Preserve paintings of Gon Nila Phuk caves, Saspol: Amita Baig

By Kunzang Chorol SASPOL, Jun 14, 2016
With the successful inclusion of Gon Nila Phuk Cave, Temple and Fort at Saspol in the World Monument Watch List 2016. INTACH Ladakh chapter along with the Liker Monastery and the villagers of Saspol organised a daylong cultural and awareness program on June 4 at Saspol village.

World Monument Watch List 2016 includes 50 sites from 36 countries and Gon Nila Phuk cave and temples are the only listed sites from India.

The day started with the heritage walk to the site of Gon Nila phuk cave and fort which was one of the most endangered caves of the ancient times. 

Amita Baig, representative of World Monument Fund, Chief Guest said that the cave is so special and endangered that there is a proper need to protect it. It is the responsibility of everyone to conserve such heritage which is in danger to lose. The reason of its inclusion in the watch list is that because its paintings are so special and pure. It is the responsibility of us to hand over this painting as it is to next generation.

About the cave, it is said that the scholar and translator Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo (958–1055) travelled to Kashmir, and upon his return, he founded large numbers of temples all over western Tibet and Ladakh. And one among them was Ghon Nila Phuk meditation caves and temples at Saspol.
The caves are adorned with Buddhist wall paintings which are said to be 1000 years old. On top of the hill, the ruins of a ninth-century fort also survive. Presently they are in a bad condition due to the neglect of regular maintenance and harsh weather conditions.
The interiors of the Gon-Nila-Phuk caves are covered with wall paintings that depict different manifestations of Buddhahood, likely executed as early as the eleventh century. The paintings carry an esoteric symbolism and are an invaluable resource for understanding the history of Buddhism and Buddhist thought as it was practised in Ladakh. But as the caves were carved into a hill of conglomerate rock and the weathering of the soft conglomerate puts the survival of this sacred art at great risk. Erosion damages the painted surface and threatens the structural stability of the caves. INTACH Ladakh chapter skillfully restored the broken walls and way to access there.

Tsering Angchuk, Convenor, INTACH Ladakh Chapter, said that after the establishment of their office in Ladakh they visited the cave site and showed to Prince Claus Fund of Netherland, who successfully carried out the emergency stabilisation work and documentation of the sites and submitted the report in time. And in 2015 they have been able to enlist Gon Nila Phuk cave temple and fort in 2016 world Monument watch list as one of the world’s most endangered cultural Heritage sites.
The day was to bring awareness and motivation about the heritage and culture of the people. It was a total heritage day which showcased traditional dance, songs, and cuisine.

INTACH chapter organises an essay writing competition between students of Middle school and high school on the topic of ‘My village and my heritage’ two days before this day. Later, momentos were distributed among the position holder in the competition.
Tsering Angdus, EC agriculture, Ven. Thupstan Paldan, scholar, Tsewang Paljor special officer, Cultural Academy, monks of Liker monastery and many dignitaries were also present.