Adventure · Himalaya · Photography · Travel Writing

The miracle at Rangrik and the Tengyuu monastery


I looked at the buildings in the complex at Key monastery including the new prayer hall and a few other rooms but thanks to the cold and the wind, we really just wanted to get back to a lower altitude. Strange creatures we humans are – our minds crave and we run towards picture postcard settings that nature paints and whence we are there, our bodies remind us of our limitations and compel us to move back to gentler, more comforting environs. Before I left, I couldn’t help but notice and photograph how closely matched were the patterns created by man and nature – the river flows like a snake, undulating and after a symmetrical checkered design of the fields, the road is another snake.

We went back towards Kaza but halfway through, no doubt due to the flow of the conversation and our interest in the stories of Spiti, Karan decided to tell us one that was told to him.

Many many years ago, there was a young boy, who decided to become a lama. So he went into a cave and meditated. He meditated for such a long time that his mother, very worried for him, came looking. She found him and upon realizing that the roof of the cave is too low and the cave is inadequate to hold them both, waited outside. It was about to snow and the boy could see that his mother would freeze to death – so he went into a trance like situation and gently, pushed the roof of the cave higher, high enough so his mother could enter. Till date, inside the cave, the palm prints of the boy can be seen. We were going to this cave.

The cave is off Rangrik – a village on the other side of the Spiti River. We went on and then off a mud track to come close to a canyon of the river and as the sun was setting, I got this view of Kaza in a distance – I still like it much.

The trek to the cave was slippery due to loose dirt and after a brief struggle, A and I stayed back while R and Karan went ahead. In the image below, there are two, nearly square holes in the rock face on the right side, along with a pole – that’s the cave.

I gainfully utilized that time capturing the stunning vistas that the place afforded us – it was easy to believe that I was in southern alps.

In the other direction, as the sun was about to set, I got a view of Key that I wanted to capture – it makes me wonder what prompted the builders to choose that setting. Every time you look at it, it seems the mountain behind is going to come down as an avalanche of gravel, but it never does.

The crags on the opposite side were a dark ocher mixed with muddy brown in the fading sunlight.

Visibility was excellent and today’s chocolate and vanilla shot was probably the best one of the entire trip.

After we got back, we were politely told that since there was no cook, Karan would likely skip dinner. We didn’t want to bother Sanjay ji too much and hence walked – a rather long walk – to old Kaza where the main market is. We crossed a bridge, were past a prayer chakra and then a few houses and several barking dogs that looked threatening but eventually did nothing (thank god). Disappointment on finding the market mostly closed, thanks to Election Day, it was a great relief to find a lone ‘Bhojanalaya’ cum sweet shop open.

I don’t recall the name but its bang opposite the taxi operators’ union office.
We ordered the simple thali – the rajma were done well and the fresh, hot phulkas were great. We should have stopped there as the Jalebi was a sour disappointment – it was fermented beyond repair.

When we reached back, the lobby of the hotel looked very inviting and after sitting around for a few minutes, we all went back to our rooms.

Before we had left for Key, my room had been changed by then, my bag neatly arranged to where I wanted it to be. This room was a bit smaller but even nicer than the previous one. On the wall was a quotation by Mark Twain – it felt very relevant that night.

What would you do if you woke up one fine morning, looked outside and saw this view? Smile, at-least. That’s what I did. This was around quarter past seven in Kaza on the morning of may the eighth.

At half past eight, I was down, ready to go to the monastery of Kaza. R and A had informed me the night before that they would be there in the morning. I went there lazily – past these chortens that stand opposite the monastery.

The building is very new – some decorations and paint give the impression that it was finished recently, a week back or so. That’s deceptive, it is five years old, I suppose the climate and the excellent caretaking of the resident monks can be credited for it. It’s very dry here – lips were chapped, cheeks were about to be.

I took off my shoes and went inside, to the sound of a gong coming from a chamber to the right of the statues which stand on the main altar.

The first impression is of the new Sakya Tenggyu monastery is a bit overwhelming –the gleaming gold dazzles and then the eyes take a few minutes to adjust. Three bodhisattvas – about ten feet high each, with golen paint, curly hair depicted and eyes with a shade of blue somewhere in them look back at the devotee.

In front of the altar is an elaborately carved seat – that of the Rinpoche (the high priest) of this monastery.

His portrait is atop this seat while that of the Dalai lama is on the left – near the statues of Padmasambhava and the central one of Buddha Sakyamuni.

The ceiling has a designs of dragon in half of the circle – associated with the water element – beings that symbolize dominance over the sea and bring compassion. The other half is a Garuda – associated with fire and the symbol for dominance over the sky and bringer of wisdom. It was a balanced circle therefore.

The floor had a gorgeous, thick carpet with dragon designs too. I love hand made carpets and it would have been nice to chat to someone about this but there was no one around except a lama who was busy with his prayers

On either side of the central aisle, were low tables that would hold the Tangyurs from where the monks read their chants while the monks themselves would sit on long carpet runners behind these low tables. I shot this video to give you an idea of the sounds I was hearing that morning and what my eyes could see.

As I walked out, I remembered to take a good photo of the elaborate golden door handles that offset the red of the door so perfectly.

I didn’t spend very long inside – the monastery is nice but doesn’t have an element of mystery that pervades most old monasteries in the region and makes them so alluring.

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