakh gompas safe
Ajay Banerjee writes from Leh

The cloudburst and mudslides of Ladakh on August 6 did not affect any of the historic Buddhist monasteries and gompas located all across this Buddhist-dominated area of Jammu and Kashmir.

The two UNESCO heritage sites, Alchi Gompa and Hemis Gompa, besides other monasteries and gompas are safe and have not been ravaged by floods or mudslides.

Chairman of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Chering Dorjay said Buddhist community’s “….all religious sites are intact and safe… we have checked up….. there is no damage to either the old structures or to the scriptures stored there”.

Some of the monasteries are more than 2,000-year-old and find references in the books of international travellers during the middle ages. Most of the gompas in Ladakh are scattered along the mighty Indus. The world-famous one at Alchi, around 60 km away from Leh, is located on the left bank of the Indus. It is around 1,000-year-old and has amazing frescos and sculptures of early Buddhist art, a style quite different from the Tibetan art found in Ladakh’s other gompas. S Majumdar, who heads a hydropower project near Alchi, confirmed that the site was safe.

The 300-hundred-year-old Hemis Gompa is the other UNESCO heritage site. It is also safe. This one is famous for its spectacular annual festival. It is one of the largest Ladakhi gompas and is located near Karu, around 42 km from Leh. Hemis is also known as “the solitary place of the compassionate ones”.

Other than Alchi, all other gompas are located on hilltops in a gravity-defying architecture made famous by Buddhist monks. What seems even more ironical is the fact that brick and mortar structures built using “latest techniques” have been washed away while older sites survived largely due to their carefully chosen locations - away from the paths of small streams.

The normal functioning of religious sites can be gauged from the fact that six-year-old Thupstan Ngwang Norbu was anointed as the 20th Bakula Rimpoche on August 12 at a solemn ceremony at the historic Spituk monastery.

The Rimpoche succeeded Lobsang Thupstan Chognor, who died a few years ago. The new appointee was selected through a tough Buddhist procedure dealing with the reincarnation of dead monks. The programme was kept a low-key affair in view of the tragedy.

Among other monasteries that have not been affected by foods and landslides are Phyang, Lamayuru, Likir, Rizong, Shey, Thiksey, Tak Tok, Matho and Stok.





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