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Sightseeing in Zanskar

Sani - This picturesque village is 6 kms west of Padum, on the road to Kargil. The main attraction here is the castle-like monastery, which unlike other monasteries of Ladakh, is built on level ground. By legend its origin is associated with Kanishka (Kushan ruler of 2nd century AD) on account of the Kanika Stupa, which stands in the backyard of the walled complex.

  View of Sani Monastery
View of Sani Monastery

The main building comprises a huge multi-columned central prayer hall housing an array of statues of popular Buddhist divinities and Kargud-pa high lamas, while the walls are covered with frescoes and adorned with Thangkas. The most interesting frescoes, however, can be seen in a small, neglected chapel, at the back of the main building whose walls are adorned with stucco murals depicting landscapes and floral designs based on the life of Padmasambhava. Immediately outside the monastic complex is an old cemetery surrounded by a ring of ancient rock-carvings, which reflect Indian artistic influence.

Sani is also associated with the famous Indian Yogi Naropa, who is said to have sat in meditation for some time under the Kanika Stupa. This site is now occupied by a small room housing a veiled bronze figure of the Yogi, which is unveiled once a year in late July on the eve of the Naro-Nasjal festival. People from all over Zanskar valley participate in this festival during which lamas from Bardan Monastery perform masked dances as ritual offering.

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