Monday, October 27, 2014

from left:  Dolma, mother holding little Amo, Disket holding little Dlsket, Me, Dolkar, Disket's son, and Amo.


Desket (her name means Happy) wearing a wedding
Women’s Ladakhi traditional wedding clothes are quite ornate.  The bride actually wears two dresses, one layered on top of the other.  One dress is given to her by her parents, the other by the mother of the groom.  Then added are special ear rings, a felt like hat the extends out like Micky Mouse ears,(Ladakhi friends please forgive my comparison) but sideways, and then added to this is a long head covering of turquoise and some jewels.  Below are my friends who are modelling their wedding their garb for you, my readers.   

Darket ( name means goddess)and Amo dressed for their weddings.
Amo's long earrings are called Aa-long
Amo, who married the son of the family,
Jigmet, as the first daughter in her family,
she  got and wore the Parak, the turquoise
headdress at her wedding.
Dolkar modeling the Tasru or black half hat worn under the
Back view of the Perak headdress
worth $10,000.
Amo wearing a gold necklace,
value around $5000. And an
Antique coral and turquoise necklace

Dolkar being the second daughter did not wear
the turquoise Perak (hat), because it was inherited
by her older sister, Disket. But she is also wearing a real
gold disk necklace and strands of pearls.

The bride wears a beautiful cape that is made of fine materials and sheep's hair. I am sorry I do not know the name for it.  When she is a mother of the groom, she will also wear a cape such as this at her son's wedding.

These pictures were taken in Dolma's lovely garden

The garden is in the back of the lovely Jigmet Guesthouse and Hotel
Dear Dorje and Dolma's family, I hope I got this all correct.

Next entry: LAST DAY OUT.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Three Friends
On Sunday, Dolma, Dolma and I hired a car and off we went out to Traktok and Chemrey Monasteries.  Both my friends are Buddhist, so going to the two monasteries  was an important day of prayer and offerings for each.  My Dolma from Jigmet Guesthouse &Hotel dressed in her traditional Ladakhi clothes, whereas my other Dolma (not from Ladakh) dressed in her regular street clothes, yet each were equally devout.  On our drive to the two monasteries, we stopped at a small roadside shop so my companions could buy wicks and oil for the butter lamps as gifts to each of the monasteries.

Dolma from Jegmets Guest House, Me,  Dolma, my favorite  jeweller

First we went to Traktok ( some times spelled, Tak Thog) Monastery, which is 50 km (about 33 miles) from Leh.

A young boy, there for schooling

Beautiful Buddhist wall painting

Traktok Monastery built right into the mountainside

I understand it is an old monastery, but as to it’s age, I have no idea.  The interesting aspect of Traktok is that is built right into the rock, or mountainside, if you will.  Although it is a small monastery, it has beautiful paintings both in and outside in the courtyard area. Inside is a special cave that is often used as a meditation sanctuary for a single monk.  This area is guarded by yak horns and is rarely open to visitors - only when a meditating monk is not in residence.   

After our visit to this monastery, we were offered tea, then off we went to Chemrey Monastery which sits on a summit, with the surrounding Himalayan mountains as a beautiful backdrop. 

Chemrey Monastery
At the bottom of the road we passed old and new chortens (stupa shaped Buddhist shrines found mainly in Ladakh), then up the steep drive, we passed typical little Ladakhi houses that surrounded two sides of the hillside. At he entrance to the gompa (another term for monastery) our driver parked and we entered, and went immediately to the top level temple within the monastery .  The whole monastery is protected by an historical spiritual teacher or guru. This guru of the monastery, had dedicated the upper temple to men only, so although we ladies could not enter, I was allowed to take a photo.

Male only prayer room

There are two other temples plus butter lamp and  book chambers which can be visited by the public.  Besides its beautiful paintings, Chemrey also has a small interesting museum with not only ancient war items, but  also old religious as well as everyday life artefacts. Unfortunately, photography was not permitted.  

Chemrey, , has been in existence sometime before 1644.  Although major renovations were done to Chamrey between 1644 and 46. It is a branch of Hemis Monastery, which is the largest and most important monastery in Ladakh.  these two monasteries are dedicated to the druk-pa kargu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, which is the red hat sect of the His Holiness Drukchen Rinpoche.
Monastery wall paintings

Wall painting of 1000 Buddhas

After our visit, we were invited to have lunch in the dinning area of the monastery.  Lunch consisted of rice, dal, and a vegetable dish.  I always find it interesting that when one gives a donation to a monastery for your lunch, they always give a receipt on which your name and the amount is written.  I often wonder who checks these?
Note the lace curtains in the India military jeep window

The monk cooks and their pots in the Chemrey Monastery kitchen




Soon we were on our way back to Leh, after a wonderful day out with my two Dolmas.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Images of Ladakh

Monastery on a mountain side
Typical momastery entry


Me, Dolma, Dora, and the artist, Ruth
Stupas along the road

During a trekking visit to Ladakh, Ruth Bleif drew these numerous sketches of the country.  
A Ladakh mounain scene

The full mountain scene

A branch of apricots 

Apricots are a major crop in Ladakh.    
During apricot season, they are so plentiful, local shopkeepers hand them out to customers in their shops. Often offered with a cup of tea. There is also a wonderful apricot drink one can buy for twenty or thirty rupees in shop at the end of the main street.   This is also where one goes to refill water bottles for about 7 rupees.  Between the woven paper bags and reusing of water bottles the Ladakhis are mindful of their environment.
A  stupa and monastery windon 

A yak  

You will never see a yak in a zoo, because they can only survive above ten or twelve thousand feet or higher.  They are wonderful Himalayan pack animals, and Tibetans and other mountainous people give their yaks names groom them and treat them like members of the family.  Yaks are obviously much loved animals among Himalayan people.

If you are interested in Ruth's work, please contact her at 

Friday, September 19, 2014


Me, Dolma, Dora and her friend Ruth

Dolma, my friend who sells me jewellery whenever I come to Leh, invited me on a very pleasant day out. Yet, a day I found to be an odd experience.  

Landscape along the way
 It seems her German friend, Dora with a friend named Roland, I assume both Buddhists, during one of their treks, wandered upon an antique, crumbling monastery out in hillsides west of Leh not far from Likir, a large Monastery  founded in 1088 AD.

Our first view of Ney Monastery in the distance

side wall of Ney Monastery

Here, they felt the magical powers of the area, and decided to build a new monastery on the this mystical ground.  After 12 years, they have finished Ney Monastery, but there are as yet no monks living there.  Ney has become affiliated with Likir Monastery and the monks from Likir come and have pujas (prayer sessions) at Ney but none have yet moved in.  “They will come.”  Dora believes.  But my friend Jigmet, at my hotel, says fewer and fewer young Ladakhis are becoming monks.  “We are importing monks from Nepal,” 
he claims.
Interior monastery art 

Interior monastery art

All the exterior and interior art in Buddhist Monasteries have either religious meaning or depicts an important individual or event in the religion's history.  In the prayer room of 1000 Buddhas, there are actually one thousand little statues of Buddha.

Poplar tree ceiling found in most Ladakhi monasteries and houses

Monastery room of a thousand Buddhas

Lady who cares for Ney Monastery

- The neighbour

Interior Monastery art

Travelers come and stay at Ney Monastery (I met a German lady, who with her husband and daughter were in residence for three weeks), but even now fewer travellers have come for extended  stays.  You too, could come and stay at Ney for an extended time.

After being served a satisfying vegetarian lunch, and taken a pleasant country side walk down the mountain road which leads to Ney, home we drove, back to Leh and our respective hotels.  
A local getting her water from a mountain stream

A migrant worker.s home 

One of many streams running down from the Himalayan Mountains

A field of Barley

A local house
Old stupas along the road

 A view of Ney Monastery from the distance


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Recently the sister of my dear Ladakhi friend, Dolma (Disket’s mother-in-law), died.  I  was quite humbled to be allowed to attend the Ladakhi funeral on August 17th, and even more so, to be allowed to take pictures. 

Well to do Ladakhis send to the monastery for a large number of Lamas to come to the deceased’s household and pray over the body for as many as five to seven days until the day the body is cremated.  After the cremation, at the monastery, morning prayers continue to be said for forty-nine days.  

The home

The yard

I was invited to attend on the day of cremation. Dorje and I walked together to the deceased’s home at 12 PM.  The rather big  two story house had a large room on each level in which sat women mourners around the edge of the each of these two rooms (I suspect about 20 women in each) from which, I would hear occasional soft chants and prayers.  

Upon my arrival, Dorje gave me a box of cookies to take in as an offering to the family.  Disket directed me into the lower room where her mother-in-law, my friend, and the sister of the decased was sitting. I bowed to her as I gave my offering.  Then I returned outside, to a large lawn area, where I was given a chair, cookies, and a cup of milk tea. Although there were a number of women sitting on the grass drinking tea or wondering about with small children, most of the people sitting around in groups on the lawn were men, drinking tea and chatting.  Occasionally, I would hear the brief faint of drums,symbols, and horns in the distance.  

praying monks 

At one o’clock exactly, Dorje came to me, “Hurry,” he said and quickly led me behind a cloth screen, then pushed me through the crowd so I had a front row view.  There before me sat a tent with at least 30 monks and Lamas, who had begun chanting prayers to tibetan liturgical music in unison.

For about twenty minutes the monks and Lamas repeated their religious mantras for the deceased. Then suddenly, Dorje was at my side again, “Come, he said, “Hurry.”  He grabbed my arm and hustled me past the house, up the drive to a location at the edge of the main road. “Wait here.” he advised me, and he disappeared into the crowd.   

prqying, while walking  to the cremation

A famous family member walking to the cremation

As I turned and looked back toward the house, the religious came in single file up the drive accompanied by their music and chanting prayers.  As they came, they tuned left up the road toward the cremation platforms on the hill just below Shanti Stupa.  Behind the monks and Lamas came the coffin, and following behind, all the men, including Dorje.  It was then that I learned that only the men attended cremations; most of them carrying stcks of burning incense in honour of the deceased.  While the women stayed behind, softly chanting prayers.   

Shanti Stupa

the funeral pyre

The next day, in a comforting gesture, I went with my young friends, Dorje’s daughters, to visit Dolma, Diskit’s mother-in-law.  Others came and went, and during chats and teas we shared together in our everlasting friendship.   


Sadly also on august 17th, our dear friend Carmen died surrounded by her loving family. Carmen, Joan and I have been friends for well over fifty years.  Like the three musketeers, we were always there when ever one of us was in need.  In times of joy, we laughed together, and in sadness we shared in each other’s sorrow. Joan and I miss you greatly Carmen, and we send you all our love upon your future path.