The days I spent in Lahaul can be at best termed as mixed in terms of success. I could not cover everything I intended to do but since it was my first time, I am not too worried about it. The Bhaga valley around Keylong, and in fact the entire Lahaul was at its fecund best during June and July. In fact it was so fecund that I almost found it erotic. The days were long and the colours were popping out of the landscape. So, this post is a love letter to Lahaul apart from being the account of a solitary trek.
One of the minor treks I managed to complete near Keylong is that of the Shashur Monastery. It literally means blue pines, a particular variety of pines that reign the area. It is located atop a hill overlooking Keylong. This may make you mistake it to be some easy, local sightseeing. But is a reasonably long and even steep trek that takes a few hours to complete.
It was a bright day. The sheer splendour of the Bhaga Valley unfurled as I kept moving upwards and arriving at important vantage points. Natural landscapes surely have their charm but after Lahaul, I must say that even a well maintained agricultural tract in a fertile setting is equally alluring. Those potato fields will remain etched forever in my mind. The Kardang Monastery, whch is another major monastery in Lahaul, could be seen from these hills, on a different hill.
The road leading to the monastery is smooth although there is no public transport available. So, as usual, I kept walking, occasionally taking shortcuts and ending up in confusing but delightful places blooming with seasonal flowers.
Initially I underestimated the trek and only after a couple of hours of trekking finally the monastery became visible, that too at a reasonable distance. It has a history of 1000 years although the exterior building looked new from a distance.
After another hour of trekking I finally reached the place. The frst thing I came accross was a bunch of old stupas. I thnk these were the original ones from the 17th century when it was established by Lama Deva Gyatso of Zanskar. The present monastery is a newly constructed building.
A few monks had gathered there for some meeting. They asked me to enter the compound. I realized that it is a multi storeyed building, newly furnished. However, the interiors house several ancient relics and ntricately painted thankas. I checked all the floors and entered the inner sanctums. Some monks were busy chanting prayers so I did not take out my intrusive camera but clicked a few with the phone. So, these images are a bit disappointing. But there is much more to see inside that I did not capture.
I spent an hour or so, exploring the monastery and observing the monks. While all of them were dressed in traditional robes, I noticed that many of them were checking WhatsApp on their smartphones in the middle of prayers. You cannot really resist an idea whose time has come!
My return was also slow and comprised of a lot of photography breaks. The sun was about to set and there was a lot of light and shadow play. Sometimes I got the timings right, sometimes I did not. I thnkone of them involved the glacier called The Lady of Keylong, which is more than 6000 metres in altitude. I am returning to Lahaul very soon to make of for the things I missed out. Till then just ogle at these.