Shanti Stupa stands tall on one of the mountains surrounding the Leh city. Its size and location make this stupa unmistakably easy to spot. I had set my sight on it as soon as I landed in Leh. I could even see it from the rooftop of my guest house.
The white stupa stood out from the brown-parched hilltop at Changspa. Located at an altitude of 4,267 meters above the sea level, it offers a 360 degree view of the whole city. Steep steps cut through a rocky terrain from the Changspa foothills towards the hilltop. The Stupa appeared to be close enough but the steep climb and thin air makes the trek harder.
The best time to visit the Stupa is towards the evening when the sun had mellowed down. At daytime the harsh sun can be blinding and spoil the view of the city.
The surprising aspect of the stupa is its humongous size; it a lot bigger once you climb up to the hilltop. I was very much impressed by the huge flat ground on which the stupa stood. It must have taken a lot of hard work to level the ground at such a height, bigger than half the size of a football field.
The Stupa was built by a Japanese Buddhist named Bhikshu Gyomyo Nakamura with the help of many Ladakh Buddhists. Construction work began in 1983 and was inaugurated in 1991 by his holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. The Japanese considered India to be sacred as it is the birthplace of the Buddha. It was Nichidatsu Fujji’s (1914) mission to build peace pagodas around the world to revive Buddhism and he had planned for the construction of the Shanti Stupa. This stupa was also built to commemorate 2,500 years of Buddhism.
The stupa holds relics of the Buddha at its base. It has steps leading up to its two levels. The first level has big, colourful engravings of deer on both sides. The upper level has images of Buddha’s birth, death and triumphing over evil.
The ambience is peaceful and silence is maintained around the stupa. Tourists steeped in Buddhists culture will find it to be most enthralling.
The Leh city with its exotic mountains and snow peaked mountains, sprawled beneath like waves of sea and looked magnificent from the Shanti Stupa. It might also be the best spot to sit in the evening in Leh.
As I stood up to descend to my guest house, slowly moon rose up from the mountains behind the Tsemo Fort and the view of it was priceless.