To the west of Leh, Phyang village in the Indus River Valley amid brown barren mountains commands lovely views of Mount Stok Kangri (6,150 meters). The glacial Phyang Nullah, a tributary of the river, waters the fields laced with poplar trees and quenches the thirst of the villagers and their livestock. The fields of barley, corn, wheat, and vegetables are interspersed by flat roof houses. Dzos, a cross-breed of a cow and a yak, help the villagers in tilling the land stretching between an altitude of 3,500 and 3,600 meters.
In this historic village of Leh Block, cave paintings of mountain goats have been found. The ruins of old fort lie next to Lotsawa Lakhang. In August 2010, a cloud burst caused flash floods and damaged several houses in the village.
The village with unique traditions cannot escape attention of cultural adventure seekers. For example, Phyang does not have a common cremation ground. Each house features a separate furnace called romkhang / ro-ong khang (the house of death / grave). Generally, these are simple structures, but rich families decorate and paint the furnace. To explore more such features, leave behind the vehicles. Stroll! And travel by public transport. Approximately six kilometers long link road connects the Leh-Srinagar Road (National Highway 1 (NH1)) to the village.
Trekking Routes via Phyang
For thrill seekers, the village falls on famous trekking routes: Nubra Valley trek via Lasermo-La, Sham Trek, and Bokbok-La trek.
The Lotsawa Lakhang (the translator’s temple) is dedicated to Padma Sambhava, the famous tantric of the eighth century. The temple is called Lotsawa Lakhang because it belongs to the end of Rinchen Zangpo- period. Rinchen Zangpo is a famous monk who commissioned construction of 108 temples in Ladakh and translated the Buddhist documents into Tibetan from Indian languages. The ruins of the Phyang Fortress are a few steps away from the temple lending itself to sweeping views of the village.
A low wooden door opens into the dark one-room temple. The flat roof rests on two columns of wood. The altar between the columns features idols of Padma Sambhava, Milarepa and Ningmapa Red Hat-sect’s lama. The columns are decorated with old thangkas and weapons. The colorful chorten (stupa) of wood features images of the guardians of the four main directions (Lokapalas). Lokapalas are dressed in royal costumes.
The walls are adorned with white, blue, and red color frescoes. The theme of the frescoes revolves around Bodhisattvas, Buddha, mythical beasts, and Mahakala (protection deity). The wall paintings, epitomizing Tibetan art of the thirteenth century, are believed to be of Lakhang Soma (Alchi) period.
The word Mahakala consists of two words: “maha” (mighty) and “kala” (black). The wall near right side of the main door features eight figures of Mahakala, the protector. The group comprises a four-armed and six-armed Mahakala. Mahakala wears garland of skulls and carries his attributes. On the left wall, a crow having a human body represents the protective deity. The crow painting shows nine faces, two horns, a pair of tiny wings, and a big beak.
The wall opposite to the door is decorated with blue medicine Buddha holding an herb bowl in the left hand, golden color Shakyamuni Buddha, and red color Amithaba, the Buddha of light. However, the wall paintings are fading. Many cracks have also developed in the walls.
A steep path from the village road goes to the white washed temple perched on a ledge. The keys of the temple are with Norbu Gasha who lives nearby. Enquire with villagers and they will call him to open the temple door.
Do not confuse Phiyang with the capital of North Korea (Pyong Yang) which is also pronounced somewhat similarly.