Lo Montang

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Lo Montang 16/17 August. The Lopa, the people of Lo, were celebrating a new statue in the Jampa Lakhang gompa. There are three large gompas in Lo Montang and tickets for all three can be bought at the Choede gompa. The Champa gompa is undergoing restoration on the ground floor, which is actually below street level, massive square wooden columns support the floor above. We join people arriving with small gifts and circulate the prayer hall before climbing wooden stairs to the top floor before we crowd into a small room where monks are sitting, chanting prayers. A new statue, donated by a local amchi (traditional Tibetan doctor) who works in St Petersburg, is being inaugurated, the small bronze statue is of Thugden, a controversial, fierce looking Buddhist protector deity. There’s a huge statue of Maitreya, the Future Buddha, on the floor below, but the door is closed today. Walking round this old town with it’s narrow lanes and high walls is an absolute delight.


The gompa is being renovated under the supervsion of a charismatic Italian called Luigi. The wall paintings in the huge, magnificent prayer hall are being repainted using mineral pigments made on site. It’s like a scene from a renaissance painting: wooden scafholds around the walls support small teams of local painters working by arc light. The painters are local farmers, men and women who’ve been trained by Luigi and Tibetan master painters, the work is beautiful and finely detailed though we learn later that the restoration is controversial, though there is a body of opinion that it should be left as it is.


The local people, called Lopas, are starting to celebrate in style, in the afternoon this turns to the old tradition of singing and drinking, drinking and dancing, and more drinking. It’s a good natured afternoon with hangovers tomorrow; you can watch some singing, dancing and drinking on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwFzmoEzfMM&feature=em-upload_owner


There’s a small Illy cafe where you can get decent Lavazzo coffee; the evening’s getting cool and we put on an extra layer before calling round at Luigi’s to hear his stories and talk about some of our favourite places in the Indian Himalaya. Some of the other painters are there and we hear his project is funded by the American Himalaya Institute.

At the Mystique it seems that Karchen Llamo has taken a fancy to us and cooks us pizza, chips, spring rolls and pakora. Her name means White Angel.

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