Shanti Stupa is the heart of Leh. If you are looking for a vacation getaway, there is no better place to travel than Leh to visit this exquisite monument. Situated boldly on a hilltop in Chanspa, Leh district, Ladakh in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, this elegant Stupa is clearly visible from all over Leh. One of the finest architectures in the region, it attracts countless tourists from all over the world to marvel at its uniqueness and what it represents. It was built on the ideal of promoting world peace and prosperity as well as to honor 2500 years of Buddhism. In lieu with this, the Shanti Stupa holds the relics of the Buddha at its base which was enshrined by the 14TH and current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso in the August of 1991. Not only that, it is also a symbol of the ties between the people of Japan and Ladakh. It was built by both Japanese Buddhists and Ladakh Buddhists, on the original idea of Nichidatsu Fujii’s mission to build Peace Pagodas and temples over the world and try to resurrect Buddhism back in India. With so much history, culture and religious significance tied to this place, it is easily one of the most favored travel destinations across India.
The Stupa dominates the city of Leh from a high, rocky ridge. Its huge size and strategic location makes it distinctly easy to spot. I had it in my view as soon as I landed in Leh as it’s clearly visible from almost every location in the town. The town hustles and bustles with the activity of tourists creating an interesting interaction of various cultures.
The Shanti Stupa is built as a two level structure, a flight of stairs leads to the first level where a Dharmchakra (as in white strip of Indian national flag) with two deer on each side, features a central image of Lord Buddha in golden colour sitting on a platform turning the Dharmchakra wheel. The second level depicts the birth of Buddha, triumph over evil and death of Buddha along with many small images of meditating Buddha, all embossed in vibrant colors. To reach the Stupa one can either take the daunting 500 stairs or travel to the first level via car. Being a reasonable human being, I took the second option.
The word Shanti truly embodies the serenity of the place. The Stupa, in its grandiosity is surrounded by a vast flat ground on which it stands. The first view of Shanti Stupa astounds you, but the first look at the city of Leh from the Stupa leaves you breathless. Located at an altitude of 4,267 meters above the sea level, it offers a 360 degree view of the whole city. The lush green city is surrounded by snow capped mountains giving it a picturesque quality. Tsemo Fort and Namgyal Monastery on the Ridge area are clearly visible from the Stupa.
Standing at the hilltop, it is far away the noise of city. An instant feeling of calm washes over you as the pleasant wind sweeps blows around. The ambiance around the place is peaceful and silence is maintained by everyone. There is a Buddha hall where one can mediate in peace. It truly invigorates the mind and helps you shed the stress.
The stupa is open for tourists between 5:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. The best time to visit would be during sunrise or sunset. We stayed till sunset, which is an experience on its own when viewed from Shanti Stupa. At night, the entire place was beautifully illuminated by glittering lights.