Monasteries of Ladakh

By Dr Salil Choksi choksi.salil@gmail.com | 2009

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Lamayuru Monastery is enroute Srinagar-Kargil-Leh highway, on a steep rock mountain. It is the oldest and most interesting monastery of Ladakh. It is stunningly located amidst dusty mountains with a bizarre texture, likened to a moonscape. It belongs to the Red-Hat sect of Buddhism and houses approximately 150 Buddhist monks.

View from Lamayuru monastery. The monastery is made up of a number of shrines and also has a very rich collection of thankas and magnificent wall paintings.

Lunarscapes around Lamayuru.

Lamayuru Monastery. To know click here

Stakna Monastery or Stakna Gompa is a Buddhist monastery of the Drugpa sect in Leh district. It is 25 kilometres from Leh on the right bank of the Indus River.

Stakna Monastery (itself on a hillock) , completely dwarfed by the awesome sedimentary rock formations in the background.

It was founded in the late 16th century by a Bhutanese scholar and saint, Chosje Jamyang Palkar. The name, literally meaning ''tiger''s nose'' was given because it was built on a hill shaped like a tiger''s nose. Of note is a sacred Arya Avalokitesvara statue from Kamrup, Assam.

Monastery and the Mountain - Stakna Monastery.

Forms of Buddha - Stakna monastery. To know more Click here

At Stakna monastery. A Thangka is a Tibetan silk painting with embroidery, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala of some sort. The thankga is not a flat creation like an oil painting or acrylic painting but consists of a picture panel which is painted or embroidered over which a textile is mounted, over which is laid a cover, usually silk. Generally, thankgas last a very long time and retain much of their lustre, but because of their delicate nature, they have to be kept in dry places where moisture won''t affect the quality of the silk. It is sometimes called a scroll-painting.

The Alchi Gompa is situated on the bank of the River Indus and is easily accessible since it is the only Gompa in Ladakh, which is located on flat ground. Founded by Ringchen Zangpo, the Great Translator, the Alchi Gompa displays a Kashmiri influence in its art and architecture. Within the monastery you can see many beautiful images of Buddha. The monastery complex was built, according to local tradition, by the great translator Guru Rinchen Zangpo between 958 and 1055.

Prayer Wheels at Alchi Monastery. A prayer wheel is a cylindrical wheel on a spindle made from metal, wood, stone, leather or coarse cotton. Traditionally, the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is written in Sanskrit on the outside of the wheel. Also sometimes depicted are Dakinis, Protectors and very often the 8 auspicious symbols Ashtamangala. According to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition based on the lineage texts regarding prayer wheels, spinning such a wheel will have much the same meritorious effect as orally reciting the prayers.

Shey Monastery and Palace complex are structures located on a hillock in Shey 15 kilometres South of Leh. Shey was the summer capital of Ladakh in the past. The palace is mostly in ruins now. It was first built in 1655 by the King of Ladakh Deldan Namgyal.

The Shey monastery is noted for its giant copper with gilded gold statue of a seated Shakyamuni Buddha. To know more click here.

The Hemis Gompa is the biggest monastery in Ladakh. Located 45 Km to the south of Leh, it was built in 1630 and houses monks of the Brokpa or Red Hat sect. Tourists can see beautiful frescoes (paintings) on the walls and the largest Thangka painting in Ladakh, which is over 12 m in length. The Gompa is famous for its annual Tse Chu Festival held in June-July.

The imposing Thiksey monastery, with a ''mani wall'' in the foreground. Mani walls are stone structures made of a compilation of intricately carved stone tablets, most with the inscription "Om Mani Padme Hum" which loosely translates to "Hail to the jewel in the lotus". These walls should be passed or circumvented from the left side, the clockwise direction in which the earth and the universe revolve, according to Buddhist doctrine.

Thikse Gompa or Thikse Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Yellow Hat (Gelugpa) sect, located on top of a hill, approximately 19 kilometres east of Leh in Ladakh, India. It is noted for its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet and is the largest gompa in central Ladakh.

The monastery is located at an altitude of 3,600 metres (11,800 ft) in the Indus valley. It is a 12-storey complex and houses many items of Buddhist art such as stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings and swords.

The Maitreya (future Buddha) Temple is installed to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to this monastery in 1970. The deified 15 metres (49 ft) high statue of Maitreya, the largest such statue in Ladakh, covering two storeys of the building.

Chocolate and Vanilla'' View from Shey Monastery marshes. The 20 odd day trip to Ladakh was WOW, amazing and enriched me in more ways than I could imagine. Recommend a visit to Ladakh.