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The House of Lamu

Posted On: 18 April 2014 | Written By Navina Jafa |

The sensational dramatic essence of Ladakh has been much written off. This border district of Jammu and Kashmir has become an attractive destination not only for foreigners who throng to experience lived Buddhist culture, but also large number of middle class and upper class Indians. In most cases people do not take guides and are self initiated to savor Ladakh on their own.  The main activities are confined to visiting Buddhist Gomkpas (temples), engaging in adventure tourism, driving to experience nature’s beauty by visiting Nubra Valley, Tsomoriri and Pangong Lakes.

However a significant feature of Ladakh is its cultural heritage. Visitors can access the amazing threads of its cultural dynamics by focusing on three aspects: Life in a cold desert, Artistic, Ritualistic and political culture of the Buddhist Gompas (temples) and indigenous culture and communities of Ladakh.

A visit to a traditional Ladakhi house communicates the life in a cold desert along with lifestyle.  The most outstanding feature of a Ladakhi house is the stove that is situated in the living room of a low ceiling flat roofed house. Surrounding the stove on one side are arranged a range of traditional utensils especially the one to make butter tea. On the other side are low lying carpeted seats and tables. People spend most of the long winter months in this area. Adjoining the living room is a room designated for religious activities - a picture of the Dalai Lama, ceremonial drums, tangkhas hang around amidst oil lamps and incense. Summer months (May to September) are busy months for agriculture and preparing for the long winter. Food (meat, vegetables) and fodder are dried on the flat roofs. A large number of houses are on the first floor, while the ground floor is marked for housing live stock. Traditionally the houses are constructed with local mountain mud, poplar wood.

A visit to the house of Lamu (traditional oracles) displays a house  outside the public institution of Gompas, as well palimpsest impressions of the Bon religious rituals coexist. A prior appointment to the house of a a oracle known as Lamu can be organized by requesting a local Ladakhi.

The Lamu is usually a woman who has special powers to find solutions to worldly problems. While her ‘patients’ sit around her in her house temple she prepares the altar, by placing cups of barley, rice, and oil lamps. She adorns herself with a crown decorated with Buddhist deities, burns incense and chants. Soon she picks up a sword, increases the rhythm of chanting and gradually enters into a trance. Thereafter each patient comes to her and she provides blessing and solutions.


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