Tag Archives: tsomoriri lake

Waiting for the High Lama

Korzok Villagers welcoming the high lama

Place : Korzok Village, Tsomoriri, Changthang district plateau , Ladakh, Himalayan India

Suddenly in a flurry, the usually sedate villagers all dressed up in their traditional costumes started arriving from afar, strolling down the only road in this remote village.

A high lama was visiting the village along with the District Commissioner of Changthang region and the villagers bring their offerings and silk scarfs awaiting for the lama’s blessings

Visiting Korzok Village

I arrived at Korzok village with the intent to photograph the upcoming cultural festival.

When I arrived, I asked around,  it seems no one really knew anything about it, and didn’t know when it was suppose to happen.

Many tourists do visit this sleepy little village but only as a short overnight transit to visit beautiful Tsomoriri Lake or as a rest stop from popular Tsokar to Tsomoriri treks, before their onward journey either to Leh, the Capital city of Lakdah or back to Manali in Himachal Pradesh. Seldom do people stay more than a day let alone more than two days.

It is interesting to note that Korzok village, Tsomoriri is still a trading outpost for Pashmina wool. Many nomadic goat herders pass through this village trading their precious and highly prized wool before the wool gets exported to Kashmir to be manufactured into expensive Pashmina scarfs. Contrary to what people believe about Pashmina, they are not come from Kashmir, rather, the goats are bred in Ladakh, particularly around Changthang region before exporting the commodity to Kashmir for manufacturing. Many of these herders are fairly improvished selling their lowly priced commodity to rich traders. Imagine how expensive your Pashmina scarfs or sweaters are and to realise how these herders get badly paid for their work.

The village does experience its fair share of comings and goings from tourists, traders and nomadic people alike and at times is not so sleepy.  The village use to be quite wealthy from the numerous trades of sheep, goats and other livestock but it seems to be quite a poor village now struggling for the tourist dollar.

On Arrival

When I first arrived to Korzok village, it was initially quite empty, and had almost a desolate feel to it, there were two tea houses which caters to the transit travellers situated along the only mud road in the village.  Suddenly a large group of Israeli tourists in this cranky public ex-school descended into this quiet little village right after I had arrived . They were frantically looking around for their over-night accomodation. As it happens they were on their way to Manali after spending some time in Leh. Quite the noisy bunch they took camp at the only two tea houses and decimated all the food for the night. I was feeling a little drained from the travels already , my travel mates on the same jeep to the village took a little turn for the worse, the Russian couple were experiencing a little attitude sickness as Korzok was around 3000 meters above sea level.They found their accomodation and remained there for most of the day.

After much walking around and asking where and when would the festivities occur, it concluded that there were no festivals, I was feeling rather disappointed but hopeful, and decided that I should stay in the village for a few days despite the inital disappointment.

The next morning it became a quiet little village again, and I took walks around the village and to Tsomoriri Lake which was only a short walk away. The weather was a beautiful blue in the morning, before it quickly turned grey and overcast. But it was a good sign, with me asking once again at the Monastery and then back to the main tea house, the reply came back, there was indeed a small festival happening, a High lama was visiting, they might have a celebration for him, however they did not know what time he would arrive, but he would indeed come visit either today or the next 2 days.

A high lama had decided to visit on invitation of the Changthang district commissioner who was the one organising this little cultural festival that had been publicised in Leh.

Korzok Village Festival Preparations

The villagers hanging up a banner just  before the Lama arrive  at the Monastery

Back to the District Commissioner, I met up with him, a very humble unassuming and friendly man.

His views on the festival :  if there were more tourist still around, he would organise a little cultural dance and perhaps a horse race, if not, there will not be a festival but just a blessings ceremony by the high lama. For after all this little show was to be organised in conjunction with the much bigger tourist cultural festival back in capital city of Leh.

Obviously, the Lakdah Tourist board and the district didn’t inform the villagers that until the very last day!

The next 2 day became this flurry of activities, the villagers started preparing for the dances, and the monks were bringing out their costumes and all the gear for the cham dance. I was surprised how quickly they got into the act of things. They must be quite experienced with such spur of the moment activities. The other villagers soon came from afar crowding the streets all dressed in their finest.

Korzok Village Festival

From a quiet street it turned crowded, many villagers from around Korzok and Tsomoriri lake started streaming in dressed in their traditional costumes with intermittent dust storms blowing over the small village.

Korzok Village Festival

The procession starts with the village heads walking along as the high lama rolls in on a jeep, with the villagers lined up awaiting for their blessings. It was a rather quick affair and the high lama was ushered off to the gompa into his resting chambers.

Story to be continued in the next post with more photos of the festival preparations

For more about the Cham dance,  you can see the photos here and here.

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More photos of the Cham dance at Korzok

More photos from the Korzok Cham dance.

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos

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Preparing for a Cham Dance in Korzok Village, Tsomoriri

Prior Warning!

Image intensive for those with limited bandwidth. Keeping the photos small. You can click on them to see the bigger version but that will lead you to the flickr site where I am keeping the photos. So if you wanna view the bigger version, just use the open new tab or window rather than clicking the images.

PS : sorry about not processing the photos on PS, am a little lazy to clean up the photos, so you are getting the images unprocessed, just resized and converted straight from raw with the dust spots and all.

Early September 2009

A high lama visited the village of Korzok at Tsomoriri and they decided to perform a Cham dance only the day before. The Cham dance or Masked dance is only performed by the monks and suppose to give merits to the audience, the monks are dressed in beautifully made ornamental costumes and masks of animal deities.

I happened to intrude into the preparations for the cham dance while everyone else, the villagers and the tourists  including some annoyingly and irritating Indian ‘press’ photographer (you know who you are) and  a few other rich European photographers with huge camera set-up waiting in the courtyard for the performance. The monks were kind enough to let me stay on and photograph them dressing up for the dance. The whole setup was amazing, everyone  went about the preparations, the other monks and a few villagers helping out, dressing the monks in their beautifully intricate and heavy costumes.

The feeling I got from this event : well its more genuine and provincial, more real compared to the other large cham events that is happening in the other places.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The monks preparing for the first cham dance, there are 2 dances or ‘acts’. The first ‘act’ has the monks covered without the deity masks.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Korzok village isn’t really a rich village hence the rather humble setup for the costumes and cham dance setup. However the village use to be quite rich before with the villages having tons of pashmina goats, sheeps and other livestock trading with nomadic changpa people.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

A monk all dressed up and ready for the first dance

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The two cham masks of animal deities for the second dance. The eyes of the masks were initially covered, before the  preparations, the high lama came in to  conduct some prayers, summoning the deities at the various altars. Then walked over to the masks performing the prayers, the covers were taken off from the masks.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The caretaker monk in charge overlooking the costumes. He is in charge of the daily evening pujas (prayers) for the gompa and also in charge of the costumes and the chest of cham masks.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Laying out the costume for the first dance

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Taking out the deity mask for the second dance. Its eyes were uncovered after some prayers and chanting by the  high lamas and the monks before the performance.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The monks all prepared and waiting for the high lama to inaugurate the whole dance by saying prayers and giving offers to the deities gods at the altars. The dressed up monks all gathered at the altars and did some quick chanting before the performance. To my knowledge, they had to summon the spirits or deities before the performance.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The high lama greets all the dancers and proceeds to praying and invoking the gods at the altars and asking for blessings to the performance.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

All ready, the monks walking out for the first dance one by one, drumming along the way

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The monks out to the courtyard for the first dance while one of the head monks watches on, he co-ordinates the dances.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The dance at Korzok gompa courtyard, quite a big event with the villagers out in their best clothes even though this was a last minute, the event announced and decided only the day before. Word gets out pretty fast here.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The cham dance at Korzok gompa courtyard with audiences from Korzok and nearby villages

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The villagers watching, some came from nearby area around Korzok and Tsomoriri lake. All came with their best clothes and beautiful colorful woollen weaved shawls made with the local pashmina wool.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Preparing for the second dance with the deity masks

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The monk and his sword awaiting for the mask to be placed on him

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Putting on more detailed ornaments, actually takes quite awhile putting on the little details.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The Korzok gompa not really a rich monastery, they still make do with the decorations. The skull ornament is usually craved out from bone but they were inventive to create it from leather.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Waiting for help with his costume for the second dance with the deity mask

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

During the break for the second dance, one of the villagers offering yummy salted goat butter tea to everyone including myself! Such wonderful people!

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Antelope mask deity for the second dance

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Dressing up for the second dance, preparing for the heavy deity head mask to be placed upon

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The deity mask is incredibly heavy! One of the monks allowed me to carry one of them after the dance.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

More ornaments waiting to be dressed up

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Second dance over, the last cham dancer returns back to the gompa as the trumpets playing to welcome him back. The trumpets are blown signifying that the dance is over, following the dancers in and out of the gompa chambers

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Cham dance over, the monks playing the tibetan trumpets as the high lama proceeds back to his chambers in the gompa

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The high lama giving his blessings to the local villagers as he returns to his private resting chambers

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Show’s over, the monks taking their instruments and other stuff back

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The villagers making their way back home after the cham dance along with their prayer wheels

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The locals going home after the cham dance with the frequent sand storm looming over. The ladies dressing in their best clothes, colorful shawls self weaved from the wool they got from their sheep and pashmina goats.

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Setting up prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake, Ladakh

Tsomoriri Lake is set in the Changthang plateau in the eastern Ladakh, nearby the nomadic village of Korzok. Altitude around 15,000ft

I visited Tsomoriri Lake in early September 2009. Having just visited Kashmir only less than 3 days ago, I was experiencing a little high altitude sickness, usual headache and breathlessness, the cold icy and sandy winds made it a little more uncomfortable. There were mini sand storms blowing through the village of Korzok and that made it worse.

Came here for the Tsomoriri Ladakh festival which is suppose to feature cultural performances of this region. Somehow the locals do not know it is happening despite asking many of them on the day of my arrival. They only came to know about the festival on the actual day from the tourism officials and the district commissioner, all they knew was that a high lama was visiting the Korzok gompa.

So when is the high lama coming I asked ; “he will come only where he arrives” replied Tsering, a delightful and helpful 17year old who help run his family homestay.

In the morning, decided to mount the Tibetan prayer flags (Lung-Ta) that I brought from Leh,at the lake. While struggling a little setting it up, strong winds and occassional sand storms, two jeeps drove up and out came these 2 jeep drivers who were driving some Indian tourists up to the lake.

I was truly blessed, these angelic Ladakhis instinctly knew I was struggling with the flags and took over with the mounting almost immediately. While the angels were helping me with the prayer flags, I said my prayers and dedicated the flags to my dad for his health and well being, to my two dear friends Diana and Kam for their recent health woes. Praying for them, for their health and well-being, peace and protection

The scene was breathtaking with snow capped mountains and the blue fresh water lake, a beautiful place to be in the morning.

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

The lake is surrounded by the elevated valley of Rupshu with snowpcapped hills of around 20,000 ft. It rained the day before, this place is experiencing climate change to the maximum. It hardly rains here, maybe slight drizzles but this year it rained with heavy short burst of downpour, in the afternoon, the heat can be so strong with the sun beating down at 30 degree celsius

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

There is an art in setting up the slate rocks that the Ladakhis seem so talented in doing swiftly and artfully.

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

One of the Angel Ladakhi setting up the flag on the other end

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

The two Ladakhi helper angels who were quite experienced in setting up the flags for me.These angels were driving some Indian tourists to the lake as seen at the background. Indian army soldiers taking a break from their work. They saw me with the flags, immediately they took over my flags when they saw me with it. Such wonderful angels!

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

PS: sorry about the photos, I didn’t have the chance to process them on photoshop, hence all the dust spots are still there. just converted and resized them from raw files.

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