The roughly 500-year-old monastery has been given a face-lift for the occasiona fresh coat of paint and a new outdoor meeting space, with thousands of colorful prayer flags fluttering overhead. My guide, Nawang Phunchok, who grew up in this village, helps the women fasten fur-lined capes and adjust... IN THE VILLAGE OF THIKSEY, a group of women stands outside the gates of an ancient whitewashed monastery. Removing sunglasses and donning large, looped earrings, gold-embroidered jackets and hoods adorned with Tibetan turquoise, they prepare for the arrival of a special guest to this part of Ladakh: the Dalai Lama. The roughly 500-year-old monastery has been given a face-lift for the occasiona fresh coat of paint and a new outdoor meeting space, with thousands of colorful prayer flags fluttering overhead. My guide, Nawang Phunchok, who grew up in this village, helps the women fasten fur-lined capes and adjust intricate metalwork necklaces. When everyone is fully dressed, he snaps cellphone photos to preserve the moment for Facebook and Twitter. His Holinesss visit to Ladakh, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in the northeast corner of India near the borders of Pakistan and China, stems from the fact that nearly half of Ladakhs population now practices Tibetan Buddhism. (The religion arrived roughly 2,000 years ago, hundreds of years before it flourished in what is now called Tibet.) The sect led by the 81-year-old Dalai Lamathe Gelugpa, or Yellow Hat sectis one of the most popular forms of Buddhism in Ladakh.
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