The Leh Palace, also known as 'Lhachen Palkhar' is one of the most historically rich edifices that can be found in the country and is located in the breathtakingly beautiful Kashmir, in the town of Leh in India. This grand structure was built in the 17th century by King Sengge Namgyal as a royal palace, and the King and his family were the former residents of the majestic mansion. The Leh Palace is also one of the tallest buildings of its time with nine stories in all, and offers marvellous panoramic views of the entire town of Leh, as well as of the Stok Kangri and Zanskar mountains of the mighty Himalayan ranges, thereby giving the palace a strategic position.
The Leh Palace has been designed in line with the Potala Palace in Lhasa in Tibet. The construction of the Leh Palace, which began in the year 1553, was started by one of the rulers of Namgyal dynasty, Tsewang Namgyal. The construction was then completed by his successor, Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century. These rulers later resided in the Leh Palace along with their family. The grand structure of the palace was complete with nine storeys in all, which made it one of the tallest structures of those times. The upper floors were used for accommodation, while the floors below houses stables and storerooms.
The Leh Palace was abandoned by the royal family in the mid 19 century when the Dongra forces took over Ladakh. Consequently, the Namgyal family had to shift to the Stok Palace. The palace is now in a dilapidated condition and has been converted into an archaeological museum that proudly displays the artefacts of the yesteryear's rulers of Leh.
The Leh Palace is a magnificent example of the Tibetan architecture and attracts tourists from all across the globe, who cannot help but marvel at the grandeur and elegance of this antique structure. Even though the size of the Leh Palace is smaller, it closely resembles the Patola Palace of Lhasa. Huge buttressed walls and jutted out wooden balconies are characteristic features of this architectural style.
The structure is entirely made up the hard bricks, mud, wood and sand. The unique style of construction allows the palace to illuminate itself naturally during the day. Also, the material used is such that the temperature inside the palace remains soothing and pleasant. The entrance to the palace is adorned with intricate wood-carved figurines.
The palace is nine stories high, and the topmost floor of the palace is called the Victory Tower since it offers a bird's eye view of the entire Leh town as well as the Himalayan ranges. The Victory Tower was constructed to commemorate the Ladakhi soldiers who had fought against the invading Kashmiri soldiers. The base of the palace is embellished with several other Tibetan structures, such as the famous Namgyal Stupa, Chandazik Stupa and Chamba Lhakhang Stupa.
The Leh Palace is sadly now in ruins, but a few small rooms and corridors still exist. The more substantial rooms and compartments have been turned into exhibition halls, and the museum is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. The museum holds a rich collection of utensils that were used by the royal family, ceremonial dresses, jewellery, ornaments and crowns. Chinese thangka or sooth paintings with intricate designs, which date back to more than 450 years, are undoubtedly one of the best-preserved artefacts in the museum. The bright colours used in the paintings had been derived from crushed and powdered gems and stones, and are intact up to this date.
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The Leh Palace is located in the old Leh city, on the Tsemo hill. To arrive at the palace, you will have to walk through the old town. The palace is situated at a distance of 5 kilometres from the Leh Air Force Base Airport. From the main bazaar in the city, the palace can be reached easily either via Jama Masjid or via the Zangsti Road.
1. Avoid going to visit the Leh Palace via railways, since the nearest railways stations are three-day bus rides away from the final destination.
2. Wear comfortable footwear as you will have to walk around a lot, and the road is full of slopes. Besides, the staircases in the palace are a bit difficult to walk through.
3. The palace is not recommended to be visited by senior citizens because of the amount of walking that has to be done.
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