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Ladakh monuments cry for renovation

Luv Puri

Nine-storey palace built in 16th century is in ruins

— Photo: Luv Puri

UNIQUE: Shanti Stupa constructed by the Japanese is a tourist attraction in Ladakh.

LEH: Although tourists are streaming in from different parts of the world, the cultural and ancient sites here are crying for funds. Many of them are decaying and crumbling despite local efforts.

The city's cynosure — a crumbled nine-storey palace of the 16th century that towers over the Leh old quarters — itself points to the threat faced by similar structures in this cold desert.

The palace was the residence of the royal family of Ladakh-Namgayals and was built by Tashi Namgyal in the 16th century.

His rule extended across Spiti (upper reaches of Himachal Pradesh) and western Tibet up to the Mayumla beyond the sacred sites of Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar.

The building constructed in Tibetan architectural style is said to have inspired the Potala in Lhasa, Tibet, built half-a-century later.

The palace is now in ruins but the temple structures associated with it remain intact. Walking through the palace is a risky affair as staircases are quite unstable.

"We ask the tourists to be careful whenever they visit the palace as the structure is highly unstable," says Lekh Raj, a State Government appointee.

Shey, ancient capital of the region with its palace and temples, is in no better shape. Itsbright murals were partially restored in the mid-1980s. This building also requires renovation to prevent further decay.

The Zorawar Singh Fort, named after the person who merged the Ladakh region with the State of Jammu and Kashmir in the 19th century after his conquest of the region, now houses the Ladakh scouts personnel.

The fort made up of local material is slowly crumbling. Many of the monasteries, especially those in the peripheral areas, also face the same problem, as a huge sum is required for their maintenance.

Hemis Gompa is the biggest and most famous monasteries in Ladakh. This richest Gompa in the whole of Ladakh and is dedicated to Guru Padama Sambhava.

The monastery, located in the beautiful landscape of theHemis National Park, was founded in 1630 AD.

There are new constructions in the town, which are turning into tourist attractions. The Shanti Stupa built by the Japanese has become the most famous tourist attraction; its architecture is different from the Ladakhi style.

Legislator and hotelier Pintoo Narboo says: "There is [an] urgent need to protect the ancient sites. Though the locals are trying their best, it requires more funds and specialised inputs for saving the unique cultural heritage of the country."

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