23 June 2017

Basgo

If one drives on the road to Kargil, from Leh, after 40 odd kilometers there is an inconspicuous right turn that takes one to Basgo. Its a small monastery on a hill top, surrounded by the ruins of a muddy brown extensive structure, of which only a few escarpments remain. This was one of the most important political centres of Ladakh a few centuries ago. The kings of Ladakh used to reign from Basgo. In 1680, it withstood the combined might of the Tibetan and Mongol armies.
The current Gompa belies its rich history and heritage. A straggling notice board informs the visitor that it has been listed as one of the 100 most endangered heritage sites for the year 2000 - 2001.
Inside the ancient shrine is a massive 3 storey high maitreya buddha idol. The walls are, as usual, painted with bright lookimg Tangkhas, depicting mandalas and legends from Buddhas life. Its raining heavily and a bunch of school children have taken shelter inside the shrine. An elderly lama speaks something to me and gestures, but I cannot make out what he is trying to convey. Another lama is giving packaged fruit drinks to the visitors. As we move out, the rain gets harder. The narrow stairs of the fortress like Gompa leads to a precarious mud path leading to another shrine that is the "village shrine". We scamper along the path to avoid the rain. This smaller shrine looks even more ancient. We sit on the old carpeted floor for a while, trying to drum up some piety within ourselves while waiting for the rain. An elderly monk is reading from a scripture and beating the drum rythmically. It is mystical and one gets a feelong that time has stood still. It seems like the edge of the world here. The rain relents and we make our way to the desolate car park, steeply down the muddy stairway.
Basgo, though isolated and infrequently visited, is a place of immense pride for the Ladakhis. Its here that they withstood the might of Tibetans and the Mongols aided by the mighty Mughals. It reminds me of another place, Drukgyal Dzong in Bhutan, a few thousand miles from here, another site of a successful defence against the invading Tibetans.

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