Sunday, October 4, 2009

Land of Little Rain

Stok Kangri, the highest peak in the Ladakh Range, framed by prayer flags

When I was 15, Galen Rowell came to town to give a slideshow on his most recent book, My Tibet, which he co-authored with the Dalai Lama. From that night onward I was transfixed with that distant land's mountains, artwork, and political situation. It's problematic to visit Tibet as travel is heavily curtailed by the Chinese government and places a traveler in the situation of supporting a repressive regime with no regard for Tibet's cultural, historical, and spiritual autonomy. My visit to Ladakh, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and Dharamsala, in Himachal Paradesh, however, has given me a beautiful glimpse into Tibetan Buddhism and the experience of refugees living in exile.

Below are a selection of images from the past few weeks. More images and thoughts can be found at my wife and I's travel blog, Other-Climes. Enjoy.

Mani stones found along a trail in the Snow Leopard Conservation Park

Some of the landscape between Kashmir and Ladakh

An ancient Buddhist sculpture near Leh

A monk preparing candles for a puja below a fresco that illustrates the principle of samsara

A gruesome, if anatomically correct, image from the Thiksey Gompa south of Leh

A Maitreya, 'Future Buddha', at Thiksey

Where animism and humor meet

Another beautiful Buddha statue at Thiksey

Dancers at the annual Leh Festival

Wall painting of Rinchen Zangpo, the Buddhist scholar responsible for countless gompas throughout Ladakh

At the confluence of the Zanskar and Indus rivers

A copper smith in the tiny village of Chiling

Adorable baby new best friend?

Someday, I hope to visit a free Tibet. Many organizations work tirelessly to bring about awareness of China's illegal occupation of Tibet and its deplorable human rights record. Here are just a few:

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