Monasteries In Ladakh

Monasteries in Ladakh may be either of the Mahayana or the Hinayana sect of Buddhism. The head lama is called a 'kushak', meaning reincarnation. The monasteries of Ladakh are what give the region its unique flavor and beauty. Typically, most Gompas are built so that they perch precariously on lone rocks or craggy mountain-faces.

Hemis
Situated 40 kms from Leh, Hemis is the wealthiest, best known and biggest Gompa of Ladakh. The annual festival of the gompa is held in the summer in the honour of Guru Padma Sambhav’s birth anniversary. It also has the largest thanka (scroll painting and silk or brocade) in Ladakh which is unfurled once in 12 years. The next unfurling will take place in 2004. Hemis was built in 1630 AD during the reign of Sengge Namgyal and flourished under the Namgyal dynasty.
The monastery belongs to Dugpa Order, built on a green hillside surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery, is hidden in a gorge. It is the biggest and wealthiest monastery in Ladakh and is a must for visitors. Within the monastery there are to be seen a copper-gilt statue of the Lord Buddha, various stupas made of gold and silver, sacred thankas and many objects. The monastery was founded by the 1st incarnation of Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso in 1630, which was invited to Ladakh by the king Singay Namgial and offered him a religious estate through out the region.
There is a pleasant 3 Kms walk, on the side of the mountain above the monastery there is a sacred hermitage founded by the great Gyalwa Kotsang where there can be seen his meditation cave, his foot-print and hand - print on the rock and sacred shrines. This Kotsang is an old hermitage, which was founded many years before the Hemis Monastery. A stay in Hemis over night enables you to attend early morning prayers, a moving experience and strongly recommended.

Chemday
Chemday monastery is situated 40 kms east of Leh. The monastery is situated there on the mountain side and was founded 365 years ago by Lama Tagsang Raschen with the Dharmaraja Singey Namgial acting as patron. There is a sacred image of Padmasambhava to be seen there, one storey in height. There are, furthermore, many shrines. A custom exists whereby every year on the 28th & 29th days of the ninth Tibetan month sacred dances are performed in association with the festival of an initiatory ritual. The successive reincarnations of Lama Tagsang Raschen act as the incumbents.

Alchi
Alchi is situated at a distance of 67 Kms west of Leh, founded by Rinchen Zangpo, Translator, in 1000 AD. The Gompa is situated on the banks of the Indus, 70 kms from Leh and dates a thousand years back. One of its wall features thousands of miniature sized pictures of the Buddha. The focal attraction of the gompa are three large sized images. The gompa is no longer an active religious centre and is looked after by monks from the Likir Monastery. The sacred temples, to be seen there include the Principal one of the Rinchen Lhakhang, at Lotsa Lhakhang, the Jamyang Lhakhang (Manjusri temple) and the sumtsag Lhakhang. The main image is that of Vairocana but there can also been seen the five Buddha Families together with their attendant deities, The paintings are not like the Tibetan style but rather they are executive according to the Indian tradition. In order to build these temples Rinchen Zangpo, the Translator is said in the various biographies to have brought with him from Kashmir (thirty-two sculptors and wood carvers). Other temples built by Rinchen Zangpo, Translator are to be found at Mangu and Sumda each containing a sacred image of Vaironica, various most beautiful images of the Buddhas and Bodhisatvas and many kinds of lovely paintings. They are also included among the 108 temples built by Rinchen Zangpo, the Translator, within the province of Naris Skorsum.

Chemday
Chemday monastery is situated 40 kms east of Leh. The monastery is situated there on the mountain side and was founded 365 years ago by Lama Tagsang Raschen with the Dharmaraja Singey Namgial acting as patron. There is a sacred image of Padmasambhava to be seen there, one storey in height. There are, furthermore, many shrines. A custom exists whereby every year on the 28th & 29th days of the ninth Tibetan month sacred dances are performed in association with the festival of an initiatory ritual. The successive reincarnations of Lama Tagsang Raschen act as the incumbents.

Shey
15 kms upstream from Leh, the palace was once residence of the royal family. The palace is believed to have been the seat of power of the pre-Tibetian kings. A 7.5 metre high copper statue of Buddha, plated with Gold, and the largest of its kind, is installed in the palace.

Thikse
The Thikse monastery is spectacularly situated 19 kms from Leh. It is one of the largest and architecturally most impressive Gompas. The Gompa has images stupas and wall paintings of Buddha which are exquisite.

Takthok
The monastery of Takthok is situated in the village of Sakti at a distance of 46 Kms from Leh. Before the monastery was founded there was a meditation cave of a Mahaadiddha called Kunga Phuntsog. After him, during the lifetime of the Dharmaraja Tsewang Namgial, 31st, in the line of the royal dynasty. Since the roof and walls of the monastery are all made of rock, it was given that name Takthok (rock-roof), There is a custom of holding sacred dances & the ceremony of hurling a votive offering during the festival of an initiatory ritual on the 9th & 10th days of the 6th Tibetan month. At present the Taklung Tulku administers it.

Matho
Matho is situated at a distance of 26 kms Southeast of Leh on the opposite bank of the River Indus. There is a monastery, which belongs to the Saskya Order. A Lama Dugpa Dorje founded it about five hundred years ago. Shrines and also a sacred temple dedicated to the guardian deities are to be seen there. A festival called the “ Matho Nagrang ‘ takes place there every year on the 14th and 15th day of the 1st Tibetan month. All the monks perform sacred dances and two gods known as the Rongtsan make their appearance. There is no incarnate being who acts as incumbent. However, Loding Khan Rinpoche is acting present performing the functions of an incumbent.

Spituk
8 Kms from Leh, the monastery standing on a conical hill with 3 chapels was founded in the 11th century by Od-de the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub Od, when he come to Maryul.He introduced a monastic community. When Rinchen Zangpo, the translator came to that place he said that an exemplary religious community would arise there and so the monastery was called Spituk (Exemplary). That time it belonged to the Kadampa School. Then during the lifetime of Dharmaraja Takspa Bum- Lde Lama Lhawang Lotus restored the monastery and the stainless order of Tsongkhapa was introduced and it has remained intact as such up till the present. The Principal statue is that of the lord Buddha.Within this status there is a sacred image of Amitayus, about the finger length in height, presented to Kind Takspa Bum-Lde by the great Tsongkhapa. Every year from the 27th to 29th days of the Tibetan 11th month the sacred dance associated with the festival of the Gustor are held. Stok Monastery, Sankar monastery and Saboo monastery are branches of Spituk Monastery. The incumbents of all these monasteries are the successive reincarnations of Skyabsje Bakula Rinpoche. The monastery is belonging to Gelugpa Order. There are about 100 monks in the monastery of Spituk.

Chemday
Chemday monastery is situated 40 kms east of Leh. The monastery is situated there on the mountain side and was founded 365 years ago by Lama Tagsang Raschen with the Dharmaraja Singey Namgial acting as patron. There is a sacred image of Padmasambhava to be seen there, one storey in height. There are, furthermore, many shrines. A custom exists whereby every year on the 28th & 29th days of the ninth Tibetan month sacred dances are performed in association with the festival of an initiatory ritual. The successive reincarnations of Lama Tagsang Raschen act as the incumbents.

Phyang

Phyang is situated 17 kms west of Leh. The site for the monastery there formed part of one of the many monastic estates Offered to Chosje Damma Kunga from Digung during the time of Dharmaraja Jamyang Namgial, who had invited the former to Ladakh.A monastery called Tashi Chozong was founded in 1515 there on the hill of Phyang and a monastic community introduced. It marked the 1stestablishment of the Digung teachings in Ladakh, teachings whose traditions began with Skyoba Jigsten Gonbo, Within the monastery there are sacred shrines and various wall paintings are to be seen which date from the royal period. The protective of the monastery is Apchi Choski Dolma.Every year from the 2nd to 3rd of the 6th month the sacred dances and the hurling of votive offering associated with the festival of Leh (Gang-sngon Tsedup) are held. The successive reincarnation of Skyabje Toldan Rinpoche acts as the incumbents of the monastery.

Chemday
Chemday monastery is situated 40 kms east of Leh. The monastery is situated there on the mountain side and was founded 365 years ago by Lama Tagsang Raschen with the Dharmaraja Singey Namgial acting as patron. There is a sacred image of Padmasambhava to be seen there, one storey in height. There are, furthermore, many shrines. A custom exists whereby every year on the 28th & 29th days of the ninth Tibetan month sacred dances are performed in association with the festival of an initiatory ritual. The successive reincarnations of Lama Tagsang Raschen act as the incumbents.

Castle of Basgo
Basgo lies at a distance of 42 kms west of Leh. The castle known as Basgo Rabtan Lhartsekhar is situated there on a hill of clay. The Dharmaraja Jamyang Namgial and Singay Namgial, father and son built it. The Principal image there is that of the so-called’Golden Maitreya,’ a sacred copper-gilt image of the Buddha Maitreya, two storey in height. The Dharmaraja Singey Namgail as funerary build it to his father, king Jamyang Namgial. There is also an image of the Buddha Maitreya made of clay three storeys in height, which can be seen at the top of the castle. The ruins of a temple and a stupa build by Rinchen Zangpo, the translator can also be seen.

Rizong
73 Kms from Leh, the monastery of Rizong was built in 1831 by the great Lama Tsultim Nima.The monastery upholds the teachings of the great Tsongkhapa.Dress and food provisions are provided for all members of the community by the governing body of the monastery. Nothing other than religious robes and books is permitted for the inmates of each cell. There are 40 monks in residence. The incumbents of the monastery are the successive reincarnations of Lama Tsultim Nima and of his son, Sras Rinpoche. Within the monastery there are shrines, the painting blocks of the biography of Lama Tsultim Nima, many objects made and books composed by the 1st Sras Rinpoche. The monastery is sited in a most solitary position. 2 Kms below it there is a nunnery called Chulichan (Chomoling) where about 20 nuns reside. The governing body of Rizong Monastery provides their food provisions and clothes. The walk of spinning wool, milking, extracting oil for the temple lamps and so forth has to be performed by all the nuns.

Likir
Likir lies a distance of 62 Kms west of Leh. During the time of Lhachen Gyalpo, the fifth king of Ladakh, a religious estate and the land on which to build the monastery was offered to Lama Duwang Chosje, a great champion of meditation. The Lama blessed the site and in 1065 the monastery was built. The monastery was encircled by the bodies of the two great serpent spirits, the naga- rajas (Nanda & Taksako) and so its name became widely renowned as Likir (The Naga - Encircled). In the 15th Century the disciple of Khasdubje known as Lhawang Lodos Sangphu caused the monastery to flourish. The monastery was brought into the order of the great Lama Tsongkhapa and up till present times the ritual and observances of the three basic Pratimoksa disciplines, which from the basic of Buddhist teachings, are preserved. There are many blessed shrines in this monastery and there resides a protective deity wearing golden armour and of stern command.Every year from the 27th to 29th of 12 th Tibetan month the votive offerings known as Dosmochey are assembled and sacred dances are performed. The successive reincarnations of Naris Rinpoche act as the incumbents of the monastery.

Lamayuru
Lamayuru Monastery is situated 127 Kms west of Leh. In the 11th century the mahasiddha Naropa came to this place and the cave where he resided and meditated is still to be seen today. Then Rinchen Zangpo, the Translator came to build many temples and stupas and so the teaching of the Kadampa School came to flourish greatly there. There after, for many years the monastery was administered by the Zhwa-mar-pa (Red Hats), after which the Dharmaraja Jamyang Namgial offered it to Chosje Danma, whom he had invited to Ladakh. The rituals and observances of the Digung Kargyud School were introduced and the monastery received the name of Yungdrung Tharpaling.The successive reincarnation of Skyabsje Toldan Rinpoche acts as the incumbents of the monastery. There is a custum whereby each year on the 17th & 18th of the 5th Tibetan month the festival of the so-called (Yuru Kabgyad) is held during which dances are performed. In this monastery there are various shrines to be seen, including thangkas and wall paintings.

Wanla
Wanla is situated close by Yungdrung to the Southeast. This old monastery was built in 1000 AD.during the time of Lama Rinchen Zangpo, the translator. The famous image of the 11 headed Mahakaruna (Avalkitesvara), built to a height of more than two storeys, is to be seen there. On the wall paintings there are depicted the Buddhas, Boddhisattvas, the Mandala and so forth. There is also a sacred image of Chovo-je-Paldan Atisha.

Karcha
Karcha is the largest of all monasteries in Zanskar. Karcha Chamspaling to give its full name was first established by Phagspa Shesrab, the translator of Zanskar.The Teacher Dorje Shesrab who caused it to flourish built the present monastery. Shesrab Zangpo of Stod introduced the order of Tsongkhapa there. More than 100 monks are in residence. There are shrines and in particular, the wall paintings executed by the Lama Dzadpa Dorje. The Bone relics of Dorje Rinchen are also to be seen. Every year on the 28th & 29th days of the 6th Tibetan month the tradition of sacred dance is observed in association with the Gustor festival. In that place there are also two temples built by Rinchen Zangpo, the translator known as the Thugsjechhenpoi Lhakhang and the Lhakhang Karpo.Close by the village of Karcha there are the monasteries of Khagsar, of Purang in the village of Langmi, of Phagspa in the village of Nangbaphal and a nunnery called Dorjezong at the top of the valley.

Zongkul
Zongkul is a sacred place of meditation, founded by the great mahasiddha Naropa, who when he was residing in his meditation cave (where his staff is still preserved) which is situated on the high and splendid rock face above the present monastery, he struck his ritual dagger in to the rock as a sign that he would found the monastery. The mahasiddha went there and founded the monastery. There after it became the sacred place of meditation for all the mahasiddha of Zanskar, including Dubchen Kunga Gyatso, Dubchen Nawang Tsering, Dzadpa Dorje, Karmapa, Kunga Choslag and lama Norboo. Inside the monastery there are to be seen many kinds of sacred shrines including the holy objects made by all those mahasiddha mentioned above, such as: an ivory image of Samvara, a crystal stupa and the texts containing the spiritual songs and biographies composed by the successive mahasiddha. Inside the meditation cave there is Panchen Naropa’s footprint embedded in the rock and his sacred spring.

Bardan
The side of the Lungnak River situates Barden monastery at 8 miles distance from the capital of Zanskar Padum on top of a high cliff. The Lama Barapa founded it in 1270. The Principal image is a Gandhara statue of the Buddha Maitreya, 2 feet in high, which is said to have spoken. The Bodhisattva Deba Gyatso founded the present monastery. Since it was the seat (gdan-sa) of Lama Barapa its name became Bardan.The ruins of a monastery and a stupa can still be seen on top of the mountain called Thar-Lha.

Stongde
Stongde monastery is renowned as having been founded by Lama Lhodak Marpa Choski Lodos in 1052 and its name is also Marpaling. Later, Shakya Zangpo of Stongde caused it to flourish. Lama Gyaltsanpa Tundup Palzangpo introduced there the order of Tsongkhapa.There is many kinds of most beautiful shrines and wall paintings to be seen there. About 60 monks are in residence and every year sacred dance are performed in conjunction with the festival of Gustor which takes place on the 28th & 29th days of the 11th Tibetan month. The successive reincarnations of Nari Tulku act as the incumbent. It seems about 960 years have gone by since the monastery was founded.The fort above this Gompa is ruined, but the views of Leh from here are breathtakingly beautiful.