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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

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already gone on pilgrimage to Kailas and his vivid descriptions of
the journey and its goal whetted our own appetites and influenced
us to undertake this difficult and dangerous journey. We travelled
first to the State of Kashmir, and in the capital city of Srinagar we
collected some clothing and equipment for life in Tibet, that land of
Arctic snows.

"Then we moved across the lovely valley of Kashmir, and over
the mountain-ridges that enclose it, following the Sind river to Kargil
and thence to the town of Leh. The road led us across the famous
Zoji-La Pass, the approach to which being a dangerously slippery
narrow ledge cut in the rock and curving around corners of the
mountain-sides. We had to cross snow-bridges and snow-beds. At
times the way was very steep and even treacherous, for avalanches
slip and fall down on the path, sweeping to death those who are
unfortunate enough to be in the way. These avalanches leave the
path covered with slippery ice and at some places we had to jump
over crevasses. Near Lamayuru the trail descended into what is said
to be the world's deepest gorge. Its bottom is lost in gloom.

"We reached Leh after some time and there visited a Buddhist
monastery, where we saw an immense statue of the Maitreya, the
Messiah of the Buddhists, who will appear to save the world in two
thousand years, according to their belief. Although it was a seated
figure it was so tall that its shoulders passed through the ceiling; its
head being in another storey of the building!

"Leh is an interesting little town for it stands at the junction of
four great caravan roads. One leads to Central Asia and Yarkand,
another to Tibet and China, and the others lead by different routes
to India.

"We were now hi Ladakh, or Little Tibet. This country was once
part of Tibet proper but was invaded and conquered by the Kash-
miris hi the middle of last century. It is therefore still a'province of
Kashmir, but retains all its Tibetan characteristics.

"We pushed on in a south-easterly direction until we came to
Hemis, where we found the largest monastery of Ladakh. It is
famous for its devil-dances. In these dances a group of lamas wear
laige and frightful masks over their heads, each coloured to represent
a devil or some terrifying horned beast of the other world. They
dance with tinkling bells on their feet. The monastery itself is built on
the face of a grey cliff in a narrow ravine, but the Head Lama has a
solitary and special seat for meditation placed on a distant rock high
above the building.

"No sooner were we across the Tibetan frontier thari we began to
suffer from the cold, although it was still a good season of the year.
Freezing icy winds blew over us from the glaciers. Our hands and