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Spirituality in the Mountains

Sara, one of our India Consultants, recently visited the Tibetan enclave of Ladakh and got under the skin of the spiritual side of India.

Spirituality has been in the mountains of Ladakh since time began – Bon religion; worshiping nature; and Buddhism influenced from India and Tibet. The landscape is peppered with mementos of all of these beliefs: Latos, piles of stones, juniper bushes and goat horns as shrines to the spirits of rock, water and air; white-washed chortens or stupas mirror the snow-capped mountains; prayer flags carry worship on the winds; and Mani Walls at the gateway to villages have hundreds of carved stones spreading positive messages of love amd compassion ‘Om mani padme hum’ (Hail the jewel in the lotus). What a welcome!

All mountain beliefs can blend to fantastical effect especially in the case of Oracles, mediums who can harness a powerful healing spirit. Lamas consult with their Oracle for advice and local people visit, suffering from ailments that modern medicine has failed to cure, or with questions about their future.  I visited an Oracle during my recent travels through Ladakh. The Oracle was being consulted by a room full of patients so I was able to watch proceedings and my Ladakhi guide, Dhammo explained the nuances, although the drama was easy to follow! The medium called upon the Oracle with chanting, snorting and shrill cries, while rhythmically twisting a Dumroo, a hand drum with two swinging beads. She then bandaged her head covering her eyes and mouth before entering a trance. The Oracle set upon alleviating each person of their troubles, with hands on heads, singing to transfer positivity and displace whatever evil spirit loitered within to ail the patient. When questions were asked the Oracle responded by throwing grains of barley into the air and counting the number that landed on the drum of the Dumroo to then answer. The energy and expectation in the room was palpable, and while seeming both fascinating and improbable to cynical western minds, there’s no denying it’s worth to Ladakh’s community. It is even believed that an Oracle advised the Dali Lama’s timely escape from Tibet in 1959, so to preserve Buddhism.

In this land of the Lama it is also possible to meet with a monk to better understand Buddhism, attend morning prayer with the monks at Thiksey Monastery and visit a nunnery.

Ladakh is a remarkable place, it is cut off from the rest of the world by snow for much of the year, so visit between June-August when the climate is sunny and warm in the day and cool in the evening. Time it right for the highlight of Hemis Festival, where monks perform an elaborate masked dance to much drumming and music.

The accommodation choice is wonderfully comfortable also, the glorious Shakti Village Houses give an immersive, authentic experience. Traditional houses with 2-3 bedrooms converted from the upper level rooms opening out on the sun terrace are ‘spruced up’ with sprung mattresses, thick duvets,  a woodburner to ensure you’re warm during cool nights and en-suite shower rooms.  The village house is taken exclusively and comes with a private chef and an attentive staff giving a truly personal service. It’s restful to observe the serene pace of Ladakhi life from a shaded, pillowed lounge on the village house’s rooftop.

There is also the uber luxurious Chamba Camp, by The Ultimate Traveling Camp in the grounds of Thiksey Monastery. It is a real oasis of calm set in around various water bodies and gardens which attracts butterflies and birdlife, and all tents come with a valet and spectacular views of the monastery.

For more information on our customized vacations to India, give one of our Consultants a call on 0203 603 3555 or visit scottdunn.com

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