Forts and Palaces in Ladakh, India
Ladakh is known as the land of gompas and is known for its monasteries. However, Ladakh was a kingdom for many centuries and the kings over the centuries have built forts and palaces, some of them are in ruins but few are in good condition. Here are listed some of them.
Leh Palace, Ladakh.
Leh Palace is a former royal palace overlooking the town of Leh. It was built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century, modelled on the Potala Palace of Lhasa in Tibet. It is nine storeys high; the upper floors accommodated the royal family, while the lower floors held stables and storerooms.
The palace was abandoned when Dogra forces took control of Ladakh in the mid 19th century, and the royal family moved to Stok Palace. The ruined palace is being restored by the Archaeological Survey of India. The palace is open to the public and from the palace, one can get a panoramic view of the entire town and surrounding areas.
The Palace Museum holds a rich collection of jewellery, ornaments, ceremonial dresses and crowns. Tibetan thangka or sooth paintings which are more than 450 years old, with intricate designs, retain bright and pleasing colours derived from crushed and powdered gems and stones.
Stok Palace, Leh.
The four-storey structure of the Stok Palace demonstrates both modern and ancient architectural styles. The lower floors are now converted into a museum, where royal ornaments, ceremonial dresses, crown and ancient jewellery and other royal antiques. The most popular are the knotted swords on display here.
Tsemo Fort, Leh.
Tsemo Fort is visible from anywhere in Leh. Situated at top of Palace ridge, it’s a small omnipresent fort with flapping prayer flags all about.
Named after Zorawar Singh Kahluria, a royal of Dogra Rajput family, this fort was built to admire his legacy. Indian historians consider him as the ‘Napolean of India’ for he conquered the highest land of Ladakh as well as West of Tibet upto Lake Mansarovar. He died in Tibet, defeated by “general winter”.
Old Leh Town.
The old town of Leh is characteristic of the old world charm. Stairs, small alley-ways, mud-brick houses, and ruined gompas, make it a perfect place to re-live the history of the world’s coldest desert. A peculiar feature of the houses here is that they do not have windows. The old town of Leh was added to the World Monuments Fund’s list of 100 most endangered sites due to increased rainfall from climate change and other reasons. Neglect and changing settlement patterns within the old town have threatened the long-term preservation of this unique site.