cave monastery of Zanskar, Zongkhul falls on the Padum-Kishtwar
trekking trail, just before the ascent of Omasi-la Pass begins.
Situated like a Swallow's nest on the rock face of the 'Ating
George', the monastery is associated by legend with the famous
Indian Yogi, "Naropa'', who lectured in the Nalanda and Vikramsila
Universities. The present cave monastery is said to be used by the
famous Yogi for the solitary meditation.
A footprint on the stone near the ingress of the lower cave is
reserved as that of the yogi. The frescos on the cave walls are very
old and reflect a high degree of artistic achievement. These are
believed to be the original murals executed by Zhadpa Dorje, the
celebrated scholar-painter of the same monastery who was active
about 300 years ago.
HOW TO REACH
The 240-km long Kargil-Padum road, of which the first 90-km stretch
is paved, remains opened from around mid July to early November. The
J&K SRTC operates a thrice-weekly bus services from Kargil. However
groups can charter A-Class or even Super-Deluxe buses to visit
Zanskar, including the interior places of interest like Strongdey,
Zangla and Karsha. Jeeps and Gypsy taxis can also be hired at Kargil.
During June and early July, prior to opening of the road, it is
recommended to walk into Zanskar from Panikhar or Parkachik onwards.
In June, the summer is at its height in the region and the climate
is ideal for trekking along the route free from vehicular traffic of
any kind and when the countryside is freshly rejuvenated into life
after months of frigid dormancy.
Complex at Padum provides furnished rooms. There is catering
arrangement in the complex, while camping place nearby is available
for budget tourists travelling with personal tents. Padum town has
several private hotels where rooms with basic facilities are
available. Accommodation is also available at the Karsha dormitory.
In the distant villages like Strongdey, Zangla, Sani, etc.,
accommodation can be sought from the villagers either on payment or
in exchange of a suitable gift. Some monasteries may also take in
guests, through more as a gesture of goodwill than on purely
commercial consideration. Of course the guest is expected to
compensate the monastery suitably.