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About Korzok

Korzok, also known as Karzok or Kurzok, is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery which belongs to the Drukpa Lineage and ancient village on the western bank of Tsomoriri Lake, one of the highest lakes in the world in Leh District, Ladakh, India. It covers an area of 120 square kilometres (46 sq mi).The water of the lake is partly salty and partly sweet. Its depth in the lake is 30 metres (98 ft). The valley formed by the Tsomoriri and other lakes, is known as the Rupshu Valley. The lake and its surrounding area is a Ramsar designated wetland.

Korzok Monastery is highly admired monastery and is 300 years old.The Tsomoriri Lake in front of it is also held in respect, and considered equally sacred by the local people. With the efforts of the WWF-India the Tsomoriri has been honored as a 'Sacred Gift for a Living Planet' by the local community.As a result, the area has been opened up for tourists.A permit (obtainable at Leh only) is necessary for entry into the area.Only tented accommodation,inclined on the banks of the Tsomoriri Lake,is available for visitors.

Korzok is border between Ladakh in the north and Tibet in the east and Zanskar in the west.The Changthang plateau is the geographical setting with snow peaks that is the source of water to the Lake.The Rupshu Valley, also called the Chungthang valley, is a distinctive landscape. The barley fields around Korzok village occupied by the nomadic Chang-pa herdsmen (apart from the monks staying in the monastery),have been described as the highest cultivated land in the world.The nomadic herdsmen seen here living in tents only, rear herds of goats, cows and yaks.The wildlife seen in the area consists of Himalayan birds, foxes ,wild ass and marmots.The streams, which rise in the valley, are used for irrigation. Summer temperatures in the area reach a high of 36 °C (97 °F) and a low of 5 °C (41 °F).

History of Korzok

The history of Korzok is traced back to kings who ruled in the inhospitable terrain and fought several wars.They suffered numerous setbacks in wars and had to lead a nomadic life in seclusion. One of the kings of this nomadic lineage had sent his emissary to Tibet seeking help. He brought a Lama from Tibet who established the monastery at Korzok about 300 years ago. Since then the nomads preferred to change their animistic religion and adopt to Buddhism. They preferred living peacefully and in harmony with their surroundings and animals. The reign of the nomadic kingdom ended with their last King Tsewang Yurgyal, who ruled until August 1947 when India became a democratic country.Korzok was in the Central Asian trade route till 1947 and was the headquarters of Ripshu Valley.One of the kings, Rupshu Goba, who lived there with his family, built nine permanent houses there.

Now there are 50 houses in the village but the floating population of the nomads, establishing their tents in summer, adds to the agricultural operations in the region.The tents are provided with vents at the top to let out smoke.Pashmina(yak’s wool) is the precious product that the Changmas trade along with the salt that they extract from large salt fields in the area, such as the springs at Puga.They barter these two products for food grains and other necessities. In Korzok, in recent years, building activity is on the rise with the nomadic tribes changing their life style.

Korzok monastery is said to have been re-built in the 19th century on the right bank of the Tsomoriri River.The old monastery was constructed on a gentle slope, unlike other monasteries that are generally perched on hill tops.An impressivephotong is also situated near to the Gompa. A number of Chortens are also seen near the monastery. Korzok settlement is considered as one of the oldest settlements of the world.The monastery houses the statue of Shakyamuni Buddha along with images of other deities.The monastery has attractive paintings (Thangkas); old paintings which have been restored.

Local Festival

The Korzok Gustor festival is held at the monastery and attracts many Chang-pa, the Tibetan plateau nomadic herdsmen.The festival lasts for two days (July/August) and ends with the dismemberment and dispersal of the 'Storma' (sacrificial cake) by the leader of the Black Hat dancers in a ceremony called 'Argham' (Killing).The ceremony represents the destruction of evil and pays homage to the assassination of the Tibetan apostate King Lang-dar-ma, by a Buddhist monk in the mid 9th century. At the festival masks are wear by the dancers to represent the Dharmapalas (guardian divinities of the Buddhist pantheon),and the patron divinities of the Drukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.The annual monastic festival is also held not only at Korzok but also at the Thuje in the Chungthan valley where the nomadic tribes eagerly participate in the ceremony. They not only make donations to the monasteries but also donate one son from each family to the monastery. It is said that the local nomads are so dedicated to Buddhism that opposite to their tents they allocate space to keep symbolic statue images of the Rinpoche, usually the Dalai Lama, along with the seven offering cups, in perfect harmony with their own folk (nomadic) religious deities and spirits.

Location of Korzok

Korzok, is located at 4,595 metres (15,075 ft), and it houses a Shakyamuni Buddha and other statues. It is home to about 35 monks.In the past, the monastery was the headquarters of the Rupshu Valley.It was under the jurisdiction of the Hemis monastery as a Drugpa order monastery. Two or four monks were assigned to run the monastery.

The monastery is situated to the southeast of Leh in eastern Ladakh,Jammu & Kashmir, at a road distance of 215 kilometres (134 mi). It is also approachable from Manali.The Leh-Manali Highway or Manali-Tsokar route leads to Korzok Monastery and the Tsomoriri Lake.The Leh-Manali route passes through Upshi, Chungthang to Tsomoriri Lake, a distance of 215 kilometres (134 mi). The road, climbing though the Tanglang La Pass, is the second highest in the world.Leh is also linked by air with many destinations in India.

Korzok Village with backdrop of Tso Moriri

Korzok is a small village which is located 3 km from the northwest end of the Tso Moriri Lake. Most of the population of the Korzok are changpa nomads. Korzok is one of the India’s highest permanent villages at an altitude of 4572 m,During the summers Changpascamp at various places in their robos (small tents) and look after their flock.Their sheep produce the famous pashmina, one of the costliest varieties of wool. Traditional weavers from Kashmir and Himachal buy this wool.The recent boom in its value has led to their success, though that is not evident in their life-style.Korzok meaning is “Middle of the mountain” and it’s an excellent site to enjoy the lake side.There is a monastery at korzok which is supposed to be about 500 years old.Korzok monastery lies on the traditional trading route between Spiti and Ladakh, it was visited by many of early explorers.

In older days Korzok was headquarter of Rupshu.Earlier there was no Government facility for changpas in Korzok but now this valley has a school, PWD guest house and nearby ITBP camp. Korzok Village cuts off the civilization for about 8 months in a year due to snow. The only way of getting around in winter is on foot or horseback.The climate at Korzok is cold arid, snow falls in winter, rain fall is very less, there is a wide variation in temperature, during summer it rises as high as up to 36 degree Celsius but same falls to 5 degree Celsius at night; the sky is usually clear and cloudless.Thunder and lightning are hardly seen.

Korzok Village: Agriculture on the top of the world

The fields of Korzok village are among the highest agricultural lands in the world.During the summers, the Changpas who live in Korzok grow vegetables,barley and oat. A Major portion of agricultural land at Korzok belongs to gompa or monastery in the village.This land is divided into plots and given to the lamas (monks) for cultivation for the period of 6 to 7 years.Recently tractors are introduced for plowing these lands and are hired at the rate of Rs 600 per hour for plowing.

The changpas use horses for plowing.The fields are prepared for cultivation by application of fertilizer followed by water. People generally use natural fertilizer here.The first crop consists of barley,oats and vegetables are harvested in August-September,after which fodder grass is grown and harvested in December. Water of irrigation comes from chasma or glacier.A stream from the glacier flows into Tso Moriri Lake and agricultural fields are situated along and around the stream, near the banks of the lake.



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