Ladakh, the very word creates an image in our minds of a mysterious land and people who have been there would agree that it certainly lives up to the expectations. Centuries ago Shah Jahan said that if there is a paradise on earth then it’s in Kashmir.
Out of the several enchanting places in Ladakh, there is one that has mystified people for long and still continues to do so. It is a small stretch of road located about 30 kms from Leh towards Kargil and known as Magnetic Hill of Ladakh. On this particular part of the Srinagar-Leh highway, you would clearly see the road ahead going uphill. Yet if you turned off the engine and let your vehicle stand in neutral, it will slowly start moving and can go up to a speed of 20 kms per hour on its own. The reason is the magnetic hill that pulls stationary vehicles upwards. Famous as the Magnetic Hill in Ladakh, it is a major tourist attraction in the valley and a perfect pit-stop for tired riders moving on the highway.
Magnet Hill is a “Cyclops hill” located near Leh Leh Mera Khana in Ladakh, India.The layout of the area and surrounding slopes creates a Hill that is not a hill. that the righthill road is actually an uphill road. Objects and cars on the hill may appear to roll “lefthill” in defiance of gravity when they are, in fact, rolling downhill.
The other two such magnetic hills in India are in Gujarat. One is near Bhuj (Kalo dungar – the black hills) and other at Tulsi Shyam
The mystery of the Magnetic Hill & Road in Ladakh
Many claim that natural or even supernatural forces are at work here causing the magnetic attractions. However, there is some scientific reasoning to this phenomenon as well.
The Magnetic Hill is a place where the layout of the surrounding land produces the optical illusion that a very slight downhill slope appears to be an uphill slope. Thus, a vehicle left out of gear will appear to be rolling uphill. The slope of hill is an optical illusion.
A completely or majorly obstructed horizon is the most important factor contributing to the illusion. As, in the absence of a horizon it becomes difficult to judge the slope of a surface. If the horizon cannot be seen or is not level, then we may be fooled by objects that we expect to be vertical but that really are not.
Another theory is that false perspective might also play a role. Objects far away may seem smaller or larger than they really are. This is a remarkably common illusion that is found in numerous locations around the world. Usually it is a stretch of road in a hilly area where the level horizon is obscured.
The strange world that we live in, there are plenty of theories backing this strange wonder of nature. All of them propose a different logic and are backed by strong reasoning, barring superstitions like ‘the magnetic road is a straightaway to heaven’. Here’s a look at what each of these beliefs and theories have to say.
The superstition – Villagers residing in Ladakh believe that there once existed a road that led people to heaven. Those who rightly deserved were pulled to the path directly while those who didn’t deserve could never make it there.
The magnetic force theory – Next comes a sensible theory, which is also the most widespread. It states that there is a strong magnetic force emanating from the hill that pulls vehicles that are within its range.
The strange occurrence on the Leh-Kargil highway has been experienced and testified by travelers from across the world. As a matter of fact, the notorious hill has caused planes of Indian Air Force to divert their route in the past to avoid magnetic interference on them.
The optical illusion theory – Another widely accepted theory says that the hill is no source of magnetic force, rather it’s just an optical illusion that makes the down slope of the road leading to the Magnetic Hill look like an upslope. So, when you see the vehicle going uphill, it is actually going downhill.
Among the two primary suggestive theories – that of magnetic force in the hill and the illusion – there is no conclusive theory till date. But, there is certainly something mysterious about the magnetic hill in Ladakh!
Location of Magnetic Hill in Ladakh
Hit the Leh-Kargil-Baltic National Highway, and you will reach the magnetic hill. The hill lies at a distance of 30 km from the town of Leh, at an elevation of around 14,000 feet above sea level. To the eastern side of the hill flows the Sindhu River, originating in Tibet.
The local administration of this region has also put up a bill board marking the hill, to help tourists in recognizing the Magnetic Hill. The board clearly states the phenomenon leaving you to try this experience for yourself.
Impact on Helicopters and Aircrafts
Not only are the vehicles traveling on the road attracted by the magnetic powers of this hill, even the helicopters and aircrafts feel the same magnetic impact. Locals and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel claim that the helicopters and aircrafts that pass through the area have to fly at a greater speed to avoid the magnetic impact of the Magnetic hill. And if the aircraft comes within the radius of Magnetic Hill, it starts to jerk. In fact, the Indian Air Force pilots always steer clear of the Magnetic Hill.