Phuktal monastery | Bardan monastery
Zanskar lies to the south-west of leh, surrounded by the Himalayan and zanskar ranges, which is the most isolated of all the trans-himalayan valley. It takes two days, with a nigh halt at kargil, to reach Zanskar negotiating the rough road beginning from kargil.
Zanskar comprise two main valleys of stod (Doda chu) and lungnak (Tsarab chu)(, which converge below at padum. The valley has an area of about 5,000 square km and an elevation of 13,154 ft. the area remains inaccessible for nearly 7 months in the year. All the high passes gets closed in winters. The only alternate route out of Zanskar river, which has become a popular destiny for winter tourist hikers.it is nearly week long walk on frozen river from Zanskar to reach leh. This is popular as chadar trek.
The geographical isolation of Zanskar has resulted in the preservation of the Buddhist heritage and identity. Islam did not reach beyond parkachik. The settlement of a small muslim community in padum area in the centre of Zanskar, is rather a recent phenomenon. Many ancient monastic establishments are still actively involved in religious activities. Some remote caves here are believed to have been used by the succession of Buddhist saints to sustain meditation pursuit, of knowledge and enlightenment. The most sacred sani monastery has a stupa of the kanishka period.
The route from kargil to padum is the only motorable road to reach Zanskar valley, which remains open from June to September. The road was completed in the late 70s. A road along the Zanskar River called chadar road is under construction, which is likely to be completed in few years. This will reduce the two-day difficult travel through kargil from leh to about five hours between Zanskar and Leh.
The road between Zanskar and kargil involves the crossing of difficult penzila pass. However, the views of mountain glaciers including the popular Drang-Drung glaciers offer unique and pleasant sights of stark nature before you. Before Penzi-la like the green suru valley to the vast wideness of Rangdum. The pleasant suru Valley ends with the panikhar village under the shadows of Nun kun massif, the photographic view of Nun kun can be enjoyed from village Thangbu, about 12 km short of panikhar. There is a couple of restaurants at panikhar. Leaving panikhar and parkachik through the ascent along the suru river, one reaches the first little Buddhist village called Zuldo. The buses and taxis usually stop here for lunch or tea. The restaurants provide rice and dal at reasonable price.
Then comes the vast expanse of the Rangdum valley with a monastery standing in peace a top a hillock right in the middle of the valley surrounded by glacial mountains. There is a check-post close to the Rangdum village, Which has few eateries and tea stalls for much needed rest. Soon after leading RRangdum , ascend to the harsh but adventurous penzi-la begins. The Penzi-la top overlooks the Zanskar valley and the mystic Drang Drung Glacier.
After crossing Penzi-la you hike to a village called Aksho that marks the beginning of series of villages till padum, which is the administrative centre of the Zanskar sub division and a block under the Kargil district. The other villages on the way include Hamuling, Phay and Dungri. The Valley is covered with a blanket of green patches. Much before padum there is a way to the zongkhul gonpa on the right side of the road across the stream. It is a 3 hr walk from the main road. A few km short of padum is the sani village, which has the zanskar's most popular monastery sani gonpa. It has a stupa named kanika chorten, dating back to the ka kanishka period.
Soon you get to padum zanskar, which is around 164 km form leh 234 kms away from kargil. Once the capital of the Zanskar valley, today it is the administrative headquarter of the region and probably the most populous settlement of Zanskar valley, today it is the administrative headquarter of the region and probably the most populous settlement of Zanskar. There is small market along the main road with hotels, restaurants and shops. The town also has a newly constructed mosque of the muslim community.
Zongkhul Monastery Zanskar
Zongkhul monastery zanskar was founded by Maha siddha naropa, who meditated here in a cave above the monastery. It remained the meditation centre for many years. The footprints of naropa can be seen in the caves even today. Around a thousand years old, the monastery has 25 monks in residence.
Sani monastery is about six km from padum. It is believed that guru padmasambhava, who spread Buddhism in Tibet in the 7th centure, is said to have visited sani and meditated for several years. Naropa also visited sani and practiced meditation for many year. Sani Nasjal (monastic festival) is celebrated between the 15th and 20th day of the sixth Tibetan month.
Karsha Monastery Zanskar
The karsha monastery zanskar stands majestically on a steep mountain overlooking the padum valley. It is around 9 kms from padum across the river and it takes around 12 hr on foot to reach karsha. Karsha monastery zanskar was founded by a translator phagspa sherab from Zanskar and later improved by Dorjay sherab and sherab Zangpo of stod. At present it is the largest Gelugpa schoo, monastery in Zanskar. Around 90 monks are in residence.
The phuktal monastery is picturesquely set on a mountain that looks like a bird's nest. It is situated on the western side of padum. This gonpa was founded by phagspa sherab and later a monastic community was introduced. The phuktal festival takes place on the 18th and 19th days of the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar.
On the Lamayuru Darcha trekking route lies the Bardan Monastery loced on a giant rock to the south of Padum overlooking the River Lingti. In the 17th Century AD Dewa Gyasto founded the Bardan Monastery and it is a branch of the Monastery Stakna and 40 monks are residing here.