At the top of a huge moraine of pebbles swept down from the
mountains, the elegant four-storey Stok Palace stands under the
shadow of the intrusive tower, above barley terraces studded
with threshing circles and white washed farmhouses. Built early
in the 19th century by the last ruler of independent Ladakh , it
has been the official residence of the Ladakhi royal family
since they were ousted from Leh and Shey two hundred years ago.
The present Gyalmo or "queen", Deskit Angmo, a former member of
parliament, still lives here during the summer, but has
converted one wing of her 77-roomed palace into a small museum.
The fascinating collection comprises some of the royal family's
most precious heirlooms, including antique ritual objects,
ceremonial tea paraphernalia, and exquisite 16th century 'Thangkas'
illuminated with paint made from crushed rubies, emeralds and
The pieces de resistance, however, are the Gyalmo's Peraks.
Still worn on important occasions, the ancient headdresses,
thought to have originated in Tibet, are encrusted with slabs of
flawless turquoise, polished coral, lapis lazuli and nuggets of
pure gold. Also of interest are a couple of swords whose blades
were allegedly tied in knows as a demonstration of strength by
king Tashi Namgyal, and several sacred Dzi Stones - "pearls of
pure happiness", said to have fallen from heaven, and worn to
ward off evil spirits.
Stok Gompa, five minutes walk up the valley, boats a collection
of dance drama masks, and some lurid modern murals painted by
lamas from Lingshet Gompa in Zanskar - the artists responsible
for the Maitreya statue in Tikse.
Oracles Of Stok
Another attraction of Stok is the July Archery Contest. As in
Matho one can see the small water mills in which the roasted
grain is ground into meal. There are two lay oracles in Stok and
they give their 'performance' at the Lchagrang festival on the
9th and 10th days of the third month of the Tibetan calendar.
Buses leave Leh for Stok at 7.30
am, 2.00 pm and 4.30pm. A day in Stok is more than enough to do
the museum and the Gompa justice, and to explore the beautiful
side valley bedding the village - trailhead for the Markha