Monasteries in Ladakh
has many historic monasteries called Gompas, where Buddhist monks and nuns live,
study and practice their religion. The monasteries of Ladakh are situated in
scenic locations, on hills and mountains and have rich collections of Buddhist
Thangka paintings, art and artifacts. Many of the monasteries are open to tourists
who can admire the architecture and art collections in these Gompas.
Some precautions to be observed while visiting a monastery are:
Visitors are required to take off their shoes before entering a prayer area.
Observe local dress codes, such as wearing clothing that covers your limbs.
Do not disturb Monks at prayer, and always ask permission before taking photographs.
Do not touch religious artifacts.
Do not drink, smoke, take drugs or spit in the monastery premises.
Avoid talking loudly or disturbing the peaceful atmosphere
Most Gompas charge an admission fee of about Rs. 25. If a fee is not charged,
it is considered appropriate to leave a donation for
the maintenance of the monastery.
In many Gompas, you are expected to walk around the premises only in a clockwise
Women may not be allowed to enter the inner prayer rooms of some monasteries.
Alchi Gompa is situated on the bank of the River Indus and is easily accessible
since it is the only Gompa in Ladakh, which is located on flat ground. Founded
by Ringchen Zangpo, the Great Translator, the Alchi Gompa displays a Kashmiri
influence in its art and architecture. Within the monastery you can see many
beautiful images of Buddha. Photography is not permitted within the Alchi Monastery.
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).
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
Situated 2 Km North of the city center, the Sankar Gompa houses monks of
the Gelukpa or Yellow Hat order. It has a grand image of Avalokiteshvara (The
Buddhist deity of compassion) who is depicted with 1,000 heads and 1,000 arms.
Phyang Monastery, 17km. 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.
(Entry Free. Timings: 5 a.m.-9 p.m.)
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. The Shanti Stupa is
an impressive white-domed structure in Chandspa that is beautifully illuminated
It was built by a Japanese Buddhist organization to commemorate 2500 years
of Buddhism and to promote World Peace. The Shanti Stupa was inaugurated by
His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1985. You can approach the monastery by a steep
flight of steps or by a 3 Km route from the Fort Road. The views of the sunset
and sunrise from the Shanti Stupa are spectacular.
Sumda Chung Monastery
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 Village
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.
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 Maitriya 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
The Thiksey monastery located 17 Km from Leh is 12 storeys high and has many
statues of Buddha, a pillar inscribed with Buddhist teachings, a 15 m high seated
Maitreya Buddha in the main prayer hall, and a vast collection of Buddhist art.
Home to monks of the Gelukpa order the Thiksey monastery is known for its annual
festival held from the 17th to 19th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan Buddhist
Tsemo in Leh
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.
Spituk Gompa "Exemplary"; 7km. 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 Spituk Gompa is perched on a high hill overlooking the Indus river about
18 Km from Leh. Rinchen Zangpo the Great Translator who helped spread Buddhism
in Ladakh named the monastery. (Spituk means exemplary). The Spituk monastery
is known for its collection of Buddhist artifacts and for the Spituk festival
held from the 17th to 19th days of the 11th month of the Buddhist calendar.
Further up the hill is a Mahakal Temple, where a fearsome image of Vajrabhairava
is unveiled once a year at its annual festival.
(Tiger's nose); 25km. 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 Zanskar are branches of this monastery.
Stok Gompa and Palace
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.
The Stok Palace is located on a glacial deposit of pebbles and overlooks
fields of barley grown on terraces on the mountains. Standing four storeys
tall, the Stok Palace was the official residence of the royal family of Ladakh
and was constructed in 1814 by Ladakh's last ruler. The museum at the Stok
Palace has an intriguing collection of Buddhist art, weapons, jewelry and
artifacts, including thangkas painted with colors derived from crushed precious
stones. Also on display are the ceremonial headdresses or 'peraks' of the
erstwhile rulers of Ladakh. These headdresses are decorated with turquoise,
lapis lazuli and coral and gold, making them an exotic sight.