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Monastries of Ladakh
Namgyal Tsemo. No longer inhabited, this gompa was built by King Tashi Namgyal. It forms a part of the Leh Palace complex and is maintained by monks from the Sankar Gompa.
Sankar. A relatively modern monastery, it is closely associated with the Spituk monastery and serves as the residence of the head priest - Kushok Bakula. A number of gold icons are to be found here with a miniature statue of pure gold and a number of exciting paintings.
Spituk. 8 km. from Leh, it stands prominently on the top of hillock commanding a panoramic view of the Indus valley for miles. Many icons of Buddha and fine Thankas are to be found in this 15th century Gompa. The Gompa also houses a collection of ancient masks, antique arms, and an awe inspiring image of Mahakali. The face of the Kali image if kept covered and is revealed only at the annual function during the festival.
Phyang. 17 km from Leh on the Leh - Kargil road, it looks like a huge palace from afar, built by Tashi Namgyal in the later half of the 16th century AD., it belongs to the Red Cap sect of Buddhists. Hundreds of icons of Buddha and other gods are kept on wooden shelves.
Shey. Situated on a hillock 15 km upstreams from Leh, it was once the residence of the royal family. According to tradition, it was the seat of power of the pre-Tibetan kings. A 7.5 m high copper statue of Buddha, plated with gold, and the largest of its kind, is installed here.
Thiksey. 19 km from Leh, spectacularly sited, Thiksey is one of the largest and architecturally most impressive gompas. There are several temples in this gompa, containing images, stupas and wall paintings of Buddha which are exquisite. Thiksey provides a panoramic view of the green Indus valley from its vantage point atop a hill.
Hemis. 40 km from Leh, it is the wealthiest, best known and biggest gompa of Ladakh. Its popularity stems from the mojor annual festival held here in summer. The festival is in honour of Guru Padma Sambhav's birth anniversary. It also has the largest Thankha in Ladakh, which is unfurled, once in 12 years (next in 2004) Hemis was built in 1630 during the reign of Sengge Namgyal, an illustrious ruler of Ladakh. It flourished under the Namgyal dynasty for the royalty favoured the Drugpa sect, which managed the monastery. It is divided into two , the assembly hall on the right and the main temple on the left. The hall Dukhang, is also used as "green room" by the dancers during the festival. The temple is known as Tshogkhang. The varandahs have a surfeit of frescoes, among them the Buddhist 'wheel of life' (Kalachakra) and the lords of the four quarters, besides the prayer wheel.
Chemery. 45 km from Leh, situated in the picturesque valley leading to Changla, the gompa was constructed as a funeral act of merit on Sengge Namgyal's death in 1645. A large collection of scriptures with title pages in sterling silver and the text in gold letters is kept here. Close by a cave monastery reputed to have been the abode of Padma Sambhav during one of his periods of meditation.
Stakna. A few Km up streams from Thiksey, Stakna is situated in a 60 meter high isolated rock. It belongs to Kagyupa gompa is sited in a commanding position on its own clung of rock in the centre of Indus valley. It was repainted in 1982 and is now one of the most colourful and bright gompa in Ladakh. Monastery has beautiful paintings, thankhas and statues of various ideals.
Matho. Situated on the opposite bank of the Indus across Thiksey, Matho was established in the first half of the 16th century AD and has valuable collection of very old and beautiful Thankhas, some in the form of Mandalas. Its annual festival of Oracles in early march is an important event in Ladakhi religious calendar. Young monks selected as oracles undergo long periods of meditation, fasting and ritual purification to gain spiritual strength. When possessed they perform astonishing feats with swords and knives, cavorating blindfolded along narrow parapets.
Stok. The palace of the banished royal family, Stok has a museum which displays fabulous period costumes and jewellery of the royalty along with exquisite Thankas representing the life style of Sakya Muni. Interesting historical objects like coins, armour, weapons, precious jade and porcelain too can be seen here.
Basgo. 40 km downstream from Leh, it was the seat of power of a branch of a Namgyal family. It was here in 1680 that invading Mongol and Tibetan armies were held in check over a three year old seige. Original 16th century murals and other arts at Basgo are well worth a visit.
Likir. Founded in the 11th century and rededicated to a different monastic order in the 15th century, its earlier gompa was destroyed in a fire. The present gompa dates back to the 18th century. Skilled craftsmen producing excellent Thankas, earthen pots and carved wooden folding stools, live here in the village. Majestically situated, Likir commands a spectacular view. A magnificent giant Jupiter tree, one of the few survivors of its species, stands in the courtyard.
Alchi. 70 km from Leh, on the banks of the Indus, is the Alchi gompa dating a thousand years back. One of its wall features thousands of miniature sized pictures of the Buddha. Three large sized images made of clay and painted brightly are its focal attractions. No longer an active religious centre, it is looked after by monks from the Likir monastery.
Lamayuru. The oldest holy site in Ladakh, it was a bon shrine prior to the advent of Buddhism. Also known as Yung Drung (Swastika) it is sited on a high promontory overlooking the village and valley. For sheer spectacle value no other gompa can match Lamayuru.
Mulbekh. Precariously perched a top of a 200 m high crag, it has an imposing rock carving of Chamba, the future Buddha. On the other end of the valley is a large vertical phallus shaped rock with a monastery at its base.
Takthok. 50 km from Leh, situated on the top of the village. Guru Padmashambhava used to meditate in this cave. This monastery also has a very famous festival in the month of August. There is also a new monastery with big statues of Guru Padmashambhava.
NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA
No longer inhabited, this gompa was built by King Tashi Namgyal. It forms a part of the Leh palace complex and is maintained by monks from the Sankar Gompa.
17 km from Leh on the Leh-Kargil road, it looks like a huge palace from afar, built by Tashi Namgyal in the later half of the 16th century AD, it belongs to the Red Cap sect of Buddhists. Hundreds of icons of Buddha and other gods are kept on wooden shelves.
40 km downstream from Leh, it was the seat of power of a branch of the Namgyal family. It is here in 1680 A.D. that invading Mongol and Tibetian armies were held in check over a three year long seige. Original 16th century murals and other arts of Basgo are well worth a visit.
45 km from Leh, situated in a picturesque valley leading to Changia, this gompa was constructed as a funeral act of merit on Sengge Namgyal's death in 1645. A large collection of scriptures with title pages in sterling silver and the text in gold letters is kept here. Close by is a cave monastery reputed to have been the abode of Padma Sambhav during one of his periods of meditation.
Situated on the opposite bank of the Indus across Thikse, Matho was established in the first half of the 16th century AD and has a valuable collection of very old and beautiful thankas, some in the form of 'mandalas'. Its annual festival of oracles in early March is an important event in the Ladakhi religious calendar. Young monks selected as oracles undergo long periods of meditation, fasting and ritual purification to gain spiritual strength. When possessed they perform astonishing feats with swords and knives, cavorting blindfolded along narrow parapets.
Precariously perched a top 200 metre high crag, it has an imposing rock carving of Chamba, the future Buddha. On the other end of the valley is a large vertical phallus shaped rock with a monastery at its base.
The village of Mulbekh, on the way to Namika-La, has a unique sight a huge image of the Buddha carved out of rock bang on the road. The monastery here is perched on a high rock over the village and the valley, and has some prized relics.
50 km. East of Leh, this is the only monastery belonging to the Nying-ma-pa order. Gum Rinpoche (Padma Sambhava) is said to have founded this monastery. The temple where he meditated is still to be seen at Tak Thog (rock-roofed) monastery. The monastery is tucked in the lap of a rock and owes its name to its roof which is a natural rock. Tu-Phuk houses the images of Guru-Tsan-gyet (eight forms of Padma Sambhava), Guru Takpo Tsahl and the 11-headed Avalokitesvara. There are seats for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Taklung Rinpoche; the latter is the incarnate Lama of the monastery. The monastery stages two festivals every year. Tak Thog Tse Chu is held from the ninth to the eleventh day of the sixth Tibetan month. Tak Thog Wangchogis held from the 26th to the 29th day of the ninth Tibetan lunar month.
Situated on the opposite bank of the Indus across Thikse, Mashro was established in the first half of the 16th century AD and has a valuable collection of very old and beautiful thankas, some in the form of 'mandalas'. Its annual festival of oracles in early March is an important event in the Ladakhi religious calendar. Young monks selected as oracles undergo long periods of meditation, fasting and ritual purification to gain spiritual strength. When possessed they perform astonishing feats with swords and knives, cavorting blindfolded along narrow parapets.
Rizong is also known as Yuma Changchubling about 73 Kms from Leh and around 6 Kms from main road, founded about 138 years ago by the great Lama Tsultim Nima. Gompa belong to Gelukpa order. Dress and food provisions are provided for all member of the community by the Governing body of the monastery. The monastery is sited in a most solitary positions and there is a place called chulichan down the monastery. The work of spinning wool, milking, extracting oil for the temple lamps has to be performed by all the nuns.
The monastery of Bardan can be reached from Padum by trekking four hours down stream. Built on a rock, it towers high above the Tserap Lingti Chu. The monastery belongs to the Drukpa Kagyupa order, the abbot is Stakna Rinpoche. The monastery was founded in the 16th century. Its most important room is the Dukhang, which lies on the ground floor. The shrine on the first floor is dedicated to Maitreya, the Buddha of future ages.
The monastery of Karsha lies to the left of the river Doda. From the Tungri bridge, it takes four hours of trekking and three hours by the raft on the doda, to reach it. The monks quarters and temples of this biggest monastery of Zanskar can be seen crawling picturesquely up on a steep mountain slope. The monastery of Karsha belongs to the Gelugpa order and is looked after by Likir. Like in Like, the abbot is a brother of the Dalai Lama. The Chamba Ling temple, which one encounters on the way to the monastery, dates back to the 11th century whereas, the monastery itself was built in the 15th century.
Hiking from Padum via Bardan, Mune and Char through the right side valley of the Tserap Lingti Chu, one reaches, after about three days, the magnificently situated monastery of Phuktal, part of which is hidden in a cave. Phuktal founded in the middle of the 15th century belongs to the reformed Gelygpa and is, at present the home of about 60 Yellow Hat Monks. Below the large cave lies the monks, village with the Nyingpa Lakhang. The cave contains the chorten with the relics of Shesreb Zangpo which is covered by several layers of lime paint.
Rangdum is the first Buddhist monastery one encounters on the way from Kargil to Panikar and Parkutse. From Kargil one can reach it in a seven to eight hours drive by Jeep. The monastery stands on a hill in a mountain valley, which in that area is rather wide. Rangdum was founded by the Gelugpa as in the early 16th century at present, over 40 monks live there under their abbot Ngari Rinpoche.
It takes one day drive from Kargi via Rangdum to reach the monastery and village of Sani, which lies about 10 Km before Padum. The Sani Monastery belongs to the southern branch of the Drukpa Kagyupa school. This sanctuary is, however for Buddhist of such high importance that even other sects worship it deeply. According to a legend, the chorten, standing in the oldest part of Sani monastery dates back to the 2nd century A.D. The Dukhang which forms the center of the later built monastery part, was erected in the early 17th century. A few meters to the north west of the monastery, outside the wall, lies one of the eight most important cremation grounds of Tibetan Buddhists.
The village of Tonde can be reached from Padum in a four to five hours hiking tour through a bare, desert like plateau. The monastery Marpa Ling stands high above the village on the way to the Ronde Pass. The originally Red Hat Monastery was reformed in time and belongs now to the Gelugpa school. Over 50 monks of this sect are working in Tonde.
After a five hours walk from Tonde, along the right bank of the river Zanskar one arrives at Zangla the main village of the small principality bearing the same name. The castle of Zangla towering on a mountain ridge above the village is almost entirely destroyed. The Raja of Zangla lives, nowadays in the village amongst the common people.
Monastries of Ladakh, Ladakh Trekking Reservation Form