Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Shey Palace: Erstwhile Summer Capital of Ladakh

There is something special about Ladakh that keeps drawing people to it. Is it the snow clad mountains, the rarefied atmosphere, rich Buddhist culture, insanely beautiful nature or all of it? I have been to Ladakh a countless number of times. Some to different parts in different seasons and some to the same places for different occasions. Irrespective of the type of visit, I have always left a piece of my heart there and may be, that is why I have kept returning to this Himalayan kingdom.

Side profile of the Buddha statue inside the temple of Shey Palace, Ladakh, India

Sometimes, even the most visited place in Ladakh like the Shey Palace, can give you such a rich experience. Shey Palace is one of the tourist attractions that is located closest to Leh and one that is insanely popular on the tourist map. Normally, I find places with huge crowds and lots of tourists a huge turn off. But, for some weird reason, Shey monastery and palace, which I have visited many times in the past, made a strong connection during my summer visit this year.

The Holy Buddhist scriptures in front of a monk at Shey Palace, Ladakh

I don’t know if the connection was due to the giant statue of the seated Shakyamuni Buddha, the meditating monk inside the monastery, the smiling locals or the panoramic view from the roof top. I just felt very peaceful here during this summer visit.

The creases on the face of an elderly Ladakhi man at Shey Palace, Ladakh, India

From the moment you begin the climb from the main road to the palace beside the zigzagging lane of prayer wheels through the interiors of the palace, into the quiet divine rooms of the monastery and to the white pagoda on the top, that feeling of peace stays.

A typical Ladakh summer landscape as seen from the top of Shey Palace

Overlooking the fertile Indus river valley, Shey Palace, which used to be a summer retreat for the kings of Ladakh is now mostly in ruins. Both the Shey Palace and the Shey Gompa were built in 1655, but thankfully, the Shey Gompa has stood the test of time and is now a working temple.

View from the top of Shey Palace, Ladakh

This Shakyamuni Buddha statue in the Shey Palace is the second largest such statue in Ladakh. This giant golden Buddha statue’s most appealing attribute is the smiling face of Lord Buddha. It was an absolute pleasure to sit in the tiny area surrounding this giant Buddha and to go around the Buddha statue watching the colorful wall paintings detailing the various stories from Buddhism.

Local Ladakhi man selling incense stick and trinkets at Shey Palace, Ladakh, India

If you feel like feeling a blast of cold air and some sensational views, you can take the narrow trail from the monastery to the top of the hill. From here, you can see the monastery, the stupa, the Indus valley and the snow capped Himalayas, all in one gorgeous view.

Portrait of an elderly Ladakhi man at Shey Palace

What is your special Ladakh experience? Do the mountains keep calling your home or you love to be enveloped by the vast emptiness here? Do share your thoughts through the comments below.

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