Friday, July 14, 2017

Alchi- The only Monastery Built In Kashmiri Style Architecture!

On the banks of Indus river, some 65 km from Leh lies the beautiful village of Alchi. We took a small detour on the Leh-Kargil highway and a massive bridge along with a series of small chortens lined across the road welcoming us to the village of Alchi. It is renowned as the oldest Buddhist learning center in Ladakh.

The monastery in Alchi is one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh and is famous for its Kashmiri style architecture. Another interesting aspect about Alchi monastery is that it is the only monastery that we have been to and know of that is built on plains/low ground unlike others that are usually atop a hill. Administered by Likir Monastery there are several temples within the monastery complex and the Kashmiri style architecture is very evident in the the assembly hall and the main temple which is a three storeyed structure.

The main temple has a stupa in the center surrounded by three gigantic incarnations of Buddha. It is known for its age old paintings that are very well preserved. The wall of the monastery have elaborate paintings depicting teachings of both Buddhist and Hindu kings of that time. These paintings date back to nearly a thousand years and this is one of the reasons that has made the village famous as these paintings have been well preserved. There are elaborate carvings on the wooden doors and pillars of the temples. We were left spellbound by the attention to detail on these paintings and massive carvings. The temple is surrounded by chortens as they were given equal importance during that period.

There is a Tibetan handicraft market that has engulfed the monastery. The massive entry door of Alchi monastery seemed tiny in front of the hundreds of shops around that sell souvenirs. The array of shops selling souvenirs reminded us of many famous Places Of Worship where the stall owners try to sell their products and make you feel guilty for not offering anything to the Gods. While this kind of put us off, the simple and stunning monastery was worth it.

Alchi was not just home to an age old monastery but was also home to a palace which now is in absolute ruins. This palace compound was strikingly similar to that of Leh palace. The views from atop the palace ruins of the surrounding hills would be captivating to say the least. It would be a perfect place to watch the sun go down behind the hills.

The Alchi monastery is mobbed by several guest houses and stay options and you would be spoilt for choice. The village is super commercialized with many fancy restaurants and posh hotels catering to different budgets.

Home stays always give us an amazing comfortable experience that no posh hotel can match up. We strategically chose our home stay a kilometer away from the monastery- "Chhoskar Homestay." The distance made sure that we had a very pleasant and serene stay experience. We picked a room at the top most floor that offered us amazing views of the abandoned palace compound and the hills. The best part about the home stay is the magical lawn that has amazing seating arrangements and a hammock which made it the ideal place to sip mint tea and enjoy lovely evenings. Their garden has several apricot and apple trees.

The comfortable rooms had clean sheets, geyser fitted attached bath and wifi. The hosts were very nice and kind people. They treated us with fresh apricots right from their garden and amazing mint tea. We got a steal deal of Rs.800 per day. The icing on the cake was we had an open terrace all for ourselves and at nightfall we had amazing views of starlit sky.

Taking a stroll around the village, we were surprised to see so many apricots not just in the locals' homes but strewn around the streets and it looked like an apricot village. This beautiful sight continued on the Kargil- Leh highway as well. We were way too tempted and decided to stop on the highway and treated ourselves to these yummy fruits. Most of the highways have trees that are not fruit bearing and the fruit bearing ones are usually a part of a farm. This was our first time spotting such yummy fruit bearing trees on the highway for all to enjoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment