Ladakh Buddhist Sites
Buddhist culture and tradition is widespread in Ladakh with famous monasteries and temples. Ladakh features many ancient monasteries which reflect the life of Lord Buddha. The most distinguished characteristic of the Buddhist monasteries of Ladakh is their surroundings. Ladakh anyway is a remote area and these monasteries seem to have looked for the remotest possible place that keeps them away from everything worldly.
List of Most Popular Buddhist Monasteries in Leh Ladakh
Hemis Monastery is one of the most prominent monasteries in Ladakh. The monastery is situated in very serene surroundings on the bank of Indus River placed on a hill commanding magnificent view. Hemis has rich collection of artefacts consisting of paintings, Tahngkas besides various other objects. Hemis Monastery is the Headquarter of Red Sect of Buddhism or Kargyutpa order as it is locally known.
The monastery was established in 17th century by Chapgon Gyalshas who came there at invitation of King Namgyal of Ladakh and was offered estate to build the monastery. The monastery is famous for gold statues and stupas ornamented with precious stones. Its rich collection of thangkas including the one which is considered to be the largest is exhibited only once in eleven years.
Hemis Monastery was seiged by General Zorawar Singh in 19th century. The Head Lama handled the situation very intelligently and saved Gompas around Leh. The Head Lama disappeared in mysterious circumstances and could never be found. After this incident, a young boy, aged only 12 years, was appointed as Head Lama.
The monastery is also famous for a very important festival called Hemis Tsechu which is dedicated to Padmasambhava better known as Guru Rinpoche. The mission of his life is said to be to uplift spiritual condition and wellbeing of everyone. The festival is celebrated in his memory. The dance performances take place depicting him as reincarnation of Buddha. This is a great extravaganza with a number of dances by Lamas dressed in traditional attire and traditional music is played by various musicians using four pairs of cymbals, small trumpets and large drums.
Shey Monastery is noted for its giant gilded copper statue of Shakyamuni Buddha and most revered Buddhist learning centers in the valley of Ladakh. Besides housing a large Buddha statue in its vicinity, the monastery also boasts of two Tantric shrines as well, which consist of a vast gallery of rock arts, several Tibetan artworks like wall paintings, murals of Lord Buddha and manuscripts.
Spituk is home to 100 monks as well as a giant statue of goddess Kali, which is open for public during the yearly Spituk festival. In the monastery you will find plenty of images and statues of Lord Buddha, a holy idol of Amitayus. The monastery also possesses a rich collections of thangkas which are painting on silk or cotton depicting Lord Buddha. Besides Thangkas, antique masts, arms, miniature and sculpture chortens are also a part of collection here.
Thiksey Monastery is located in Indus Valley at a height of 3,600 metres. The unique feature of the monastery is that it has been painted in red, orange and white colour to blend veryy well with the natural surroundings. When a visitor has a first glance at the monastery, he is amazed with the strong resemblance it has to Potala Palace at Lhasa in Tibet. The monastery is 12 storied complex comprising of assembly hall and 10 temples. The monastery is also home to 120 monks and runs a nunnery. The biggest attraction here is a 40 feet high idol of Maitreya (future Buddha).
The monastery has an assembly hall, a courtyard, a verandah, temples, chortens and a library. The ancient paintings on the wall that include images of Vajrapani, Avalokitesvara, Sakyamuni (historical Buddha), Tara (the Saviouress), Nangyalma and Amchi (The Medicine Buddha) are intriguing. The library in the monastery has 108 volumes of the Buddha’s teachings. The small chapel within the monastery is the oldest in the whole Ladakh region.
This most distinguished characteristic of Alchi monastery is its location. It is one of the very few monasteries in Ladakh which are situated on flat ground. It is a large monastery and its complex consists of various temples and chortens, which have been built in different time periods. Few of the most ancient wall paintings of Ladakh which still exist are preserved in this very monastery. The mural of 1000 Buddha forms the highlight of the ancient artworks displayed here. The important feature here is magnificent statues of Lord Buddha and other deities. The statues have been made with beautiful wooden carvings and artworks, which resemble the style of the Baroque period.
Phuktal Monastery – Zanskar
The 2250 years old monastery is the only one that can be reached by foot. It has been the place for meditation, teaching, learning, and enjoyment. Phuk means “cave”, and Tal means “at leisure” in Zanskari dialect. The Phuktal monastery, looks like a honeycomb from a distance, which once was a retreat, hence giving it the name.
The Diskit monastery is situated in the Nubra valley, this Ladakh Buddhist site is one of the oldest and largest Buddhist monasteries in Leh. The prime attraction of the Diskit monastery is 100 ft. high Maitreya Buddha statue, which was inaugurated by the holy Dalai Lama. Other attractions in the monastery are the ancient murals and frescoes. These all above Leh Ladakh Buddhist Monasteries are highly visited.