Phugtal Gompa is a Buddhist monastery located in the remote Lungnak Valley in south-eastern Zanskar, in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, in Northern India. The monastery was built around 2,550 years ago and it’s remote location was ideal for monks looking for peace and solitude to meditate. It is built into the mountainside and around a cave and the earliest residents were the 16 Arhats, the legendary followers of Buddha. Eminent scholars imparted their teachings at Phugtal over the centuries, and the monastery has grown over the years and is home to about 70 monks. It houses a main temple, prayer rooms, a library with rare sacred texts, apartments and living quarters, teaching facilities and a kitchen.
Phugtal can be reached only by foot as no roads lead up to it. Supplies to the monastery are brought on horses, donkeys, and mules in the warmer months, and in the harsh winters, they are transported on the frozen Tsarap River which passes just below the monastery. A road is expected to be built up to the monastery soon, but for now one has to undertake a twelve hour off road journey from Leh, followed by a two hour hike which is fairly strenuous especially with camera gear in tow.
I took the foreground shot in the blue hour and later blended it with the tracked sky image. As I was unable to carry my tracker, weights and astro modded gear to the monastery, I shot the sky at a different location and composited the shot. The sky is however in its correct orientation and field of view as seen from the monastery, in this case at 10 degree azimuth and 36° fov. Deneb at mag +1.38 and Sadr at mag +2.38 shine brightly, the North American and Pelican Nebula can be seen as well as the Butterfly Nebula in the Sadr region. One can just about see the faint traces of the Veil Nebula.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor