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Ladakh, where Buddhist spirituality, culture reign supreme



IANS Photo IANS Video Making of Neerja | Starring So... Subscribe To Affiliates IANS PhotoIANS VideoIANS MultimediaIANS HindiIANS LiveBusiness WireBollywood CountryIANS publishingIANS SoftwareIANS ConsultancyPR Newswire Common Links Advanced Search All the Headlines Back to index2016-09-29 A | A- | A+ Ladakh, where Buddhist spirituality, culture reign supreme

Leh, Sep 29 : Ladakh — once the hub of the ancient Silk Route — is aptly described as a place where Buddhist spirituality and its ancient culture reign supreme amidst virgin nature.

It’s a cold desert in northern India, dotted by tiny hamlets spread over the Himalayan peaks adjoining Tibet, where one can simultaneously have a close brush with sunburn and frostbite in summer.

Leh, the headquarters of Ladakh, is connected by road — open only five months a year due to heavy snowfall — from Srinagar and the distance of 434 km takes two days with a night halt at Kargil town; and almost equidistant from the picturesque Manali tourist resort in Himachal Pradesh via the picturesque Lahaul Valley. The latter route is more treacherous.


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Travelling by air is the most convenient way to reach Leh, available round the year.

“It’s a place where spirituality and culture co-exist, where traditional life is thriving by adapting green, modern technologies. It’s truly called a crown jewel,” remarked British tourist Alfred Martin.

For Malaysia-born Michelle Yeoh, famous for her role in Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning martial arts love story “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, visiting the “rooftop of the world” is a spiritual journey. The analogy, however, was not exactly appropriate as the expression “Roof of the World” generally refers to Tibet.

“It’s a spiritual journey for me every time. This land of high mountain passes always reminds me of a stronghold of Buddhist art, culture and spirituality and this spirit of purity is rarely seen elsewhere in the world,” Yeoh told IANS.

She was in Ladakh earlier this month for the week-long Naropa festival, a once-in-12-year celebration of the birth anniversary of the great Indian saint Naropa, at the famed 17th century Hemis monastery, located 40 km from Leh.

“From July till late October is the best period to explore ancient monasteries and trek to a host of mountain passes,” remarked tour operator Sonam Dawa in Leh.

Ladakh reported a tourism boom in 2015, attracting 146,501 visitors, including 19,075 foreigners, up more than 25 percent from the previous year, according to the local administration.

This year, till July, it saw 161,444 tourists and a majority of the foreigners were from Israel, France, Britain and the US.

The entire Ladakh region is populated mainly by tribals. The climatic conditions are harsh as much of the land is a cold desert where the mercury remains below minus 30 degrees Celsius in winter for weeks on end.

The staple food is barley, wheat, peas, rice, rapeseed and salted tea mixed with yak butter.

From the world-acclaimed Hemis monastery to Druk Padma Karpo School, also known as “Rancho’s School” after the Aamir Khan character in the film ‘3 Idiots’, these places speak about the unique spirit of Ladakh, from an ancient past to the innovative present.

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Built in 1630 by Druk Staktsang Raspa, a student of the fifth Gyalwang Drukpa, the monastery holds the Hemis Festival every year in summer in honour of Guru Padmasambhava, the eight-century Indian guru revered for spreading Buddhism in the Himalayas.

The monastery’s museum is a repository of an astounding 1,500 artefacts, some dating back 1,400 years.

Just an hour’s steep uphill hike from the Hemis Monastery takes you to the Gotsang cave and retreat centre, a spiritual journey.

Chemdrey, one of Ladakh’s greatest fortress monasteries, is 45 km from Leh, en route to the picturesque Nubra Valley and the world’s highest salt water lake Pangong that freezes in winter.

The statute of Padmasambhava is the most important statue in the Chemdrey monastery.

The Shrey Palace, located 15 km south of Leh, houses a 12-foot statue of Buddha in the temple of Shakyamuni, one of the largest metal statues in Ladakh.

The palace, which boasts a view of 108 stupas , is owned by a royal family of Ladakh. Monks of the Drukpa lineage are taking care of it.

Adventure and thrills lie west of Leh.

The mighty Indus and Zanskar rivers are popular for whitewater rafting. The place where the blue waters of the Zanskar and the green of the Indus join, some 36 km from Leh, is known for its most beautiful views.

There is also the famous Sikh shrine, Gurdwara Patar Sahib, managed by the Indian Army, 20 km from Leh.


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Getting to Leh:

How to travel: In summer, by public or private transport. From Manali to Leh via Keylong; From Srinagar to Leh via Kargil.

Leh is connected by air from Delhi and Jammu.

Where to stay in Leh: Small hotels, guest houses and even homestays with local people. Interestingly, there are no houses left in Leh, only guest houses.

Buddhist leader The Gyalwang Drukpa, the spiritual head of the 1,000-year-old Drukpa Order, is promoting homestays among the locals by adopting eco-friendly ways. ( IANS Vishal Gulati )


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Mail/Express trains to get saloons for exclusive journey

Railways has given written instruction to all zonal railways to allow saloons to be attached to all scheduled mail/express trains across the country. The Rajdhani, Duronto, Shatabdi and Gatimaan expresses have been exempted from this.



IRCTC Sloon Coach

New Delhi, June 8 (IANS) Aiming to increase earnings, Indian Railways will add a saloon to mail/express trains if booked by passengers for exclusive travel for reaching destination in comfort by paying a little more.

Known as an Inspection Car, a saloon is a specially designed rail coach with two bedrooms, a drawing/dining room, two bathrooms, an attendant’s room and a kitchen.

Facing stiff competition from low cost carriers the national transporter is in the process of coming out with many innovative approaches to perk up revenue.

Saloons are used by senior railway officials on their inspection duty. Ministers are also entitled to use the saloon during their rail journey.

Though the saloon can comfortably accommodate six passengers, one has to pay the equivalent of 18 first class fare for the same destination in the scheduled train.

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IRCTC opens luxury railway saloons to public; coaches to offer valet service, air-conditioned rooms

“We have allowed saloon to be booked by any passenger. It would be added as an additional coach to the existing mail/express train on demand after paying the prescribed rate,” a senior Railway Ministry official said.

One can book the saloon through IRCTC, the railways’ tourism and catering wing.

Railways has given written instruction to all zonal railways to allow saloons to be attached to all scheduled mail/express trains across the country. The Rajdhani, Duronto, Shatabdi and Gatimaan expresses have been exempted from this.

Currently, a Mail/Express train have between 18 to 24 coaches.

Since the saloon is equiped with cooking facility, customers will be free to make their own catering arrangements.

Railways expect the saloon will be in demand in tourist destinations and it would also be a much sought after service by newly married couples.

By : Arun Kumar Das

( is a senior Delhi-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at [email protected])

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Qatar Airways boss sorry for anti-women jibe

Qatar Airways says 44 per cent of its workforce are female. Al Baker said he supports efforts to bring a woman in to lead Air Italy, in which the Middle Eastern carrier owns a stake.



Qatar Airways, anti-women jibe

Sydney, June 7 (IANS) Qatar Airways’s board Chairman has apologized for his remark that a woman could not run his airline, saying his comment was taken out of context, media reports said.

Akbar Al Baker made the initial remark at an annual meeting in Sydney of the International Air Transport Association, an industry group made up of major airlines including big US carriers, Efe reported.

“Of course it has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position,” Al Baker said, in an audio recording of the Tuesday press conference that was posted to Twitter.

He apologized but said the media took the comment out of context.

Al Baker is the group’s new board Chairman and the meeting in Sydney attracted some 1,000 attendees.

On Wednesday, at a separate conference in Sydney run by market-intelligence firm Centre for Aviation, Al Baker said he didn’t mean he “would discourage any woman to come and take my position.”

He said, “It was just a joke, everybody laughed and I thought that was the end of the story.”

Qatar Airways says 44 per cent of its workforce are female. Al Baker said he supports efforts to bring a woman in to lead Air Italy, in which the Middle Eastern carrier owns a stake.

But many parts of the aviation industry are still dominated by men. The International Society of Women Airline Pilots says not even 5 per cent of airline aviators are women.

A 2015 Centre for Aviation study found 94 per cent of airlines are led by men. The new 31-member governing board of IATA has just two female members.

Some airline executives at the Wednesday event agreed with Al Baker that his comments were blown out of proportion, but said they recognized the need for more women to get involved in the industry.

Martin Gauss, Chief Executive of Latvian airline airBaltic, said the industry must make it clear to young women that having a career as a pilot is a possibility.

Still, no women spoke on a half-day of panels at the Centre for Aviation event on Wednesday, a report in Dow Jones said.

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Now, Shimla is just 20 minutes away from Chandigarh



The heli-taxi service that will cut down the travel time by four hours. (Photo- AIR)

Shimla, June 4: The travel distance between this Himachal Pradesh tourist resort and Chandigarh was reduced to just 20 minutes with the launch of a heli-taxi service on Monday.

The state government in association with helicopter service operator Pawan Hans Ltd launched a to and fro heli-taxi service on the Chandigarh-Shimla route, cutting down the earlier four hours travel time.

Each sortie, with 19 passengers on board, will offer a minimum fare of Rs 2,999 per person. It will initially ply twice a week, Monday and Friday.

The helicopter will take off from Shimla’s airport at Jubbarhatti at 8 a.m. and reach the Chandigarh International Airport at 8.20 a.m.


And from Chandigarh to Shimla, the flight will take off at 9 a.m. and reach Shimla at 9.20 a.m., an official with Pawan Hans told IANS.

He said the frequency of heli-taxi service would be increased depending on response of the passengers.

Otherwise, it takes minimum four hours to travel between Shimla and Chandigarh by road.

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur flagged off the first service from Shimla. He said this would greatly help to boost the tourism industry in the state.

The government is also planning to start heli-taxi service between Chandigarh and Manali and sortie service from Manali to the majestic Rohtang Pass, an official said.

Members of the tourism industry are elated as they are hopeful that high-end tourists, especially foreigners and business travellers, will prefer to visit the state capital and its nearby destinations by flights.

“We are hopeful that the heli-taxi service will give boost to the tourism industry,” D.P. Bhatia, liaison officer with Shimla-based Oberoi Group of hotels, told IANS.


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