Ladakh – The Land Of Buddha, Monks and Monasteries

Ladakh. What do you think of when you listen to this word? Bikes? Bullets? Road Trips? Mountains?
Ladakh is also famous for its Buddhist Culture and Traditions and most importantly its Buddhist Monasteries. Ladakh have oodles of tempting monasteries which are rich in its culture, traditions and ancient architecture. The Buddhist religion and culture have a vital impact on Ladakh and it can be seen on the people of Ladakh and in its Monasteries. There are many monasteries in Ladakh, few are in ruins while few are still in inhabited, running as religious and educational centres. There is no doubt that these Buddhist monasteries or Gompas are awe-inspiring and are architectural delights.

Every year tourist from India as well as abroad visit Ladakh to experience the Buddhist Culture and Tradition with their visit to these Monasteries. It is believed that long ago Ladakh was been ruled by several dynasties who brought in their rich culture, traditions and religion to this region, because of which Ladakh today is known for having a Buddhist touch.

Have a look at Ladakh’s most famous and most visited Buddhist Monasteries which are rich in Heritage and well known for its architecture.

1. Alchi Monastery:
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Alchi Monastery is situated in Alchi village of Leh. It was built by the great translator Guru Rinchen Zangpo between 958 and 1055. Today it is being monitored by Likir Monastery. This monastery has different temples consisting of 4 separate portions that has monuments built at different times. The main complex has three temples- Gtsug-lag-Khang (main temple), ‘Jam-dpal lHa-Khang (Manjushri temple) and Dukhang (assembly hall).The walls of this monastery are adorned with paintings depicting the details of King Hinu as well as the teaching of Lord Buddha. There is also a huge Buddha statue in the complex, a famous tourist attraction.

2. Diskit Monastery:
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Diskit Monastery is also known as Deskit Monastery and is one of the oldest and largest Buddhist Gompa in Nubra Valley at Ladakh. Monastery also has a prayer hall that has statue of Buddha named Maitreya Buddha. It also has images of other guardian gods and a Huge Drum too. The monastery belongs to Gelugpa sect, A Sect that wears Yellow colored Hat and are from Tibet and follow buddhism. Founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsong Khapa, founder of Gelugpa, during the 14th century. The monastery’s cupola is same as the Tashilhunpo Monastery of Tibet.
Every year in the month of February, this monastery plays a host to the popular Dosmoche Festival which is a mojor tourist attraction.

3. Phugtal Monastery:
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This Monastery is the best of all and the only way to reach here is by trekking on Padum-Manali route that starts from Purney Bridge and is about 7Kms long.This Monastery is located near famous Lungnak river and is situated atop of a cliff. The best time to visit this monastery is from July to September when the nature is at its best. This Monastery was been founded by Gangsem Sherap Sampo in early 12th century.Though this monastery was a hidden jewel, it was then discovered by Alexander Csoma de Koros during 1826-27.

4. Stakna Monastery:
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This monastery is located 45 km from Leh and is one of the major tourist attraction of this region. This monastery has been enshrined by Chose Jamyang, a saint and scholar from Bhutan in the 16th century. This monastery is a visual display of Buddhist religion, culture and heritage of India and Buddhism.This monastery is erected on a hill that has a shape like that of tigers nose and its named is derived from the same hill. The monastery, inside has th picture of Arya Avaloketesvara from Kamrup (Assam). This monastery is a residence for 30 buddhist monks and it belongs to Dugpa sect of Buddhism.From the roof of Stakna Monastery tourists can have a striking view of Indus valley and river.

5. Zongkhul Monastery:
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The Zonghkul Monastery is a cave monastery which is rich in its architecture and heritage. It is located in the Zansker calley of Leh district of Jammu & Kashmir. The monastery is home to some of the most ancient murals and frescoes of Lord Buddha. This monastery belongs to the Drugpa sect of Buddhism. This monastery was built by eminent Buddhist Yogi Naropa, and it is believed he use to meditate inside it. There is no road access to reach this monastery but the only option is of trekking. The treks like Stongdey and Burdam are available in this region. Inside the monastery one can see the texts depicting the spiritual songs and crystal stupa too. With all these and the images of Buddha, Padmasmbhava, Mahakala and Mitukpa, the Zonghkul monastery is one of the holiest sites of Buddhism.

6. Hemis Monastery:
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40 kms towards south-east of the main city of Leh is Hemis Monastery, one of the beautiful monastery in Leh and rich in its culture and tradition.This monastery was built by the reigns of the King Singge Namgyal in the year 1672 A.D. The monastery plays the host to the annual festival called Hemis Tsechu. This festival is a major tourist attraction and is colorful and a day long. This monastery has beautiful statue of Lord Buddha and also has beautiful paintings inside it.

7. Karma Dupgyud Choeling Monastery:
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The Karma Dupgyud Choeling Monastery is situated around 9 kms from Leh and is one of the major Dharma center and tourist attraction of the region.This monastery was founded by Lama Chime Dorje Rinpoche in 1973. The monastery is been run by Karmapa sect of Buddhism, they belong to Tibet. There are about 17 Karmapas present in this region. This monastery has played a major role in spreading buddhism and its culture in the region. Monastery includes original mud-brick complex housing the Dukhang (Assembly Hall) and living and working quarters including classrooms, office, kitchen and library. Since it was founded by a Tibetan national, it depends on the munificence of private organizations and individuals for monetary funds.

8. Samstanling Monastery:
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This monastery is located in a small village named Sumlur of the Nubra Valley region and was founded about 140 years back in 1841 by Lama Tsultin Nima. The Monastery is 124 kms away from Leh and helps & serves more than 50 monks with their daily needs. This place is situated in the middle of the natural and scenic beauty which is surrounded by the traditional hues of Red, White, Gold and Ocher. The entrance of this monastery is decorated and lined with religious colorful flags and inside the monastery are wall paintings of Lord Buddha representing his lectures, Dharmachakras, The Four Heavenly Kings and other facts of Buddhism.At the entrance of the monastery tourists are welcomed by a 7 year old young boy who blesses all the followers with great solemnity and also tie threads on their wrist.

9. Thiksey Gompa:
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Around 19 kms to east of the main city of Leh is the Thiksey Gompa, also known as Thikse Monastery. This monastery belongs to the Gelupa sect of Buddhism. The are the sect that wears a Yellow Hat. The architecture of this monastery is similar to that of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. This 12-storey building complex consists of a number of things related to Buddhist art such as Thangka paintings, statues, stupas, swords, and so on. The building also has a nunnery.A major tourist attraction is the Maitreya temple installed in 1970. The statue of future Lord Buddha in this temple of 49 feet high, which is also the largest in the region.

10. Likir Gompa:
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Around 62 kms to the west of the main city of Leh is Likir Gompa or Likir Monastery. Lhachen Gyalpo, The 5th King of Ladakh had ordered to establish this monastery and so it was done by Lama Duwang Chosje in the year 1065. The monastery belongs to the sect from Tibet known as Gelupa sect of Buddhism. Still today the Buddhist teachings and the three basic Pratimoksha disciplines are preached on this site. The monastery also plays host to the annual festival that is in the 12th months of the Tibetan Calendar, from the 27th to the 29th . During the festival, religious dance performances are given by the local artists.

11. Spituk Gompa:
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Spituk Monastery was built in 11th century and is a major tourist attraction in Ladakh and also a big Dharma Center for Buddhist Monks. This monastery was founded by Od-de, the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub. Today over 100 buddhist monks reside here. This monastery is also a home to the giant statue of goddess Kali. This statue of Kali Maa is been displayed and shown to public every year during Spituk Festival. This monastery was initially founded by Red Hat Sect of Buddhism, but it was been taken over by the Yellow Hat sect in 15th century.Every year, this three-chapel monastery, located 8 kms away from the main city of Leh, plays host to the Gustor Festival, held at Spituk during the eleventh month of the Tibetan calendar.

12.Shey Monastery:
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"Sakyamuni Buddha statue in Shey gompa (Tibetan Buddhist monastery). Shey, Ladakh, India"
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The place where Shey monastery is located itself is called Shey. Shey is also known as the summer capital of the Leh City. The Monastery is located on the hilltop of Shey. King Deldan Namgyal, The King of Ladakh has ordered to build this monastery and so it was then established in 1655, 15 kms towards the south of the main city of Leh. This building or monastery is mostly in ruins today and it was been built in the memory of the deceased father of King, Singay Namgyal. The major tourist attraction in this monastery is the very huge gold-plated copper made statue of Buddha, named Shakyamuni Buddha. This Buddha idol is the second largest Idol of Buddha in Ladakh. There is also a large wax bowl with a flame burning continuously and lighted for a year, after which it is been replaced.

13.Matho Monastery:
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Matho Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery which is located around 26 kms away from the main city of Leh. It is situated on the picturesque Indus Valley. This monastery was built under the Saskya Monastic Establishment. This monastery was constructed about 500 years ago. It was established and founded by the Buddhist Lama Dugpa Dorje in the year 1410. This monastery is known for its Nagrang Festival and it houses beautiful and marvelous collection of ancient Thangas. The annual Nagrang festival takes place in first half of the month of March. It is a nice place where you can understand Buddhist teachings and philosophies. The nearby attraction of this place is Stakna Gompa.

14. Rizong Gompa:
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This monastery is also known as Yuma Changchubling in the region of Ladakh. This monastery belongs to the Yellow Hat Sect of Buddhism. They are known as Gelugpa. This monastery is a major tourist attraction of Ladakh and is always visited by many buddhist believers all over the world. It is situated on the hilltop of the rocky valley to the north of Indus river. This place is very famous amongst the buddhist monks and is also famous by the name “THE PARADISE FOR MEDITATION”. The monastery houses 40 monks who have to abide by very strict rules and regulations. This place was established in 1831 by Lama Tsultin Nima under the Gelugpa order. It is around 73 kms from the main city of Leh. The monks residing in this monastery cannot own anything except books. The complex also consists of a number of religious shrines.

15. Alchi Choskor Monastery:
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This monastery is located around 69 kms towards the western side of the main city of Leh. This is one of the largest built Gompas or Monastery built by Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo. The four families were ordered to take care of this monastery as there were no monastic communities present during that time in 15th century. Then later it was been taken over by the Lekir Monastery and till today its under them only.The monastery complex consists of comprises of Assembly Hall (Dukhang), Sumtsek Lhakhang, 3-storied temple, the Lhakhang Soma (New Temple), the Munjushri Temple (Jamyang Lhakhang), Translator Temple (Lotsava Lhakhang) and Kangur Lhakhang.

16.Phyang Gompa:
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This monastery is located 40 kms westwards of the main city of Leh. It was established in 1515 by Chosje Damma Kunga. This Monastery belongs and is headed to the Red Hat Sect of Buddhism and is largest Dharma Center and major tourist attraction in Ladakh today. The monastery is a host for the annual Gang-Sngon Tsedup Festival and also Sacred Dance festival.White and ochre colored monastery lies on a hill top and seems to be overlooking the surrounding village.This monastery was offered to a monastic community that paved way for the foundation of Digung teachings in Ladakh that were started by Skyoba Jigsten Gonbo. On the other hand, it is believed that it was established by King Tashi Namgyal, during the third quarter of the 16th century.

17. Lamayuru Monastery:
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This monastery is one of the oldest monastery of Ladakh. It is situated and located on the main highway between Bodhkhabru and Kha-la-che. It is located at an altitude of 3.510 meters and is rich in its buddhist culture and one of the best architecture in the region.It is said to have been built around the same time as Alchi monastery. It was founded by Mahasiddhacharya Naropa in the 11th century and belongs to Red-Hat Sect of Buddhism. There are several legends associated with this Gompa. One such legend is that Lamayuru was a lake that drew back up to the mountains after blessings from a lama, in order to evacuate space for this monastery. It features a rich collection of wall paintings and Thangkas.

18. Rangdum Gompa:
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This Monastery is situated halfway between Kargil and Padum. It is located at an altitude of 11,998 feet above the sea level. It was founded in 18th century by Losang Geleg Yeshe Drogpa. It rises above a centrally ascending mountain, established around the diverged route of a mountain stream. It appears like an ancient fortification, which stands as a guardian of a mystical mountain valley. This monastery is a major tourist attraction and a major Dharma center for the buddhist monks. This monastery houses around 30 monks and they are abide to follow the strict rules and regulations. It is located alongside Julidok village and around 25 kilometers from the Pensi La pass which leads to Zanskar.

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