Monasteries of Ladakh and places of interest
The Spituk Gompa "Exemplary"; 7 km to southwest of Leh, was founded by Od-Ide,
in the 11th century AD; when the monastic community was introduced. Meanwhile,
Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo (the great translator) visited this monastery. In those
days the Gompa belonged to the Kadampa School but Gelukpa order was introduced
during the reign of king Dragspa Bum-Lde, when Lama Lhawang Lotus restored the
monastery. The "Spituk Gustor" takes place in the courtyard of the monastery, on
the 18th and 19th of the 11th month of Tibetan Calendar.
The Japanese for World Peace built the Shanti Stupa, at Changspa, on the hilltop,
and was inaugurated by Dalai Lama in 1985. Its state of the art work attracts a
lot of tourists to Ladakh and is spectacular to watch.
Tsemo in Leh
King Gragspa Bum-Lde built the "Red Gompa" known as Tsemo Gompa in 1430 AD. The
monument has three-storied Maitriya Buddha's statue and a one-storied statue of
Avaloketesvara and Manjushri. The Tsemo Sungbum Chenmo (sacred text) was written
in gold and silver, Tisuru Stupa consist of 108 temples, which were remarkable
work completed in the reign of king Graspa-Bum-Lde.
The Namgyal Tsemo (victory Peak)
was built by King Tashi Namgyal after the reunification of upper and lower
Ladakh and victory over Hor. Their (Hor) bodies are placed under the image of
Mahakala, the guardian deity to stop further invasion of Hor. The Leh palace
known as 'Lechen Palkhar' was built by Singay Namgyal in the beginning of 17th
Century A.D. The nine-storied palace is now deserted, and the ASI (Archeological
Survey Of India) has taken up the renovation work.
The Sankar Gompa is a couple of kilometers away from Leh town. It belongs to the
Gelukspa school of Tibetan Buddhism. This small Gompa is a branch of the Spituk
Monastery, founded by the first incarnation of Skyabje Bakula (head monk of
Gompa Soma (Jokhang), Leh
The Ladakh Buddhist Association in 1957 built the small Gompa opposite to SBI,
in the main bazaar, which is open throughout the day for visitors. The Gompa
contains a statue of Joyo Rinpochey (crowned Buddha).
Stok Gompa and Palace
Stok, 14 kms southeast of Leh, is a place, where the present day royal family
resides. The three days trek from Stok to Spituk and the 8 days trek of Markha
Valley starts from here. King Tsespal Tondup Namgyal built Stok palace & Museum
in the year 1825, after Zorawar Singh's annexation of Ladakh. The royal family
resides here since Ladakh lost to Zorawar Singh. At present the palace has a
collection of royal dresses, old Thankas, King's crown etc. that is open for
visitors. Gurphuk Gompa, a branch of Spituk Monastery is a little away from the
palace, which is famous for its festival "Guru Tsechu" held on the 9th and 10th
of the 1st month of Tibetan Calendar.
Shey Gompa and Palace
Shey, around 15kms south of Leh was the seat of power of the first king of
Ladakh, Lhachen Spalgigon, who constructed the hill top fortress. The ruins can
be seen further above the present Shey Palace. There are hundreds of Chortens (stupas)
and Dresthang Gompa built around the palace, which are under the Thiksey
Monastery. King Deldan Namgyal built Shey Palace in the beginning of the 17th
century AD. The main image in the monastery is the three-storey statue of Buddha
Shakyamuni, made of copper guilt, which was made by
Deldan Namgyal in the memory of his father Singay Namgyal. The statue is the
only of its kind in the region. Dresthang Gompa near the palace was built during
the reign of king Singay Namgyal, with a three-storey statue of Buddha. "Shey
Srubla" festival is also held here at Dresthung Gompa. The Rock-carved statue of
five Buddha can be seen below the palace on the roadside, which was probably
carved during the reign of Singay Namgyal.
Thiskey Gompa, 17kms. south of Leh the most beautiful of all the Monasteries in
Ladakh, belongs to the Gelukspa order. The Gompa was first built at Stakmo by
Sherab Zangpo. Later the nephew of Sherab Zangpo, Paldan Sherab, founded the
Thiskey Gompa on a hilltop to the north of Indus River. The Thiskey festival (Thiskey
Gustor) is held in the month of October- November. Around 80 Monks resides here
at present. Dukhang Karmo is a huge long assembly hall, which consists of the
image of Shakyamuni and Maitriya.
Buddha statues. Chamkhang at the top near the courtyard contains the three
storey Maitreya Buddha's statue, constructed in recent
years. Dukhang at the top, consists of thousand armed Avaloketesvara, Shakyamuni
Buddha and Bodhisattavas, Gonkhang contains the statues of Vajra Bhairava,
Mahakala & Dharmakaya, the goddess Paldan Lhamo and Cham-sring.
Matho Gompa, around 26 km south east of Leh, is the only Gompa which belongs to
the Saskya order. Lama Tungpa Dorjay founded it in the 16th century and the
Gompa was named Thupstan-Sharling Choskor. In order to introduce the Monastic
community, the king offered religious estate in neighboring villages and the
Nag-Rang festival was started, which is held on 14th and 15th day
in the 1st month of the Tibetan
Stakna (Tiger's nose); 25 km south of Leh, is a small monastery comprising of
few Dukhangs, which was founded during the reign of king Jamyang Namgyal, in
1580, by saint Chosje Jamyang Palkhar. The most important statue in the
monastery is said to be of Arya Avaloketesvara. The monasteries like the one in
Sani, Bardan and Stakrimo, in Zangskar are branches of this monastery.
The Hemis Monastery is around 45 km south of Leh, is one of the largest
and most famous monasteries, belonging to the Drukpa order. The monastery
founded by the first incarnation Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso in 1630, who was
invited to Ladakh by king Singey Namgail, and offered him a religious estate
throughout the region. The youngest son, Nawang Namgail, became a monk and his
name was changed to Zamling Drags. The Monastery was named Changchub Samling and
the community was introduced. The Hemis festival is held in the month of June.
The Takthok (the monastery with rock ceiling); 50 km east of Leh, this is the
only monastery belonging to the Nimgmapa school of order. The monastery came
into existence when Guru Padma Sambhava visited this place and blessed it in the
8th century. The Gompa was merely a meditation cave of Padma Sambhava, with
footprints and many other signs, until the reign of King Tsewang Namgail. When
Mahasiddha Kunga Phunstog introduced monastic community. It was given the name
of Takthok Padmalinggon. The Takthok Festival is held in the month of July or
Phyang Monastery, 17 km west of Leh is remarkably built on the hilltop, similar
to the Likir monastery. This monastery belongs to the Degungpa Order. It was the
first monastery, which introduced the Degungpa teaching of 'Skyob Jigsten Gonbo'
in Ladakh that was founded by Chosje Danma Kunga, during the reign of King
Jamyang Namgyal in the 16th Century A.D. It has about 50 monks in residence.
Phyang also has a festival called 'Phyang Tseruk' on the 2nd & 3rd of the 6th
month of Tibetan Calendar.
Sumda Chun Monastery
Sumda Chon Monastery is around 65kms to the southwest of Leh, which is connected
by a motorable road, upto Sumdo. The track starts ascending to the west, through
a gorge from the left bank of the stream. At one point, the track crosses to the
right bank and ascent becomes little more difficult. One or two houses come in
the way before another gorge appears on the right which leads to the Sumda chon
Monastery and towards the left leads to Sumda Chenmo. This track goes along the
stream with plantations of Willow. After walking for an hour the monastery
appears above the village houses. There is another short track from Alchi
through Stakspila, the ascent from Alchi is more difficult and long
compare to Sumda side. The pass is open only in summer. The Sumda Chon Monastery
was probably founded during the period of Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo with Alchi
Choskor and Mangu Monastery. The monastery comprises of three temples. The
assembly hall has the image of four headed Vairocana, as the central or main
image which is nicely decorated probably better than the Alchi and the Mangu
Monasteries. The wall has murals of four Buddhas i.e. Ratnasambhava, Akshokhya,
Amitabha, Amogasiddhi and Vairocana.
Basgoo "Basgoo Rabtan Chartsekher"
West of Leh was built by king Jamyang Namgyal and Singey Namgyal in 16th Century
AD. Singey Namgyal made three storey copper guilt of Maitriya Buddha, as a
memorial of his father Jamyang Namgyal.
(the Naga-Encircled) around 53 km west of Leh belongs
to the Gelukspa Order. The Alchi Monastery is also a branch of Lekir. Lama
Durwang Chosje founded this monastery in 1065 A.D. during the reign of king
Lhachen Gyalpo, which was named 'Klu-Khil-GA-Ladan-Dar-Rgyas-Ling' and a
monastic festival, Likir Dosmochey takes place on the 28th & 29th day, of
the 12th month of Tibetan calendar.
Alchi Choskor "Religious Enclave" is 69 km west of Leh, the most famous and
largest of all the Gompa built by Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo. He appointed four
families to look after Choskor, as there was no monastic community
introduced, then in the 15th century Choskor was taken over by the Lekir
Monastery since then Choskor is being taken care of by Lekir Monastery. The
monastery comprises of Dukhang (Assembly Hall), Sumtsek Lhakhang (three tier)
the Lhakhang Soma (New Temple), Jamyang Lhakhang (Munjushri Temple), Lotsava
Lhakhang (Translator Temple) and Kangur Lhakhang. The Sculptors and Wood
carvers are said to be brought from Kashmir around in 11th Century.
Rezong "Vuma Changchubling" around 73 kms west of Leh, and north of
the Indus River from Uletokpo village. It is beautifully set in a valley,
deep inside a gorge and the most isolated monastery in Ladakh. About 137
years ago Lama Tsultim Nima founded this Gompa and monastic community was
introduced with strict rules and regulations. Chulichan the Nunnery place is
around one & half kms. further down the monastery, around 20 nuns reside at
Chulichan, they provide food and clothes to the monks. Apart from above
activities they perform prayers in the morning and evening.
Mangyur is situated to the south
of Uletokpo and west of Alchi, which is around 2 hours walk from Alcbi, Taking
this track, one crosses the Indus by a small Bridge and passing the Gera village,
it enters into a deep gorge. Ascending from the right bank of the stream, a half
way and it crosses to the left, after sharp turn. After around two and a half
hours of walk, the Mangu Villagecomes to sight, picturesquely standing on the
foothills, above the ravine. The Mangu Monastery is also constructed on flat
land like Alchi and Tabo Monasteries. The great translator Lotsava Rinchen
Zangpo probably founded this monastery during the same period as the Alchi
Choskor. The monastery comprises of four temples. The smaller temples, on either
side of the main temple have a statue of Avaloketesvara and Maitriya in the
standing posture. The right side temple has a statue of a four-headed Vairocana,
as the main image. The wall has murals of Mandala.
Tingmosang is situated in a valley, to the north of the Indus River and west
of Leh, around 92kms. from Leh, which is on the trekking route of Lekir to
Khalsey. King Gragspa Bum younger brother of Gragspa Bum-Lde, who was ruling
over Sham, built the Tingmosgang Palace. A fortress wall encircles the
The Lamayuru "Yungdrung" Gompa is remarkably
built on a rock, around 125kms. west of Leh, on the Leh Srinagar highway.
Lamayuru belongs to the Drigunpa order of Tibetan Buddhism. The history of
the monastery begins with the visit of Arahat Nimagung to this place, when
there was merely a lake here. It is said that Arahat made a prophecy that "a
monastery will come up at this spot" and he made offerings (prayer with
grains of corn) to the Nagaserpent spirits. The corns mixed with the earth
and formed in the shape of Swastika (Yungdrung), later it came to be known
as Yungdrung Monastery. The Great Translator Rinchen Zangpo constructed a
temple here in eleventh century.
Naropa also visited Lamayuru and meditated here. Gelukspa or Kadampa school
of Tibetan Buddhism initially looked after Lamayuru, but later; it was taken
over by Digungpa Order. Its monastic festival is called "Yuru Kabgyat",
takes place on 17th and 18th of 5th month of the Tibetan Calendar.
Lama Shesrab Zangpo of Stod founded the Deskit
Gompa around 1420 AD during the reign of king Dragspa. Approximately 100 monks
reside here. This monastery is a branch of Thiksey Monastery. The monastic
festival called Gustor take place on the 20th and 29th of the 12th month of
The original name of Gompa is 'Thupstan Sningpo Druprgout Standar Chosling',
which was founded between 1851-1861 by Lama Kunga Lodos Snyingbo and
sponsored by head of Rupsho Tsering Tashi Namgyal. The main statue in the
Gompa is of Shakyamuni Buddha's, Guru Snang-Sret-Zinlnon, Statue of first
incarnation of Stagtsang 'Nawang-gyatso' and copper gilt Opakmed statue