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Monday, 31 October 2016

From Leh to Lamayuru, India - Page 3

Written by Rama Shivakumar
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We part with the Indus at Khalste. The river snakes away from us towards the border town of Kargil, then past the border into Pakistan. The bucolic Ladakhi village houses have given way to military barracks. The Indian Army fought a war not far from here in 1999. Soldiers perform their exercises; long convoys of green trucks carry supplies, choking the road. On the hill above us, a soldier rests his gun on a pole bearing prayer flags. It is paradoxical: prayer flags blow mantras in the wind, promoting peace, compassion, strength and wisdom against the harsh backdrop of war and unrest.

 

Centuries ago, the Buddha looked eastward to spread his teachings. In Deskit Gompa, a gigantic golden sculpture of the Maitreya Buddha dominates the barren landscape of the Nubra Valley. In Thiksey Gompa, the Statue of the Maitreya is 3 stories high. Also revered in this land of Monasteries is the 14th Dalai Lama. He traveled westward as a young boy, across this unforgiving terrain to escape the Chinese invasion, to preserve the teachings of the Buddha. We encounter many monks in these monasteries. Some are Tibetan refugees, some are pariahs ostracized by their families. Clad in a maroon and yellow robes, their guttural chants rise and fall like spiritual waves. Some monks lead very simple lives, detached from the material pleasures of the world below them.

 

The hard life of the Ladakhi people is tied to the seasons. In the ephemeral days of summer, they earn a living by cultivating crops, driving tourists around and doing business in town. Markets are bustling, cattle graze on the banks of the Indus and children go to school in packed school buses. Then winter comes quickly, harshly. The cattle hurry into the sheds, their fodder is stored on the rooftops. The school, shops and mountain passes close, shutting the mountains from the plains, bringing life to a halt.

 

The road trip in Ladakh stirs the soul. We are diminished, humbled and speck like in the midst of the great Himalayan peaks. We are touched by the mountain people, by their warmth, by their openness. We learn from the Indus River, which knows no boundaries. Originating in China, the Indus, like Alfred Tennyson’s Brook chatters as it slips and slides through India before winding into Pakistan and finally curving and flowing into the Arabian Sea. For men may come and men may go, but the Indus seems to go on. Forever.

 

© Rama Shivakumar

 

 

 

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Last modified on Tuesday, 01 November 2016

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