to Korzok from Leh is unlike any other in Ladakh. The Leh – Manali road first
brings us over one of the highest passes in the region, over the Taklang-la
(5260m). From here it strikes off east on a rough track across the basin of the
twin lakes, Startsapuk-Tso (fresh water) and the Tso-kar (salt water), then over
a roller-coaster track to the head of Tso Moriri, a magnificent lake, and on to
Korzok, a quarter of the way along the lake's 20km length. Containing the
drainage basin of these trans-Himalayan lakes and known as Rupshu, this is a
landscape of open, windswept high-altitude valleys. Korzok, situated at 15,000
feet (4,572 m) with its dozen or so houses and its gompa appearing like a mirage
among the barren hills, is the only permanent settlement in Rupshu, and the
stage for the region’s only monastic festival. The Korzok Gu-stor attracts
scores of Chang-pa, the Tibetan plateau nomadic herdsmen, for whom this even
constitutes the sole event of its kind and magnitude. This two-day
festival ends with the dismemberment and dispersal of the 'Storma'
(sacrificial cake) by the leader of the Black Hat dancers in a ceremony called 'Argham'
of 'Killing'. This symbolizes the destruction of all forms of evil and also
re-enacts the assassination of the Tibetan apostate King Lang-dar-ma, by a
Buddhist monk in the mid 9th century. The masks worn by
the dancers represent the guardian divinities (Dharmapalas) of the Buddhist
pantheon, and the patron divinities of the Geluk-pa order.