Our host, Sonam the carpenter, has a decent view from his rooftop over the Zangla Palace. Our volunteers relax in his courtyard reading or sunbathing after work. >>>The team arrived to Zangla
The 2013 season opened with the conservation of the Great Stupa of Shey that started a year before. >>>
Please support our project!
Title sponsor of Csoma`s Room Foundation:
Sponsor and Founder of Csoma`s Room Foundation:
Our Travel Agency:
Our official documentarist:
Our Media Partners:
Our Partners and Consultants:
Our host, Sonam the carpenter, has a decent view from his rooftop over the Zangla Palace. Our volunteers relax in his courtyard reading or sunbathing after work.
But one of us has his workplace right here. Gábor, a chef in his previous life (of course he has to practice his skills on that field too over here) is dreaming of becoming a tattoo master in his new one. He had a chance to prove his ability.
The 2013 season opened with the conservation of the Great Stupa of Shey that started a year before.
We commenced with the same master builders from last year, but had to hire some new skilled labor, some Italian, Slovenian, Hungarian volunteers, under Hungarian supervision. The conservation is looking forward to complete the lowest step of the Stupa, and for the sake of protecting the Stupa from the growing traffic of the vicinity, we are planning to build a small entry gate structure too.
We left Shey, but a group stayed there to finish the restoration works - a group leader, two volunteers, four local master builders, three workers and a few Ladakhi volunteers. The rest of us (two local master builders, three volunteers and our Italian partner and his interpreter) moved on towards Zanskar, in order to start the restoration of the stupa in Rangdum, the first Buddhist monastery on the way.
In 2012, the 170. anniversary of Csoma`s death the activity of Csoma`s Room Foundation is expanding significantly. The restoration of Zangla Palace is still our main activity, but since last year we got involved in the conservation of 7 historic stupas in the Indus and Zanskar valleys, that is financed by the Italian Stupa Onlus Association.
Since we operate in Zanskar, initially as a heritage conservation project based on volunteering, we realized that for successful results we need to move towards a more comprehensive approach. Our volunteers joined local education and established a scholarship for Zangla children continuing their studies in high school. These raised our local recognition significantly. Spending more time in the region, we gained further competence in social issues as well.
Csoma`s Room Foundation announces with profound regret and deepest sorrow the loss of our main ladakhi partner, our hero, our friend, co-founder of Tibet Heritage Fund, widely acclaimed, most respected André Alexander who left us unexpectedly at the young age of 47.
André played a vital role at the beginning of our Zangla Palace restoration, following closely our work, providing continuous consultations and advice, becoming our main partner through the years.
From now on you can easily follow our activity through short videos. We celebrated the New Year with the inauguration of our brand new video channel.
Those who wish to keep themselves up to date with the news around Csoma`s Room Foundation don`t forget to subscribe to Csoma`s Room YouTube channel on the following link:
Jan Tilinger, Chairman of the Surya Civic Association talks about the first Czech solar school built in the Himalayas. More details about the project introduced on the 25th Pechakucha Night presentation Friday morning at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics.
We started the week by instructing some new volunteers (there are 25 of us in Zangla at the moment), trying to find a suitable job for each of them. Misi and Kati were working on the Western wall of the Northern block. As usual, instead of the costly scaffolding, they used industrial climbing. They removed the old, cracked plaster from the whole surface of the four storey wall, while hanging on ropes from the roof.
The biggest event of the week was the emergency intervention done on the Malakartse stupa. 2 hours` walk and climb from Zangla, the old fort and the nearby stupa lie in a truly wild setting. We first managed to access them this winter, when we documented the murals of the stupa, originating most probably from as early as the 11th century. The building with the murals themselves were in great danger, because of a hole on the roof leaking every time it rained, the crumbling entrance and stone basement, all of which projected the demolition of the building in the close future.
The first teacher volunteer this year in Zangla was Ildikó Benedek, who brought a lot of games from Hungary. Together with the local teachers, they decided to put an end to the lack of physical education in Zangla. So, the beginning of teaching hours was shifted from 10am to 9am three times a week, to include a sports class in the morning to refresh the students. The first class turned out to be better than expected. The kids were playing a ball game where the goal is not to get touched by the ball thrown by the opponent group. Girls were playing against boys, and unexpectedly the girls` strategy worked better.
The lamas of Zangla and all the nuns from the other side of the village were invited to perform a puja (ceremony) for the opening of our working season at the Zangla Palace. This is one of the prerequisites of our success - especially in the eyes of the locals. The small sanctuary was crowded with volunteers, monks and nuns, even the King arrived with his son to perform his own ceremony for the success of the forthcoming works. Our homestay provider, Sonam the carpenter, already known from the winter trek served tea, dried fruits and cookies to the participants.
Before leaving for Zangla, we accompanied our surveyors to Thyksey monastery. This is where they will stay while surveying the first stupa, or chorten as the Ladakhi call them. On the photo from left to right you can see: Katalin Tolnai archeologist and surveyor, Balázs Irimiás, architect and project leader, Lobzang, the interpreter of Thyksey monastery, András Harmath, surveyor, and Tashi Norbu, the guide of the surveyor team. In the background is the monastery itself, and in the front is the flag of our partner organization, Stupa Onlus Association. Note: we should also make a flag!
Our team has arrived to Leh, the capital of Ladakh. From here, it will take us a
2-day bus ride to get to Zangla, our project site.
However, two Hungarian surveyors are not coming to Zangla yet – in the framework of the cooperation with the Italian Stupa Onlus Association,
Katalin Tolnai and András Harmath will survey 8 historical stupas in the region, laying the path for their restoration in the future.
Sonam and Latsok kept us awake in the hole with some snow leopard stories, as they soon realized we are interested in them. What else a journalist and a cameraman needs on the deserted winter Himalayan landscape, than a thrilling beast who still raises much concern and probably appears in the scary tales of the Zanskaris` childhood. It`s actually almost like a Yeti, without the incredibility effect on the face of your colleagues when you tell them later. We met a remarkably well equipped Indian-Bangladeshi team, who even managed to take a distant shot of the leopard, the photo is a courtesy of Subbu KL.
As in December 2010 we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Italian Stupa Onlus Association, in January 2011 we paid a visit together to Thykse monastery to have a talk about our first possible joint project the following summer. On the request of Thykse monastery, we would organize the restoration of an important historical Stupa in the nearby Shey. The main purpose of the visit was the proposal of a new, accurate measured survey and a restoration plan based on that, instead of the plans provided by the monastery, to compile the international standards.
Ever since we keep coming to the Himalayas, we wanted to try it by ourselves how harsh that winter of 1823/24 could had been, when Csoma was staying in his tiny room, without heating, writing his dictionary in Zangla Palace.
In the beginning we only wanted to visit his room and spend a night there in wintertime, checking the building that we only knew in good weather.
You still don`t have a Calendar for 2011? Hurry up, limited edition available!
Calendar for your donation, limited edition, up for order now. Click on Donation, choose Custom donation, and send us at least 25 Euros, priority shipping included worldwide. Please drop us an email with your shipping address. 40x30cm landscape orientation, wonderful photography from the Himalayas, and the hidden Zanskar Valley.
It is our great pleasure to announce, that the Posticum Culture Center invited us to hold a presentation on the opening day of the Tibetan Days, a half-year long row of events presenting the Tibetan culture to the Transylvanian/Romanian public.
If you are around, you are most welcome to join on 20. November 2010, Saturday 6pm to the lecture hall of Posticum.
Subject: The Csoma`s Room Foundation on the European Union "Youth on the Move" program. Presentation, and meeting our volunteers, you can ask them about their experiences.
Presenters: Sándor Finta (team leader) and Olga Irimiás (Education program leader).
Place: Sokszem Foundation lecture hall, Budapest, Fejér György Street 3.
Time: 30 September, Thursday, 19:00
Everybody is most welcome.
Csoma`s Room Foundation was offered the great honor to have a short audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his official visit to Budapest. The meeting was preceded by a lengthy preparation with the official Central and Eastern European representative of His Holiness based in Switzerland, before our foundation was selected to meet the highest rank Buddhist authority.
“In the name of the Zangla people I would like to express our gratitude to Csoma`s Room Foundation, and to our Hungarian friends for their tireless work, who came this summer again to continue the restoration of Kharkoma, the Palace of Zangla” – this is how Gyalses Nima Norboo Namgyal Ldey, the King of Zangla started his speech on the occasion of the Buddhist ritual ceremony (puja) organized for the closing works of the season.
This week no day passed without having to carry something up to the palace. If someone didn`t wake up from the morning tea, coffee or ice-cold spring-water shower, he surely did from carrying the huge beams, or smaller talboo (willow sticks used for slab construction) up to the palace as a morning half-an-hour exercise. The puma didn`t come up on its own either, as it is the ladakhi name of the straw used in the clay mixture of the flat roof. Don`t hesitate coming though, no more heavy transportation necessary this season.
After Balázs and a couple of volunteers left for Leh or Srinagar the team left behind with some new volunteers and the local labor continue the restoration works of Zangla Kharkoma (Zangla Upper Palace) - as the locals call it.
Late night on the 5th of August a heavy rainstorm caused a landslide in Leh, just South of the main gate. Dozens of houses got destroyed and hundreds of people died under the mud. The local people don`t remember anything similar before. The next night many people spent their night outside at high places like the palace hill or the Shanti Stupa.
The week started with the colorful Sani festival adjusted to the full moon. We saw the mask dance in this monastery, probably the oldest in all Zanskar.
New volunteers arrived this week, so we decided to open up the Western front besides the excavation on the East. The lack of new mud-bricks was a bottleneck, but since the volunteers managed to make more than 300 new bricks right in front of the palace, this is not a problem any more.
After a strenuous week we completed the new staircase. Third layer of clay placed on the roof, dense red clay colored twigs made the finish of the porch and the wooden structure also got its red clay paint.
The sanctuary next to the staircase (on the left side of the picture) was in hard need of a new plaster, after removing the old one, several structural cracks revealed.
The first volunteers arrived and started to work. We finished making the first 1000 bricks. Repaired staircase slab replaced. Sándor Finta will be the team leader in August.
After some serious effort the new walls of the staircase are standing, and the wooden roof-structure is ready. Last weekend visited the Zangla nunnery school on their picnic at the riverside, and payed a short visit to Dzongkul monastery, the birthplace of the essays published by Csoma as Alexander books.
During the first week, the students of Zangla got acquainted with the story of Alexander Csoma de Kőrös, which was also an excellent English practice. Now, the children have a different perspective on the old palace hanging over the village, and Csoma`s room inside it. During the classes, we handed our and used the booklet prepared by the School of Alexander Csoma de Kőrös, Budapest. The drawings and paintings of the Hungarian kids found their places on the walls of the Zangla school, too.
The palace suffered a lot from the heavy precipitation of the winter 2009/2010. Lots of leaking points and some ruined wall sections tell the story of the unusually wet weather. Luckily the repaired parts survived without further damage, though some newly discovered structural problems came up at the first visit of the season.
Finally the weather got better, and we found a driver who will take us to Zangla.
A few of us cycled up to the highest pass in the world to improve our acclimatization. Igor, the bicycle rental shop volunteer arrived to Leh.
The owner of Zangla Palace, king Nima Norboo will join us on the 2 day trip to Zangla.
After arriving to Leh, we spent some acclimatizing days visiting the Indus Valley monasteries and talking to the head of one of the most prestigious restoration architects in Leh, John Harrison.
The Indus Valley monastery visits had their most obvious purpose to learn some lessons of good and bad restorations in preparation to the 2010 season of Zangla fortified palace works.
We would like to present some drawings inspired by Csoma`s adventures. As we have a long term dream of publishing a comic book about Csoma`s adventures, we would be happy to see these artists behind their pencils producing one issue of it. The final decision will probably depend as much on their respective enthusiasm, time, and our ability to find financial support for such a unique experiment.
Presentation by Balázs Irimiás and Olga Nagy at Sokszem Foundation.
Date: Thursday, 21 January 2010.
Place: Sokszem Foundation main hall.
Budapest, V. district, Fejér György St. 3, above the CD-FŰ tea house, entrance to the left.
Presentation: A complex cultural development project of saving the 15th century buildings where Alexander Csoma de Kőrös used to live and work in the Himalayas.
You are more than welcome to listen and to join the summer volunteer camp!
2009 was the year when we did our best to turn this project from an enthusiastic enterprise into a legal entity. The enthusiasm and our core activities remained, the registration is still hanging.
The Court of the First Instance of Budapest rejected our proposal requesting minor alteration of the documents. We resubmitted it, got accepted, but the prosecutor intervened in the decision requesting further alterations at some similarly minor points. The High Court accepted the intervention. We made the changes, resubmitted it again, right now the Court of the First Instance is requesting alterations again. One full year and the help of a truly professional experienced lawyer proved to be short to arrange the legal registration of our Foundation.
This year we need it big time. In 2009 we continue the rescue works of Csoma`s Room in the remote Himalayan village of Zangla.
Last year when we lounched the project, brick and beam donations covered all the material, labour and most of the local costs of the restoration. Your donation is the only way for us to continue the restoration this year.
During the Winter Festival in Hungary a Csoma Meeting will take place at the Budapest Millenaris Center.
Professor Géza Bethlenfalvy came to Zangla with his movie crew, the Oriental Film Society in the summer of 2008 to visit our restoration works.
Their meetings, the research of the Society following Alexander Csoma de Kőrös and Ervin Baktay texts, with the rough Himalayan terrain, the local faces and the restoration works in the background creates the special atmosphere of the movie.
We are building not only walls in Zangla, but also human relationships with the local community. Among them, only few had been familiar with the story of Alexander Csoma de Kőrös, which is our common cultural heritage and source of inspiration.
To commemorate the great traveler, we have founded a scholarship, which enables students who graduated from the 8-class school of Zangla to continue their studies. Many of them can not afford to go to high school, because they must move to another town to do so – just as Csoma had to.
We decided to take a short brake and visit Csoma`s other Zanskari workplace, the monastery of Phuktal (Phugtal).
It is situated in 3-4 walking days` distance from Zangla, supposedly one of the most spectacular monasteries in the whole Zanskar region. It was built inside a cave and around its opening over a massive rock wall as the founders identified a clear water source inside the cave that offered the possibility of good isolation for the monks looking for undisturbed meditation. The first part of the trip we covered by jeep, the rest on foot in one day, despite all the guides and locals tried to convince us of the impossibility of the journey.
After incredible adventures, the prayer-wheel created by media-artists of Kitchen Budapest has arrived to Zangla.
The restoration continued with less visible but more essential structural intervention.
We managed to form a new local team to continue brickmaking.
Also contracted a person who started carrying the bricks from the quarry to the Palace. This is probably the most exhausting task of the restoration. We can carry water by donkeys to the building, but not the bricks. Thay would brake on the back of an animal. One person can carry 2 or 3 bricks on the back at a time. One round takes at least 30 minutes to scale the 100 metres difference in altitude. 25 rounds a day only takes 50 bricks to the top.
This week we started making the adobe bricks on a site at the feet of Zangla Palace that probably used to be the brickmaking place at the times of construction.
The other part of the team managed to clean the main entrance stairs from the debris accumulated in the last 30 years. The balcony above the entrance has collapsed as during the reparations conducted by local people in the last decades, they used stones instead of adobe brick on the top floors, and the construction quality was also poor. The stones are heavier than the adobe walls and put extra burden on the Eastern Facade of the Palace, that causes cracks and collapses.
The members of the team from left to right: Jigmet Namgyal, (the older son of the King of Zangla), Etienne Samin (architect), Olga Nagy (economist/human relations), Balazs Irimias (architect/project leader), Emese Olosz (structural engineer from the Field Service for Cultural Heritage), Tibor Gulyas (the cameraman if the project) and Gergely Barcza (architect), on the top of Csoma`s Room.
Everybody arrived safely to Leh, the capital of Ladakh.
We spent some days with acclimatization, and visited all the important monasteries in the neighborhood to collect information on their restoration.
We also contacted some international teams who work in the area and got some invaluable advice concerning our future restoration work.
One more week, and we are setting off! Visas, air tickets, vaccinations, equipment, almost everything arranged.
Though the preparations are in order, we spent a lot of energy on hunting down the necessary equipment. We need loads of special devices that enable us to work in such a remote area. Strangely enough, they all seem to be very expensive or unavailable in Europe or Japan. For the photogrammetric survey we need to charge our laptop, GPS and camera batteries, for the documentation the video camera batteries too. This might be tricky in an area where the only electricity is hardly enough for a weak afternoon blinking of the local 12 volts electric system built from donations, powered by a micro-hydro plant from the nearby river. We wanted to avoid the gasoline power generator, so the solar panel became the only option.
We accept donations by Paypal, secure online credit card payment, money order or bank transfer.
If you would like to donate to Csoma`s Room project, please transfer money to the following bank account:
Account name: Csoma Szobaja Alapitvany
OTP Bank SWIFT (BIC) code: OTPVHUHB
If you are interested in the project, please come to the Eötvös Lóránt University for an introductory presentation of the Csoma’s room project.
The lecture will be on 24th April 18:00 at 1088 Budapest, Múzeum krt. 4/b., room 217.