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From the photographer: “I was physically breathless climbing up the sloped road. It was just a short distance from the car park to the monastery door, but it was cold at 2 am on this October night. My friend Dorje was okay, as expected from any Ladakhi born. There was no one inside the monastery, except the young monk who had promised, and was there at 2 am, welcoming us inside.

I had to sit for a while on the cold concrete, to catch my breath back, and then went on to the inner courtyard, right before the ‘Sanctum Sanctorum’ of the Monastery. A courtyard looking up to the Universe. I had wanted to shoot at this wonderful place for a long time.

The training workshop for the Ambassadors of the Hanle Dark Sky Reserve had brought me to Hanle. While the training was scheduled during the day and evening, the nights were free to shoot the clear sky. In fact one of the participants of the workshop was a young monk, who was quite interested in the proceedings of the workshop, learning to use the telescope and quite adept in the evenings to set up the telescope himself.

At the courtyard inside the Hanle Monastery, I requested the young monk to open the door to the sanctum Sanctorum, and he was quite willing to oblige.

I shot seven shots to make this panorama, the initial shot was aimed towards the zenith. The fluttering prayer flag streamers divided the sky into six uneven sextants. The southern sextants housed the bright Jupiter and the Zodiacal Light. The northern sextants housed the Milky Way and its numerous clusters. The faraway Andromeda Galaxy in the middle near the zenith.

Looking down in the courtyard, it’s two storied with a balcony running all around. The door of the Sanctum Sanctorum is open and you can see inside. Dorje too is making his own panorama.”

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