10 Most Prized, Historic Monasteries To Visit In Leh To Experience The Buddhist Culture!
Ladakh is known for its rich buddhist culture. The neighbouring state, Tibet’s influence on Ladakh is remarkable and is mostly inhabited by people of tibetan descent. The monasteries here are a cultural and heritage delight and the sense of peace you’ll get by visiting them is priceless! Here’s a list of 10 monasteries that you just cannot miss:
1. Hemis Monastery
One of the most popular, largest and the wealthiest monastery in Ladakh, the Hemis Monastery was built in 1672 AD by King Singge Namgyal. Standing on the western banks of the river Indus, it belongs to the Drukpa sect of Buddhism. The monastery adorns various artefacts like the statue of Buddha, 12 m long thangkas, stupas, and beautiful paintings portraying the rich Buddhist culture. The famous Hemis Tsechu is also celebrated here and the festival just brings the monastery to life!
Distance | About 40 Kms Southeast of Leh
2. Thiksey Monastery
The Thiksey Monastery is the most beautiful monastery and is a smaller version of the Potala Palace of Lhasa in Tibet. The exuberant architecture of the gompa celebrates the Ladakhi culture. The 12 storied monastery stands on a hilltop with 10 temples and a 40-foot-statue of Buddha and also houses a school. The monastery also displays various other artefacts like rare statues, swords and mini stupas. The Thiksey Gustor Festival is celebrated here and the resident monks celebrate it by performing rituals and Cham dances.
Distance | About 19 Kms South From Leh
3. Deskit Monastery
Nestled in the Nubra Valley, the Deskit Gompa is a 760-year old monastery belonging to the Yellow Hat or Gelugpa sect and is known for the fact that it was set up by the 1st Dalai Lama in 1447. It is administered by the Thiksey Monastery and is one of the oldest and largest gompas. The panoramic views it offers of the Nubra Valley is absolutely marvellous. There is also a statue of Maitreya Buddha in the main prayer hall along with other sculptures of guardian deities. Every year it hosts the Dosmoche festival in February.
Location | Diksit, Nubra Valley
4. Likir Monastery
The Likir Monastery belongs to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It was established in 1065 by Lana Duwang Chosje under the order of the 5th king of Ladakh, Lhachen Gyalpo. An annual festival is hosted here where religious dance performances are given. It's also known for the 75 feet statue it adorns of Buddha. Besides the statue, other main attractions include the thangkas and the paintings on the walls of the Dukhangs are also pretty impressive.
Location | About 65 Kms From The City Of Leh, Likir Village
5. Alchi Monastery
Monitored by the Likir Monastery, Alchi monastery is located in the Alchi Village. Built by Guru Rinchen Zangpo, it's a monastic complex of temples. The main complex has 3 temples that you can visit- the Du-Khang (Assembly Hall), the Sum-Tsek and Manjushri. Unlike other monasteries, it's built on flat ground instead of a hilltop. One of the main tourist attractions is the huge statue of Buddha and the walls which adorn paintings of the teachings of Buddhism and some Hindu Kings.
Location | About 66 Kms From Leh, Alchi Village
6. Lamayuru Monastery
Standing on a hilltop at an altitude of 3,510 m, the Lamayuru Monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in Leh and it belongs to the Red Hat sect of Buddhism. Founded in the 11th century by Mahasiddhacharya Naropa, it offer a spectacular view of the scenic valley. It hosts 2 annual festivals where the monks gather and pray and perform the sacred mask dance and other rituals. It adorns various thangkas and wall paintings as well.
Location | Situated On The Srinagar-Leh Highway, Lamayuru
7. Phyang Monastery
The Phyang Monastery is a fine example of Ladakhi architecture. It belongs to the Dri-gung-pa sect of Buddhism and was built by Denma Kunga Drakpa. The monastery sits atop of a hill and is home to a 900-year-old museum which houses a number of old thangkas, idols, weapons, wall paintings and murals of Mahakala. The monastery also comprises of a school which teaches modern as well Buddhist teaching. Another major attraction of this gompa is the Phyang Tseruk Festival where the Cham dance is performed by the monks.
Location | About 17 Kms West Of Leh, Phyang
8. Takthok Monastery
Situated in the Sakti Village, this is a monastery belonging to the Nying-ma-pa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. What makes the monastery unique from others is the architecture. The rooms in the monastery were all carved out of the mountain or from existing caves and the walls are made up of rock, which is why it is called Takthok which translates to "rock roof". It houses one temple, a Dukhang which has statues of Padmasambhava, Dorje Takposal and Maitreya. It's also famous for having the sacred book of Buddha’s teachings, the Kanshur, and other Buddhist volumes as well!
Location | About 46 Kms From Leh, Shakti Village
9. Spituk Gompa
Built during the 11th century, this three-chapel gompa was founded by Od-de. Also known as the Pethup Gompa it was initially under the Red Hat sect, but during the 15th century it was taken over by the Yellow Hat sect and is home to around 100 monks. It is smaller in size as compared to other monasteries but is just as beautiful! The major attraction of Spituk is the giant statue of goddess Kali, shown during the festival. The Gustor Festival is hosted here, during the 11th month of the Tibetan Calendar.
Distance | About 8 Kms From The Main City Of Leh
10. Stakna Monastery
Nestled on a hilltop on the left bank of the Indus River, the Stakna Monastery is another monastery that Ladakh prides itself over. It's a quite small as compared to the other gompas in Ladakh and is home to about 30 monks only. Stukna means ‘tiger’s nose’ and it was named so after the hill it was built which is shaped like a tiger’s nose. The big Dukhang’s walls are adorned with marvellous paintings and in the courtyard you can find a 7 feet tall figure of Lord Buddha. Stakna also has a number of sister monasteries as well.
Location | About 45 Kms From Leh, Stakna
So make sure you add these monasteries to your itinerary when you’re planning a trip to Ladakh!