Himalayan Sojourns, Experiencing Leh – Sunday Herald -Travel- 1st June 2014

There are a very few places with an enigma about them. A mere reflection on them transports you to another era, a time long gone by. One can hear echoes of the past. Certain voices softly whisper in your ears, the songs of their majestic antiquity, grandeur, their glorious past and some folktales of those good old days.

Leh, the ancient capital of the Himalayan kingdom is one such place. Legend has it, that Leh was submerged under water, many centuries ago. A pious Buddhist saint, by the name of ‘Dha Chomba Nomegung’, prayed for human habitation and his wish materialised in the form of the ‘Leh’ that we see today.

A View From Thikse Monastery

A View From Thikse Monastery

The old town of Leh is known to the localities by the name of ‘Skyanos Gogsum’ and is situated behind the present day marketplace. This old town was like a fortress, with gates that opened only for a few hours every day. The ‘Leh Palace’ is perched up on a small hill inside this fortress and its first occupant was ‘Senge Namgyal’, one of the most powerful kings of the Namgyal Dynasty, which ruled Leh since the 17th century.

The old town, situated on the legendary ‘Silk Route’ was home to a bustling, live market place full of traders, craftsmen and artisans. It flourished, until, the ‘Dogra’ invasion of 1834. After this intrusion the royal family shifted their residence to ‘Stok’, where they reside till date. Once abandoned by the Namgyals, the old town lost much of its splendour and riches to its new rulers.

The remainder of the buildings of this battered town are some of the best surviving examples of the vernacular domestic architecture of that time, an architecture that had prospered to its fullest under its previous Buddhist rulers. Many of the houses and monasteries were built on elevated, sunny grounds, facing the south, and were often constructed from a mixture of rocks, wood and earth. To make the dwellings appropriately suitable to the extremely cold local climate, they were well-insulated with mud and straw, and the most important rooms always faced south for abundant sunshine.



Blessed with rich culture and breathtaking beauty, Leh has seen an unprecedented surge in tourism during the past decade and a half. Mountains dominate the immediate landscape and this sunken bowl of flattish land has two main access ways, one being the Srinagar- Leh highway and the other being the Manali-Leh highway. Winters see the closure of both these roadways due to heavy snowfall and the only link with this otherwise cut off landmass remains air transport.

Summers witness an enormous flood of travellers and the streets are crammed up with tourists from across the globe. The market place is full of craftsmen and traders exhibiting the best embroidery and handicrafts. This lively and busy marketplace is without a doubt a shopper’s delight. Summers witness the opening of a lot of eateries and café’s offering exotic foodstuff that you cannot even imagine you will get in Leh.


Old Leh town, the market place, The Kali temple and The Shanti Stupa remain the most common places of interest within the city.

In the very immediate surrounds, about 15 kms from Leh, on the main Leh – Manali highway are located The Shey Palace and the Thikse monastery. The Shey Palace complex, which was the old royal abode, houses in it, the Shey Gompa which has a 10 meter tall Buddha enshrine chiselled out in copper. The Shey Palace also boasts of a victory stupa carved out in pure gold. The festivals celebrated in Shey during summers include the Metuka festival in July and Shey Shublas festival in August. The festivities that take place in the Shey Palace and are attended by a hoard of people, summers being a major tourist season. The Sindhu Darshan festival is another very popular festival in Leh. Traditional Ladakhi Buddhist prayer ceremonies inaugurate the festival and cultural groups from all over the country participate in this three day long fiesta.

The Thikse monastery built about 660 years ago belongs to the ‘yellow hat’ sect of Buddhists. This twelve storeyed structure houses a 15 metres high statue of Maitreya,(the future Buddha), the largest such statue in Ladakh. The annual celebration held in this monastery is known as the Gustor ceremony, which is held from the 17th to 19th day, of the ninth month, of the Tibetan calendar (October –November).

The Lamayuru monastery, about 127 kms from Leh is one of the oldest and the most stunning monasteries you will come across. This ancient structure put up during the 10th or 11th century is sure to captivate you with its meditation caves carved out of rock. The Yundrung Kabgyad festival celebrated here on the 28th and 29th days of the 2nd Tibetan month is quite a spectacle.

Among the other monasteries worth visiting are the Hemis Monastery, Spituk Monastery, Phyang Monastery, Lekir Monastery, Alchi Monastery and Rizong Monastery.

About 160 kms from Leh, ahead of Thikse and crossing a whole host of mountain ridges you can find some peace and solace in The Pangong lake, which the  highest salt water lake in the world at 14,256 ft. Another place very popular amongst the travellers, in the Ladakh region is The Nubra Valley. Accessed by the highest motor able road and passing the Khardung La Pass at 18,380ft, the enchanting Nubra valley offers tourists a glance into the Indus valley and Zanskar mountain range. The close by village of Hunder is very well known for its sand dunes and double humped camels. Diskit is the closest market place in the vicinity.

Sited amidst several mountain passes and ranges of the Himalayan and the Karakoram mountains, Leh provides a good base for several fantastic trekking opportunities across Ladakh.

Leh is a haven of peace and serenity. The barren geography of this place contains in itself a unique Buddhist lifestyle and culture. The monasteries built long ago draw people from all over the world. The ancient rock carvings, large stupas and the peace and calm found in the monasteries leave a profound mark on the souls of travelers. Apart from the picturesque magnificence and sightseeing options, the culture and lifestyle of Leh is one of the reasons why holiday-makers love to flock here aplenty.

A peculiar music reverberates in my ears as I write this. A whiff of fresh breeze passes by me reminding me of something familiar. Maybe it’s just mountain air or maybe I was here once, long long ago.

Himalayan Sojourns - Sunday Herald -  1st June 2014

Himalayan Sojourns – Sunday Herald – 1st June 2014



Inside Home: Summer Kitchen Makeover

Summer Kitchen Makeover

Summer is already taking the country along its heat wave. To change the mood, I thought why not introduce you to a few summer kitchen makeover ideas. We all agree that a kitchen is the most important area of the house, because, all our food innovation lives in there. Whether it is a vertical high-rise construction or a lavish bungalow, every home deserves a kitchen of elegance. There can be several ways of renovating or building the kitchen space that is much open and less cluttered, after all that is what you want in summers. Renovating and rebuilding can be expensive though. While you plunge into water fruits and delectable juices, let us look into a few ways that will help you revamp your kitchen in style for the summers.

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Summer Home: Brighten Up Your Space

Summers are here, with all the heat, sweat and intensity. While most of us are all drained out, lethargic and lifeless, some of us have tried to make the best of the season. I am here to talk about the positive side today. Your summer home can become your biggest respite from the dull, dehydrating outsides, if you do it right. Lets talk about brightening our homes this summer and bring life, colour and vitality to the insides.

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Accompaniments: Classic Momo Dip

Street Food, has impressed all of us at some point of time. I especially have fond memories of the spicy sauce that a street hawker served with momos near our Delhi home. He was in fact very happy to share the spicy hot recipe with me, when I enquired about it. So here is sharing the Momo Dip recipe, that I got from him. I did refine it a bit, like all we ladies do;) I am sure you will do it too! All in good humour;)

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All Time Favourite Street Food Recipe: Classic Chicken Momos

Winter months call for warm food and tempting accompanying aromas are all the more welcome. Chicken Momos fit the bill aptly. I am sure most of you have had these by the street side or even in some fancy restaurant and a few of you may have come to believe that these are extremely difficult to make. That’s where you went wrong. The recipe below erases all doubts about the difficulty level and gives you soft and tender momos to satiate the winter hunger for warm street food.

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Outside Home: Mediterranean Homes

Characterised by stucco walls, rounded arches, terracotta roofs, warm hues and colours of the sea, Mediterranean Homes have been quite a rage of late… Everything just everything is so likeable. I love the fact that the mediterranean style brings to the table such warmth, comfort, homeliness and serenity that it really calms and reposes the mind. No wonder, this style is being appreciated and replicated in many a homes. This post brings to the forefront a few ideas, pertaining mainly to Mediterranean exteriors… something very doable in any home… may you be placed in any corner of the world.

See more at Outside Home: Mediterranean Homes


Packed with Vitamins A, K, D, E and folic acid and a great source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Spinach is a very healthy eating option. It’s a tragedy though that a few people and a lot of kids make quite a fuss about eating it. Recipes that make spinach fun are most certainly welcome in most households. Today, I share with you an easy spinach recipe that comes in the form of Hara Bhara Kebabs or Spinach Cakes. Spinach Kebabs or cakes can be easily baked in an oven and help you reduce the oil content making them a delicious and healthy option. So here it goes…

See more of the Hara Bhara Kebab Recipe here.

Inside Home: Decorating With Mirrors

If I were asked ‘ What is the one element that can act as a magic concoction in a decor setup?’, my answer without any hesitation would be – Mirrors. A mirror is that one single element in a design that can change the look of your decor by 360 degrees, of course, if it’s used correctly.  Mirrors are also a universal solution to many a design dilemmas that homeowners face daily. These being the lack of light, dealing with constrained spaces and choice of artwork amongst many other. Let me bring to light a few ways in which you can use mirrors to enhance the look of your space.

See more at http://letstalkabouthomes.com/2015/01/02/inside-home-decorating-mirrors/