From a distance, village, gompa and mountainside looks fused together, . . . It was a medieval world. Lamas of all ages gossiped and giggled, lounging on the steps in front of heavy wooden doors with iron studs. In the evening sun the angles of the roof and squared lintels cast black-and-white shadows in geometrical patterns. Mastiffs still sheltering from the day's heat stretched out in shady corners squalid with gompa debris - old bones, pieces of cloth, and the odd tattered boot. Despite the midsummer warmth the old lamas' maroon cloaks were of heavy tweed. The cheeky, shaven-headed boys wore their cotton cloaks slipped off one shoulder and their yellow hats at a rakish angle. A bearskin hung above the door into the main shrine, its massive head loured from above as though it might at any minute bare its fangs.Lamas wearing red and yellow robes and brocade hats sat in lines to chant the evening prayers. The last rays of the sun glinted off the gold brocade in the altar cloth and off the rows of thankas. Images of the Buddha, three times the size of man, stood above the altar, dominating the theatrical scene. Trumpets blasted, cymbals clashed and conch shells were blown through cupped hands, the sound escaped through the closed windows and curtained doorways into the courtyards and out across the valley.
This is Kharsha for you.
Across the valley from Padum, Karsha is Zanskar’s most striking village, full of photogenic old-fashioned homes, barley fields and threshing circles worked by dzo (yak-cow half breeds). Staying here is the best possible way to witness the Zanskari Culture.Rising directly above is a near-vertical red rock mountainside, sliced in half by a deep chasm. Whitewashed monastic buildings cascading down one side form Zanskar's biggest Buddhist monastery complex, with an upper prayer hall that contains the mummified body of its 14th-century founder. Climbing the other side of the chasm is a Buddhist nunnery, an ancient citadel site and a remarkable yet little-visited Alchi-style temple featuring a splendid 11th-century carved figure.
Ghi-skith House is home to a royal family of Kharsha. So beware of royal treatment.