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The Shey Palace Leh

The Shey Palace

Shey is about 15 kilometres from Leh and is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Ladakh. It also happens to have one of the oldest palaces called the Shey palace.

During the summer, the landscape of Ladakh is a contrast between the magnificent mountains and the green meadows of the valleys basking in the sun. The Shey valley was beckoning us.

Since the sun is not kind in Ladakh, some things need to be taken care of. If you don't want to go back home looking like a piece of burnt toast, sunscreen is an absolute essential.

Shey is only a half an hour's drive away from Leh. If you leave early you can enjoy the drive with the covers down. Shey like other valleys in Ladakh lies right in the middle of a long range of rocky mountains. The ravages of erosion by sun, wind, water and snow is clearly visible and that's why when the wind blows it's best to stay indoors.

Shey turned out to be a lush green plain dotted with white chortens visible far out in the distance. We drove through the village that is divided into upper, middle and lower Shey. Summer is the time for some agricultural activity and of course the fruit harvest. However, not many villages in Leh have been able to harness the water of the Indus river adequately and depend only on streams.

We took a short break at a little roadside cafe because the heat creeps up on you before you realise it. My friends told me that the name Shey is a distortion of shell, which means mirror, a name inspired by the Shey lake. Now covered with a very stubborn type of weed, the lake at one time, used to reflect the entire span of the old Shey palace. Now only a small patch of the lake reflects the ancient glory of the palace.

Cars can't go beyond a point so we took the somewhat steep path up to the palace. Like all palaces this one too is built high up on a hill.

The large number of chortens at Shey has a story behind them. The king of Shey was known not to punish criminals and wrong doers with imprisonment. He would in fact make all criminals build a certain number of chortens as chastisement. Thus the criminal would absolve himself through a holy deed.