It had been a strange sort of a day. The sun had played hide and seek till the afternoon and the clouds had their way thereafter. I was acclimatising in Keylong, and was exploring monasteries of Lahaul (Lahul) for good measure. It must have been good fortune that day, because I had already seen Wanderings in Lahaul – Tayul Monastery just a few hours ago and in no time was in Gemur village and hiking up to Gemur Gompa (Monastery).
There was a lovely stream flowing right past the road and upon some asking, the locals said that the way to Gemur Monastery began from the left side. I’d read in an old travel account that Gemur Khar (Gemoor khar) was a historically important place in Gemur. Khar means palace/fort. Funnily enough, I passed a signboard with the name ‘Gemoor Khar’ indicating a homestay. I wondered if that was an actual old building and asked a lady who was walking on the same path.
She didn’t seem to know about the same. She was wearing a different costume and was heading to a festival nearby. I asked her if I was indeed on the right trail to reach Gemur Monastery and she confirmed that the Gompa was only ten minutes walk away! I was pleasantly surprised to hear the same, after having made strenuous climbs to other monasteries like Kardang, Shashur, Tayul and some more; the names of which are still confusing to my outsider status.
Gemur village lies just before Jispa on the Manali-Leh highway. It is located approximately 18 kms after Keylong and 4 kms before Jispa. Historical accounts state that the masked dances of Gemur were highly watched affairs but locals say that the chaam performances are not currently held right now at Gemur. I am not certain about the same but someone from Lahaul has informed me that the masked dances at Gemur Monastery are supposed to start in the next few years.
Gemur Monastery (Gemur Gonpa or Gompa)
After walking for hardly 5 mins, the whitewashed building of Gemur Monastery was visible from below. The brightly coloured red windows stood out in the landscape and presented a pretty sight. The weather was turning stormy and I began to wonder if the rain was going to mar my experience. I cross a huge chorten before the monastery and a road that is being built to make access easier to Gemur monastery. Prayer flags flutter crazily as I keep walking.
Within no time, I was standing outside the doors of the monastery but there seemed to be no one to open the gates! After a five minute wait, someone heard my cries of ‘Lama ji, Lama ji’ and invited me inside the courtyard of Gemur Gompa. This region in Lahaul is called Tod valley and Gemur is an important village in this sub-valley.
There was a small ‘Incredible India’ signboard inscribed on a pillar in the courtyard of Gemur Monastery. I was pleasantly surprised to see the same. The monastery is at a scenic location and the back door of the courtyard commands a stunning bird’s eye view of the valley. The serpentine flow of Bhaga river is visible from the monastery and indeed presents a majestic picture with the jagged mountains in the background.
On one side is the three storey building of Gemur Monastery, and the other sides have small rooms. The monks’s quarters are also nearby where the lamas live. There are many fine Buddha stone carvings in the courtyard. The Lama doesn’t seem to be keen on showing me around the prayer halls and the room with the masks, but I am not the one who gives up easily and kept persisting.
Lama ji saunters to his room and brings the keys; I tell him I won’t take much time because I have somewhere else to go to! Inside the monastery, there were the usual religious texts on one side and freshly painted murals on the walls. A different looking statue was also there in one room, and the Lama indicated that it was of Goddess Vajravarahi and was believed to be from the 11th Century.
It was a splendid sight to see the light from one of the windows lighting up these old and significant statues. I’d have liked to be at an old monastery but Gemur was known to be a rich monastery in the old days and the refurbished building sort of confirmed the fact. The brightly coloured red windows with a black lining on the white walls is a delight for architecture and pattern lovers.
After spending some time in the Dukhang and the other prayer halls, I decided that my monastery touring was over and it was time to say goodbye to Lahaul. Cold winds were blowing by the time I was in the courtyard again, I sat for a bit and gazed at the valley views from the open door on the other side.
Within no time, I was back in Gemur on the highway and the waters of the stream provided great musical background to the stunning landscapes all around. It was around 3 or 4 in the afternoon and my Lahauli acquaintances had told me it was a good time to leave for the journey onward – I was embarking on a trek to Zanskar and had made zero plans!
And like luck works its magic; I hitched a ride to Darcha; where it rained so profusely that there was a traffic jam on the slender bridge. There was a bus to Rarik village, and I’d been advised to take it.
And here I am; after 3 years of this epic sojourn. The villagers of Zanskar have invited me to attend a traditional wedding in one of the tiny hamlets in the valley. I pray for the mountain Gods to be with me. The last visit to Gemur Monastery was a good omen; I recollect. Hopefully I shall be able to bring heartwarming stories from Zanskar.
Other posts on Lahaul :