Remember that story we read as a kid about a little boy dropping white stones when was kidnapped all the way along and hence found his way home? That is what Cairns are meant for. Just they are a lot more complicated than dropping one stone.
They are created painstakingly by piling stones one on top of the other, such that they are high enough to be visible from some distance away and you can find your way back. Hence they are placed in all the critical areas where there is a potential of one getting lost.
But the Cairn made in Ladak are special for a lot of reasons. The land is barren with rocks plenty, but a cairn has to do extra work to stand out in the sameness in looks and color of the land around. They have to really standout, so that they serve the purpose set aside from them.
Often times prayer flags are also tied in and around a cairn. Each prayer flag has chants written on them. They are then stringed along and tied in a way that they flutter in the wind. It is believed in the Buddhist culture that the flowing of the flags in the wind actually carries the prayer in the wind, showering wishes on one and all. Hence a cairn and prayer flags are seen together a whole lot because not only are the cairns showing the way, the flags and blessing anyone who might need a sign to find their way back.
Cairn also carry a special meanings in the way and shape they are placed. Pointing in the direction to precede, indicating danger, marking a place of worship, sign that you are on the top of a mountain and so many other things, all in the shape they are put together and how the top most stone is placed.
The tourists can’t read the signs and their significance but the Ladakhi people can and hence you see all the guides sitting just below the prayer flags, resting in front of the cairns and prayer flags, soaking in all the blessings, after a hard..arduous climb.
This was not the post I had in mind when I did WW yesterday, but with all the game references and pushing the cairn comments, I changed the post to this. Will do the original intended post some other time 🙂