All major roads through Kharyog are mainly accessible by pedestrians even today. Closely knit with a string of old-world architectural pieces, some roofs shade over the uneven roads. Bearing the footsteps of centuries, these roads are a spectator to the bittersweet moments of the pedestrians that have passed through them. Two major roads were the Chutey Rantak and Nowshar. The former consisted of a barley mill that supplied tsampa (Barley sattu), a staple of the locals. ‘Nowshar’ on the other hand was the home of Basti Ram, who founded the main Bazaar. His haveli or mansion still stands today at the edge of the market. Moreover, the community hall of Kharyog was also situated in Nowshar making it an important section of the town as well. The area was known as the Chang Gali referring to the indigenous local beer that was sold by the local women in the alleys.
A Traveler’s Treasure: Today’s Kharyog
The curious eyes of a traveler should always try to find the hidden gems that are often overlooked. In this former capital of Ladakh, when gazed at, at a superficial level, you will only see a city adorned with its old-world charm and history. Yet there are plenty of gems that are easily overlooked.
Just when you have taken a stroll through the hustle-bustle of Maney Khang, you’ll reach the Sankar monastery. The 9-foot majestic sculpture of Avalokiteshwara or Chenrezig at the forefront was actually excavated at a depth of 4 feet from the floor of the monastery. If you want to immerse yourself in a peaceful ambiance, you can also visit the Mahakal temple which is located on the Victory peak of Kharyog and the Padmasambhava or the Chenzerig temple. Most of them are bejeweled with beautiful wall paintings and rock carvings that date back to the time when Kharyog was built. During the 1620s, Muslim traders started trading in Ladakh, during which they asked the locals to build a mosque in Tshas Soma or a contemporary garden. It is quite a pleasant scenario to see community brotherhood amidst all of these diversities.
The present-day Chutey Rantak houses some of the finest bakeries that are inspired by South Asia, Kashmir, and Tibet. With the most amazing Kulcha and Kablama (baked dough delicacies), you will be greeted with a generous and enticing waft in the air. The Balti bakers, that originally built the barley mill still make bread and have continued their generational occupations. In this street you’ll find small bakeries with the baker sitting cross-legged at the top of an insulated Tandoor (Furnace), occasionally taking out the crispy bread from its inner walls.It is often said that the path to a heart starts from the stomach and Kharyog has ample spots where you can taste mind-boggling delicacies while having a chit-chat with the locals.
For the aesthetes, there’s more to be revealed. A 400-year-old tree resides here, that was originally planted by the royal teacher guru of Sengge Namgyal, the king of Leh. This tree is a mark of reverence to the local deity Tsug Tor. What is even more fascinating is that it is now taken care of by the local Sikh community who call it the Datun Sahib, or the toothbrush of Guru Nanak.
Nowshar, on the other hand is the perfect tourist hub with vibgyor-tinged shops that sell traditional attire. The Tipi, Stutung, Bok and Kos are a people’s favorite and you may may even try or buy them while clicking pictures. Not only this, every essential or esoteric commodity is sold along the road. Astrologers, metalware artisans, and vendors can be seen thronging the streets. As a traveler, the architecture of Kharyog is a sight to behold. With dusty sandstone-like appearances, some of these houses are part of the first 250 settlements of the area.