Ladakh, that I visited in 2009, has remained in my memory as one of the most rewarding trips I’ve ever done. Moon-like panoramas, genuine and smiling people, the country offers to travel photographers a unique blend of stunning landscapes, mystic beauty and thousands of portrait possibilities.
When I arrived at this monastery just outside of Leh, the largest city in Ladakh, this Tibetan Buddhist monk was looking at the amazing panorama on the plateau. Ladakh, with altitudes ranging from 3000mts to more than 7000mts, is a dry and mountainous territory, with extremely scarce vegetation.
This old man was passing by close to Julichen (one of the few nunnery monasteries in Ladakh). He had such an incredible look. I simply asked him to take a picture, he smiled and started looking at me with this intense gaze. Just this old man and myself. It was very intimate.
Here I was traveling by car on the Changtang, a high altitude plateau that stretches from western and northern Tibet to southeastern Ladakh, with vast highlands and deep-blue lakes. There is something unbearably nostalgic, when traveling by train, or car, or bus, about the contrasting feeling of being simultaneously part of the scene and a complete stranger. A casual encounter with this lonely figure in such an incredible landscape. Scenes escaping from my eyes and vanishing, frame after frame, leaving me only the fantasy for wondering about such an extraordinary existence. And about mine.
The Rizong Monastery, where I met these children, is also known as “the paradise for meditation” and is renowned for being one of the strictest monasteries in the region. Almost half of the population in Ladakh is Tibetan Buddhist and most of the rest is Shia Muslims. Signs of Tibetan Buddhism are everywhere: majestic monasteries, Chortens (the local name for Stupas, mound-shaped structures for meditation containing Buddhist relics), Prayer Wheels (portable or fixed cylinders with Buddhist text used for prayers), Prayer Flags (i tis believed that the energy of the prayers and mantras on the flag will be blown in the wind spreading joy, happiness and good health) and carved stone tablets with Buddhist mantras.
A beautiful trip, I look forward to going back.
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