The village in the middle of nowhere: Rangdum, Suru Valley
Almost halfway along the Kargil–Padum road in the middle of nowhere lies the beautiful Buddhist village of Rangdum. Rangdum is the last village located in an isolated region of the Suru Valley in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The village of Rangdum is situated at a towering altitude of 11,998 feet above sea level and has colourful hills on one side and the mighty Trans-Himalayas and glaciers on the other side.
Rangdum is located about 100 km from the town of Kargil and the best way to get to this village is is by hiring a taxi from Kargil. The journey is long and 100 km on these roads feels like 1000 km if not more, since the condition of the roads can only be described in one word – horrible. It takes around eight to nine hours on an average to reach Rangdum. Government buses ply twice a week but the buses are over crowded and not an advisable option for travellers unless they are on a very tight budget or are ready to ruff it out in these jam packed buses.
The village much like the other villages in Suru Valley is on a flat plateau. The village has around 25 houses and each house is at a considerable distance from each other, with stone boulders laid around each house as their fencing. All the houses look very similar since all are painted white and around the windows and doors a deep red border. This colour code is a significance of the whole village being inhabited by Buddhist.
Rangdum has a very arid and barren look to the place, a major contributor to this is the fact that there is barely any vegetation in and around the village. The conditions are so harsh in this part of the valley that crops very rarely ripen during the brief summer. The villagers from Rangdum depend on their flocks or lower down villages in the Suru Valley for their supplies.
The main attraction in Rangdum is the village monastery which goes by the same name as the village. The Rangdum Monastery is not located inside the village but at a distance of 25 km along the road towards Pensi La and is situated on top of a small but steep hill at an altitude of about 13,225 feet above sea level.
Rangdum Monastery was built in the 16th century and around 40-45 monks reside here. The walls are decorated with beautiful frescoes and in the assembly hall stand the impressive statues of Buddha, Avalokiteshwara and Tsongkhapa.
The accommodation options in Rangdum village are limited to a couple of home-stays, which have very cosy and warm rooms that can accommodate around six people in each room. Since Rangdum is the mid-way to Padum in Zansjar Valley, this is the best place to stop for a lunch break on the journey. There are a handful of restaurants that serve up very basic food in the form or veg thali, noodles and omelet bread.
Since Rangdum is located at such a high altitude even the summers are very cold in the village and it is important for travellers to come prepared with heavy winter wear even during the summers. The temperature in the nights drops to as low as 5°C.
The best time to visit Rangdum is during the summer months from June to September. During winters the temperature in Rangdum drops to a bone chilling low of around – 30°C and snow accumulates to an average height of about five feet.
Rangdum is an ideal place for travellers heading to Zanskar Valley to take a break from their journey and spend a night in a village rather than travel another six hours to Padum in Zanskar Valley.