Photographs and text by Rupali Gupta Mukherjee
‘The journey matters more than the destination’, this quote came to my mind innumerable times, as our creamy white Xylo sped up from Kargil, crossed the majestic Fotu La pass on the Srinagar Leh highway. My eyes were glued to the splendour that Mother Nature had bestowed copiously all around us. Our driver, a calm, composed friendly person was fairly careful during the sharp turns, twists and terrifying bends. We were headed towards Leh, capital of Ladakh. On our way, roughly hundred kilometres before Leh, we found ourselves in the land of what seemed like strange, supernatural mountains made of rocks that shimmered and changed hues.
The colours shifted from grey to chocolate brown, crimson to mauve and azure. It was divine. I sat with my camera, filled with awe and wonder of the breathtaking peaks that lay before me and left me mystified. I was totally smitten. More surprise along the way held me spellbound.
After the barren desert that stretched before us, at the next hairpin bend, was an amazing ancient Tibetan Buddhist Monastery peeping out from the hideout of the world’s most imposing mountain ranges. It was a dreamland, a land of fantasy. I pinched and asked myself, ‘Is this a reverie?’ But no. It was real.
The lunar landscape that greeted my camera on this Earth was synonymous to the legendary ‘Moonland’. The primeval Lamayuru monastery towered in the unreal moonscape. It dates back to the 11th century. According to myths, a scholar named, Mahasiddhacharya Naropa, had laid the keystone of this mesmeric building. It was said due to his mantras the water in this region retreated and the vicinity took the shape of moonlike alcove and craters.
The setting bears a semblance to the lunar highlands. The profound darker part of the mighty hills is said to be the replica of ‘Maria’, a common panorama found on the surface of the gorgeous silver disc, the shiny crescent in the cobalt diamond studded night sky.
I found the landscape hypnotic and ethereal; its exceptionally outlandish ecological structure made Lamayuru monastery unique and idiosyncratic.
A drive through this moonscape imprints an incredible chronicle in the mindscape of the traveller. This journey stretched like an implausible odyssey beyond my imagination. It was as if I was watching a documentary on National Geographic.
Almost a month after returning from the trip, I still feel mesmerised by the ghostly ‘gompas’, the atypical topography, unknown terrain, unfamiliar cold weather. They beckon me to go back and explore further. No wonder, several voyagers fondly portray Lamayuru’s ‘lunar’ landscape as the ‘Mecca of an adventurous soul’. I promised myself to be back in this magnetic landscape once again, this time on a full-moon night, when the silvery ribbon of moon beams scatter over the baffling purple structures of Lamayuru, bathing the compelling peaks in shimmering platinum dust. Undeniably its startling tinge would be the marvel of art if some artists managed to capture the hues.
 Buddhist structures
Rupali Gupta Mukherjee has a passion for reading, writing and reciting poetry. She is a nature enthusiast, loves to travel and has a zeal for photography.
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