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Ladakh Monastery

Hemis GompaHemis Gompa : Situated some 45 kms from Leh, Hemis Gompa is the largest and biggest monastery of Ladakh. The Hemis Gompais situated inside the Hemis National Park giving itself excellent surroundings in the form of wildlife and natural beauty. Also at an altitude of 12,000 feet it is one of the highest settlements of the world. The majestic structure was built in 1630 during the reign of Senge Namgyal, which favored the Drupka sects, which managed the monastery. The Hemis Gompa belongs to the Drukpa Order of Buddhism. Hemis Gompa was built on the Tibetan style of architecture. It has a unique design and its structures exhibit the geomantic principles, which underlie religious constructions of this type. Some of the techniques involved are not found elsewhere. Its three dimensional 'mandala' is a wonderful structure showing the excellence of architecture design.

India Buddhism BookingThe main building had a courtyard in front and the residence for the Rinpoche located some distance to the east. During the late 17th century and early 18th century, the main Gompa building witnessed the construction of the Dukhang Chenmo (large assembly hall), a building adjacent to it, the main entrance to the Gompa building, the large courtyard and its enclosing gallery. . The Gompa is divided with an Assembly hall on the right and the main temple on the left. The name for temple is Tshogkhang. The verandahs have a surfeit of frescoes among them the Buddhist Wheel of Life (Kalachakra) and the Lord of the four quarters, besides rows of prayer wheels is worth mentioning. In the kitchen there is a huge vessel of copper whose diameter is 12 m, capable of cooking rice for 500 people at a time.

The complex has a rare17th century murals executed with a variety of pigments and gold paint and it is decorated with painted stone relief. The Gompa has well preserved Thankas and copper gild statue of the Lord Buddha, various stupas made of gold and silver and many other auspicious objects. Also known as Chang Chub Sam Ling or "the lone place of the compassionate person." the Hemis Gompa is sprawled across a green stretch along a gorge, amidst an impressive fortress of mountains and gorge is an excellent amalgamation of spirituality and scenic beauty.

India Buddhism BookingNamgyal Tsemo Gompa : Providing an excellent view of Leh valley is the 15th century monastery, Namgyal Tsemo Gompa. This monastery was built in 1430 by King Tashi Namgyal on Namgyal Tsemo peak overlooking the town. The monastery contains a three-story high solid gold idol of Maitrieya Buddha and a one-storied statue of Avaloketesvara and Manjushri. This historic gompa has a rich collection of Buddhist art and ancient manuscripts and frescos. The temples associated with the gompa remain locked except during the morning and evening hours when a monk toils up the hills from Sankar gompa to attend to the lamps in front of the images of Buddha. The prayers are held in the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa between 7am- 9am.

Sankar Gompa : The Sankar gompa is located a couple of kilometers north of the town center of Ladakh. The gompa belongs to the Gelukpa order and the presiding deity here is Avalokiteshwara Padmahari or Chenresig, with 1,000 arms and an equal number of heads. It is a relatively modern monastery which has close association with the Spituk monastery and it serves as the residence of the head priest - Kushak Bakula. The prayer timings are 7am – 8.30 am. The gompa is only open between 7 -10am and 5-7pm.

India Buddhism BookingShanti Stupa : Shanti stupa was built by a Japanese order in the process of promoting world peace through the spread of Buddhism. The Shanti Stupa was inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1985. The stupa is located at a distance of 3 km from the Fort Road. Shanti stupa is a wonderful place to see both the rising and the setting sun in the sky. It offers exotic views of the beautiful surroundings. The prayer timing inside the stupa is from 5 am-9 p.m.

Thiksey Monastery : Thiksey Monastery is one of the major attractions of ladakh/leh. Situated around 17 km from Leh, it has a majestic aura around itself. The Thikse gompa is situated on the top of the hill and forms part of Gelukpa order. Paldan Sherab nephew of Sherb Zangpo, founded Thiksey monastery. A colossal 12 story building complex painted in striking red, yellow and white, it contains numerous stupas, statues, thankas, wall paintings, swords and a large pillar engraved with the Buddha's teachings. A 15 meters high statue of Buddha in a seating position is enshrined in the main prayer hall. The monastery houses 10 temples and a nunnery with one of the temples containing Guardian Deities. Thiksey gompa has elaborate sessions of prayers with incessant chanting and music. It remains open daily from 7.30 am- 6pm. Thiksey monastery is also famous for the annual Thiksey festival held from 17th to 19th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan Buddhist calendar. Thikse gompa has a library which has a good and important collection of Tibetan books. It even has a small café and shop, which can be quite a delight for the tourists at the end of the day. If one wants to carry a video or movie camera one should ask for prior permission.

India Buddhism BookingSpituk Monastery : About 10 km from leh, Spituk gompa is beautifully placed on the hilltop above the Indus River. The Spituk gompa was built about 550 years ago by Gyalpo Bumide, falling under he Gelukpa order. But one of the temples, dedicated to Mahakala was built about 900 years ago. In the Mahakala temple the image of Vajrabhairava is unveiled once a year at its annual festival. At the monastery the Spituk festival is held every year from the 17th to 19th days of the 11th month of the Buddhist calendar. Spituk gompa is famous for housing a good collection of Buddhist artifacts which includes ancient masks, antique arms, icons and numerous thankas.

Likir MonasteryLikir Monastery : Likir Monastery is Located around 52 Kms from Leh, overlooking the village of Likir. It is locally know as Klu-Kkhjil, which means water spirits. It is said that the site was blessed by a lama following which the monastery was built in 1065. First set up in the 14th century by monks from Tibet, it was extensively rebuilt about 200 years ago and was dedicated to the Yellow Hat Order in the 15th century. In the 15th century the monastery flourished during the time of, lhawang Lodos Sangphu a disciple of Khasdubje. The structure which is present today dates back to 18th century and is quite recent one. The earlier gompa at this place was destroyed in fire. The attractions of the monastery are huge clay images of Buddha, old manuscripts, a rich collection of thankas, old religious and domestic costumes and religious implements. Every year from the 17th to 19th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar, the Likir festival is held in the gompa.

Shey MonasteryShey Monastery : Situated on a hillock 15 km south of Leh, was once the residence of the royal family & it was constructed by the first king of Ladakh, Lhachen Palgyigon. According to tradition, it was the seat of power of the pre-Tibetan kings. The statue of Shakyamuni Buddha's inside the gompa is built by Deldan Namgyal in 1633 as a funerary memorial to his father, King Singee Namgyal. Around 12 Ft this statue is made in copper guilt and it is the largest in the region. There is another statue of the Buddha three stories in height. Stone carving and many chortens are scattered around the Shey monastery this monastery is also called Dresthang Gompa.

India Buddhism BookingStok Palace : Stok gompa is a four story complex standing on the glacial deposit of pebbles. Built in 1814 by the last ruler of independent Ladakh, it served as the official residence of the royal family. In the year 1974, the last king of Ladakh passed away in this monastery.

The Palace Museum : There are over 80 rooms in the palace of which only a few of are open to the public. One of the rooms of the palace has been converted into a Museum. Its collection is quite fascinating and comprises of some of the royal family's most precious heirlooms, antique ritual objects, ceremonial tea paraphernalia, and exquisite sixteenth-century thangkas illuminated with paint made from crushed rubies, emeralds and sapphires. The pieces de resistance, however, is the ceremonial headdress of the rulers of Ladakh. Called ‘peraks’ these are decorated with turquoise, lapis lazuli and coral and gold. Fabulous period costumes and jewelry of the royalty along with exquisite thankas representing the life of the Sakya Muni Buddha are also displayed there. Interesting historical objects like coins, seals, armor, weapons; precious jade and porcelain can also be seen. The Royal family continues to live here even today. Stok Palace can be assessed by paying an entry fee of Rs 25. It is open daily from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. photography is not allowed inside the Stok palace.

Stongdey : Stongdey is situated in the Zanskar region of Ladakh. It is 18 km to the north of Padum. Stongdey is now the second largest monastic establishment of Zanskar, inhabited by the resident community of about 60 Gelukpa monks. The building is white in color and consists of number of temples. It has rich Buddhist legacy attached.

India Buddhism BookingAlchi Gompa /Dharma Wheel Gompa :

Dharma Wheel Gompa : A trip of 70km from Leh will take you to the Dharma Wheel Gompa popularly known as Alchi Gompa. Placed beautifully on the banks of Indus River it is the most easily accessible gompa of ladakh since it is located on flat ground. The Alchi Gompa was founded in the 11th century by the great translator, Ringehen Zangpo, on his return from India. The gompa has considerable influence of Kashmiri art in the form of exquisitely worked out frescos and lavish woodcarvings, and Kashmiri style wall paintings in the area. The three storey Dharma Wheel Gompa is noted for its massive Buddha statue. Within its complex there are many other statues made up of clay. The walls of the principal chamber are covered from top to bottom with some exquisitely worked out frescos with a marked Kashmiri influence and are definitely worth seeing. Some paintings are also said to have shades of Byzantine art. The fine woodcarvings in and around the monastery also attract quite a number of tourists. If you are willing to experience the calm and serene life of a village it would be a good idea to live in the pretty and colorful village for a few days and enjoy the calm life amidst green fields bordering the blue-green Indus with bushes of bright yellow wild .The village has a number of simple hotels, so finding some decent accommodation will not be a problem.

India Buddhism BookingSani : Sani is situated 6 km west of Padum, and is believed to be one of the 108 chortens constructed in the first century AD by emperor Kanishka. The main attraction here is the castle like monastery that is unique in the sense that it is built on level ground. The main building of the gompa consists of a huge multi-columned central prayer hall housing an array of statues of popular Buddhists divinities and Drugpa (Old Schools) high saints. An old chapel at the back of the main building is an interesting place to find some of very fine frescoes. Its walls are adorned with stucco murals depicting landscapes and floral designs based on the life of Padma-sambhava. A 2-day long festival is held in late July at Kanika stupa to commemorate the meditation of the renowned Indian yogi, Naropa. On this occasion monks from Bardan Monastery perform masked dances as ritual offering. It is a great attraction among the people here. Sani is one of the 8 holy sites of Buddhists in Ladakh.

MathoMatho : Situated on the opposite bank of the Indus, Matho was established in the first half of the 16th century AD. It has a good 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. After succeeding they perform astonishing feats with swords and knives, cavorting blindfolded along narrow parapets which is quite an affair to watch.

India Buddhism BookingStakana Monastery : Stakna monastery was built in 1580 by great scholar Saint Chosje Jamyang Palkar during the reign of King Jamyang Namgyal, as part of the Brokpa order .The meaning of the gompa is tiger’s nose. The Stakna monastery is 45 Km south of Leh, and is situated spectacularly on the Hemis side of the Indus on a 60 meter high isolated rock platform.