So you got your bags packed and all set to explore some place eh? Why not try something not-so-clichéd this time? Yeah! That’s just what I did! Here’s an account…
With no fixed plan but a definite agenda – to explore, I took to the wheels and decided to randomly wander around on the roads of the most breathtaking place I have seen on earth – Ladakh. It was an early morning of July and, believe you me, this barren desert gets as scorching in this month as it gets cold in January.
The sun literally burnt my skin so I made sure I had my sunscreen (I recommend more than SPF 100 and personally use the one from Lotus) in place. Stocked up with cans of Red Bull and enough fuel, I made a move towards Saspol from Leh taking the NH1. Just a 53 kilometers drive took me to Likhir (AKA Liker, Likir). With some bird watching on the way and some lazy chit chat with the locals, who are mostly Buddhists in this region, I finally drove uphill through the village and reached the Likhir Gompa, one of the oldest monasteries of Ladakh.
What caught my attention immediately was the almost 70feet tall statue of Buddha covered in gold. Sitting majestically on a very colourful throne, it is a treat for the eyes especially if viewed under the clear azure sky. If you are in a mood to just sit and get philosophical about life, then walk right till the end of the entrance of the monastery and sit on the cliff that gives a mesmerizing and panoramic view of the village way below you. The patches of green and yellow ooze fresh lease of life against the various shades of grey and brown high up in the mountains.
A ten minute trek uphill took me to the inside of the gompa, which also happens to be on of the wealthiest monasteries in the region and is inhabited by about 100 monks at a time. The main monastery has two assembly halls and the roofs are adorned with colourful prayer flags. A wooden staircase leads you to the top which is a great idea if you wish to take some pictures of the ladscape or simply soak in the view.
- It is said that the monastery dates back to the 11th During the reign of the fifth king of Ladakh, Lhachaen Gyalpo, the land to build the monastery was offered to lama Duwang Chojse, who blessed the site and eventually the monastery was built in 1065.
- The name Likher means Nagas Encircling. The monastery lies on a hilltop that looks like it is coiled like a serpent. It is said to be encircled by the two great serpent spirits – the Naga kings Nanda and Taksako and thus it got it’s name ‘Liker Galdantargyasling’.
- The monastery is also called Klukhil (Klu – serpent, Khil – Coil) as it is believed that the Naga king Jakpo slept in a coil on the hill on which the monastery is situated. Popular belief says the name Klukhil in due course broke down to Likher.
- About thirty students are given basic education at the monastery, which includes learning Hindi, Sanskrit and Tibetan. The best of these students are eventually selected to become lamas.
- The monastery has statues made of copper, silver, brass and gold. Apart from the serene ambience, the rare thangkas and murals are other attractions here.
- The monastery was originally built as a fort as to accommodate villagers during war. It was damaged in a fire and was rebuilt in the 18th
- The religious rituals related to either sutra or tantra system, as practiced in the Tibetan monasteries, are adopted by this monastery.
How to get there
Regular flights are available to Leh from Delhi. Morning flights are the best. The 1 hour 20 minutes long flight gives a good glimpse of the Himalayan and Ladakh ranges, already preparing you for what’s in store. Likher is about an hour’s drive towards west of Leh. Cabs and bikes rae easily available on rent.
Where to stay
While Leh has multiple options to stay, homestays are a good option if you wish to get a good idea about the local culture and way of life.
Best Time to Visit: June to September.