MONASTERIES OF LADAKH.

Locally known as Gompa ,the monasteries of Ladakh have been sanctuaries of Buddhist learning as well as repositories of Buddhist arts and artifacts, both imported and indigenously created in ancient times when Kashmir was the Buddhist kingdoms, Buddhism reached Ladakh and, ever since Buddhism continued its presence uninterruptedly even after its disappearance from Kashmir and the setbacks it suffered in Tibet, the two main regions of Buddhist knowledge and arts in the Himalayas.

Tibetan-Buddhism or Ladakhi culture owes almost everything to Buddhism, which was probably brought first to Tibet in the early 7th century of the Christian Era, which finally became a national religion in the 11th century and later flourished in all the Himalayan Buddhist Kingdoms including Ladakh. Tibetan monks meticulously and assiduously translated texts from Sanskrit to their mother tongue, and today many works originally composed in Sanskrit exist only in these Tibetan translations. Thus the canons of Tibetan-Buddhism are very important for the study of Buddhism in general. The existing monasteries of Ladakh fortunately possess hundreds of Buddhist artifacts from Kashmir and Tibet and all the monasteries are affiliated to one of the four major order of Tibet-Buddhism- Nyigmapa, Saskyapa, Gelukpa, and Kargyudpa.

Monasteries of Ladakh belong to different time period, some dating back to 11th century, like Alchi, Mangue and Sumdah-chun which belong to the same architectural tradition of Gandhara art. Besides that rest of the monasteries dated back to 16th century however unfortunately some of the monasteries dating back to 15th century were destroyed by Muslim invasion. Monastery in Ladakh, Tibet and whole Himalayan Buddhist Kingdoms are known by Gompa, Gompa meant sacred solitary or meditation place for monks and the treasures house of frescos painting of various meditational deities, Mandalas and statues of various Bodhisattvas, an endless exploration of Buddhist philosophy which embodied in its Arts and Artifact.

List of Gompas in Ladakh.

NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA

Located in Leh, this Gompa was founded in 1430 by King Tashi Namgyal of Ladakh, it has a three-story high gold idol of Maitreya Buddha and ancient manuscripts and frescoes. A lama from Sankar Monastery visits Namgyal Tsemo Temple every morning and evening to maintain the temples associated with the fort 14th century ruined palace and lights the butter-lamps.

PHYANG GOMPA

Located in Phyang village of central Leh, this Gompa was established in 1515 by Lama Chosje Damma Kunga. A monastic community was introduced to the monastery and with this started, the first establishment of the Digungpa sect of Tibetan-Buddhism teachings in Ladakh. The monastery is one of only two in Ladakh belonging to the Drikung Kagyud. Phyang monastery contains numerous sacred shrines inside the monastery, frescoes dating backed 15th century, and a 900 year old museum which has an extensive collection of idols including a number of fine Kashmiri bronzes probably dating to the 11th and 14th century and Thankas from Tibetan.

RIZONG GOMPA

Located in Sham valley, it was established in 1831 by Lama Tsultrim Nima under the Gelukpa order. The monastery is also called "the paradise for meditation" and is noted for its extremely strict rules and standards. The nunnery, located about 2 km from the monastery, is called the "Chulichan Nunnery" where, at present, 20 nuns reside. Monastery The assembly hall, with the statue of Shakyamumi Buddha in the middle, is flanked to its right by idols of Tse-dpag-med, Sras Rinpoche Eshay Rab-rgyes and Lord Yamakantaka and other deities. To the left of the main deity, idols of Lord Avalokiteshvara and Mahakala are defied. The main hall also has Thankas or wall paintings of Dlama-mchod-pa and Lam-rims.

SANKAR GOMPA

Located in Samkar village of Leh, Samkar Gompa is the summer residence of the Abbot of Spituk monastery, the Venerable Kushok Bakula, who is the senior incarnate lama of Ladakh due to his ancient lineage and personal authority. Only 20 monks most resides here, so visiting hours are limited to early morning and evening. The place is well lit, so an evening visit is worthwhile. Climbing the steps one reaches the double doors leading into the dukang or assembly hall. The wall and entry door are richly painted. Upstairs is the Dukar Lhakang ("residence of the deity") or inner sanctuary. There is an impressive figure here of female Bodhisattva Sitatapatra with 1,000 arms (all holding weapons) and 1,000 heads especial and unique feature. The walls are painted with a tantric deities, Mandalas and rules for the monks. Above the wooden stairs can be seen the rooms of the Abbot, guest rooms and the library.

SPITUK GOMPA

Located in Spituk village of Indus valley, Spituk Gompa is one of the biggest belonging to the Gelukpa Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It was founded by Od-de, the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub Od in the 11th Century. Founded as a Drukpa sect of Tibetan-Buddhism, the monastery was later taken over by Gelugpa sect of Tibetan-Buddhism in the 15th century. The monastery contains 100 monks. Every year the Gustor Festival is held at Spituk from the 27th to 29th day in the eleventh month of the Tibetan calendar. Recently built Congregation hall and shrines have fascinating statues of Buddha Shakyamumi and Female Bodhisattva Tara.

STAKNA GOMPA

Located in beautiful Stakna village of Indus valley, this Gompa was founded in the late 16th century by a Bhutanese scholar and saint, Chosje Jamyang Palkar. The name, literally meaning 'tiger's nose' was given because it was built on a hill shaped like a tiger's nose. Of note is a sacred Arya Avalokiteshvara statue from Kamrup, Assam. Stakna has a residence of approximately 30 monks and belongs to the Drugpa Kargyu monastic order of Tibetan Buddhism.

STOK GOMPA AND CASTLE

Located in Stok village of Indus valley, it was founded by Lama Lhawang Lotus in the 14th Century and has a notable library including all 108 volumes of the Kangyur. A ritual dance-mask festival is held annually. It was used for some time as a residence by the Ladakhi royalty.

ALCHI GOMPA

Alchi Monastery or Alchi Gompa is a Buddhist monastery, known more as a monastic complex (chos-'khor) of temples in Alchi village. The complex comprises four separate settlements in the Alchi village in the lower Ladakh region with monuments dated to different periods. Of these four hamlets, Alchi monastery is said to be the oldest and most famous. It is administered by the Likir Monastery. The monastery complex was built, according to local tradition, by the great translator Guru Rinchen Zangpo between 958 and 1055. Dukhang or Assembly Hall and the Main Temple (gTsug-lag-khang), which is a three-storied temple called the Sumtseg (gSum-brtsegs), are built in Kashmiri style as seen in many monasteries; the third temple is called the Manjushri Temple ('Jam-dpal lHa-khang). Chortens are also an important part of the complex. The artistic and spiritual details of both Buddhism and the Hindu kings of that time in Kashmir are reflected in the wall paintings in the monastery. These are some of the oldest surviving paintings in Ladakh.

CHEMREY MONASTERY

Located in Chemrey village to the east of Leh, this Gompa belonging to the Drukpa Kargyud monastic order was founded in 1664 by the Lama Tagsang Raschen. The monastery has a notable high Padmasambhava statue. It also contains a valuable collection of scriptures, with title pages in silver and the text ingold letters. The monastery is also a venue for the festival of sacred dances which takes place on the 28th and 29th day of the 9th month of theTibetan calendar every year.

TAKTHOK MONASTERY

Also known as Thak Thak, is situated in Sakti village located approximately 46 kilometres east of Leh. The name Takthok, literally meaning 'rock-roof' was named because both its roofs as well as walls are made up of rock. It belongs to the Nyigma sect of Tibetan Buddhism and approximately 55 lamas reside there. It is the only Nyingma monastery in Ladakh. The monastery was founded around the mid-16th century during the reign of Tsewang Namgyal on a mountainside around a cave in which Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated in the 8th century. Every year on the 9th and 10th day of the sixth month of the Tibetan calendar, celebrations which include sacred dances are held.

KORZOK GOMPA

Located in Changthang nomadic highland, Korzok Gompa is situated on the western bank of a beautiful Tsomoriri Lake. Founded in 17th century it houses a Shakyamumi Buddha and other statues. It is home to about 35 monks, belongs to the Drukpa Kargyud monastic order and falls under the jurisdiction of the Hemis monastery. In the past, the monastery was the headquarters of the Rupshu Valley. The old monastery was built on a gentle slope, unlike other monasteries that are generally perched on hill tops. Monastery as seen now is said to have been re-built in the 19th century. A number of Chortens are also seen near the monastery.

The Tsomoriri Lake in front of it is also held in reverence, and considered equally sacred by the local people. The Korzok Gu-stor festival is held at the monastery and attracts many Chang-pas, the Tibetan nomadic herdsmen. The festival lasts for two days (July/August) and ends with the dismemberment and dispersal of the 'Storma' (sacrificial cake) by the leader of the Black dancers in a ceremony called 'Argham' (Killing).

DESKIT GOMPA

This Gompa is the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery in the Nubra Valley. It was founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsong Khapa, founder of Gelugpa, in the 14th century. It is a sub-Gompa of the Thiksay Gompa and belongs to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Deskit Monastery is connected to Mongol mythology in that the monastery is believed to be the place where an evil anti-Buddhist Mongol demon once lived and was killed near the monastery grounds but is said to have been resurrected several times. Today, the wrinkled head and hand of the demon are believed to lie inside a Gonkhang protector room of the Gompa. The newly built Assembly hall has statue of Maitreya Buddha, a huge drum and several images of fierce guardian deities. Old Assembly hall have fresco of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery of Tibet.

Deskit Gompa also has 107 Feet Maitreya Buddha Statue consecrated by H.H. the Dalai Lama on 25th July, 2010.

A popular festival known as Dosmochey or the "Festival of the Scapegoat" is held in the precincts of the monastery in February during the winter season, which is largely attended by people from villages of the Nubra valley.

LAMAYURU MONASTERY

Located in Sham valley, Lamayuru Gompa belonging to the Drikung Kargyud monastic order is one of the largest and oldest gompas in Ladakh, with a population of around 150 permanent monks resident. According to popular tradition, it was originally the foremost Bonpo monastery in Ladakh and was called Yung-drung monastery in Tibetan means a Swastika - a popular symbol in Bon, Buddhism, and other religions.

Ancient legends say after the Nirvana of Lord Buddha, his disciple Ananda visited all Himalayan regions and consecrated the entire all the sacred places. After visited Kashmir he flew to Tibet through Ladakh, he saw scared lake at Lamayuru and Naga serpent residing in Lake. He made offering of barley corn and water to the snakes after which he dropped the barley corn into the water and also willed the lake to dry up at once end. The legends continue by saying that Naropa, an 11th century Indian Buddhist scholar, came to Lamayuru and spent many years meditating in a cave, which can still be seen in the newly built Dukhang.

In 11th century great Translator Rinchen Zangpo visited the Lamayuru village he founded a dead lion previously covered by the waters of the lake, built monastery on that spot and named the Shrine Singhe Ghang meant (Lion mound) , the shrine have clay statue of Five Dhyani Buddhas and frecos painting of Mandalas and dancing skeleton(symbolize the impermanence).Rinchen Zangpo was charged by the king of Ladakh to build 108 gompas, and certainly many gompas in Ladakh, Spiti and the surrounding regions, date from his time.

LIKIR MONASTERY

Located in Sham valley, Likir Gompa is picturesquely situated on a little hill in Likir village. Monastery was established in 1065 by Lama Duwang Chosje, under the command of the fifth king of Ladakh, Lhachen Gyalpo. Later In 15th century Lama Lobsang Chosje one of the famous pupil of JeTsongkhapa visited Ladakh, and took the charge of monastery and brought it under the Gelugpa order and introduced the custom of sending all the novices to Tashi lumbu monastery in Lhasa, Tibet for higher studies. The monastery currently has approximately 120 Buddhist monks. The monastery is a repository of old manuscripts, has a notable thangka collection and old costumes and earthen pots. Sitting on the roof is a 23 metre (75 ft) high gilded gold statue of Maitreya (the future) Buddha completed in 1999.

The monastery has two assembly halls, known as Dukhangs and the older one is located on the right of the central courtyard with six rows of seats for the lamas and a throne for the Head Lama of Likir. The Dukhangs contain statues of Bodhisattva, Amitabha, three large statues of Sakyamuni, Maitreya andTsong Khapa, founder of the yellow-hat sect.

HEMIS GOMPA

Founded by Lama Stagsang Raspa under the patronage of King Singge Namgyal in 16th century, Hemis Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery (gompa) belonging to the Drugpa Kargud sect of Tibetan-Buddhism and is the largest monastic institution in Ladakh located in Hemis village situated 45 km from Leh. The monastery was re-established in 1672 by the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal. The annual Hemis festival honoring Padmasambhava is held here in early June. Hemis has more than 200 branch monasteries in the Himalayas and more than 1,000 monks under its care. It is an important living monument and heritage of the Himalayas and its people. Hemis Guru Tsechu, sacred mask dance festival held during summer, is one of the famous festivals of Ladakh.

MATHO MONASTERY

Founded in the 16th century by Lama Dugpa Dorje, this monastery is located in Matho village across the Indus River from Thiksey monastery, at around 26 kilometres southeast of Leh. It is noted for its four hundred year old thangkas and its Matho Nagrang Festival. It has an array of ancient thangkas, and is noted for its venue for a festival of oracles. This Gompa is the only one in Ladakh belonging to the Sakyapa school of Tibetan Buddhism.

THIKSEY GOMPA

Founded by Lama Sherab Zangpo in 15th century, Thiksey gompa belonging to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Budhism is located on top of a hill, approximately 19 kilometres east of Leh. It is noted for its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet and is the largest Gompa in central Ladakh. It is a 12-storey complex and houses many items of Buddhist art such as Stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings and swords. One of the main points of interest is the Maitreya (future Buddha) Temple which is installed to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to this monastery in 1970. A 15 meter (49 ft) high statue of Maitreya, the largest such statue in Ladakh, covering two storey's of the building is defined in the monastery. The terrace of the Gompa provides a panoramic view of the Indus valley and Zanskar range with Stok Kangri and Matho Kangri glacier peaks.

SHEY PALACE AND GOMPA

Located in the upper Indus Valley, just 15 km east of the modern capital of Ladakh, Leh is a town called Shey, which has the old summer Palace of the kings of Ladakh. The palace was built more than 555 years ago by Deldan Namgyal , the king of Ladakh. The palace, mostly in ruins now, was once used as a summer retreat by the kings of Ladakh. The Shey Monastery was also built in 1655 on the instructions of King Deldan Namgyal, in the memory of his late father, Singey Namgyal, within the palace complex. The monastery is noted for its giant copper with gilded gold statue of a seated Shakyamuni Buddha. It is said to be the second largest such statue in Ladakh. Every year Sindhu Darshan Festival is held here at Banks of River Sindhu (Indus).

WANLA GOMPA

Located in Sham valley, Wanla Gompa is a sub-monastery of Lamayuru which provides a caretaker monk responsible for daily rituals and for granting access to the temple. .It has small but impressively preserved three-storeyed Avalokitesvara temple, one of the earliest known Drigung Kagyu prayer chambers to have survived in Ladakh. The main image features Avalokitesvara in 11-headed ("Chukshigzhal") form.

SUMDA CHOON GOMPA.

Located in Sham valley, this Gompa is situated in Sumda village, which is around 65 kms south-west of Leh. The Sumda Choon monastery was founded by Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo in 11th century. It is said that he built three temples including Sumda, Alchi and Mangyu monastery simultaneously. The principle image of Sumda Choon Gompa is the four headed Varocana, which is the control figure of the five Dhyani Buddhas. The beauty and splendor of this image surpasses those of similar images at Alchi and Mangyu Gompa. The mural comprises the images of five Dhyani Buddhas including Ratnasambhava, Akshobhya, Amitaba, Amogasiddhi and Varocana.

LINGSHED MONASTERY

Lingshed Village, at the heart of the Trans-Sengge-La region between Ladakh and Zanskar, has been inhabited for nearly a thousand years. The village has been the site of several Buddhist monasteries: the remnants of a cave monastery and two walls dedicated to the translator Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055). Lingshed Monastery was founded as a Gelukpa School Monastery in the 1440s by Changsems Sherab Zangpo, disciple of Je Tsongkhapa. In 1779, the Ladakhi king Tsewang Namgyal donated the lands of Lingshed village and its surrounding villages to Lama Lobsang Gelek Yeshe Dragpa, the 3rd incarnation of the Ngari Rinpoche lineage. The monastery houses about 60 monks. It serves the surrounding villages of Lingshed, Skyumpata, Yulchung, Nyeraks, Dibling and Gongma villages. The monastery consists of six principal shrines, kitchens, and store rooms and - on its uppermost floor - an apartment for Ngari Rinpoche or other visiting high lamas.

PHUGTHAL GOMPA (Zanskar)

Located in Zansker valley, this awe striking Gompa was founded by Gangsem Sherap Zangpo in the early 12th century, the monastery is a unique construction built into the cliff side like a honeycomb. It located on the mouth of a cave on the cliff face of a lateral gorge of a major tributary of the Lungnak (Lingti-Tsarap) River. Home to about 70 monks the monastery has a library and prayer rooms. A stone tablet reminds of Alexander Csoma de Koros author of the first English-Tibetan dictionary who explored Ladakh in 1826-27.

RANGDUM MONASTERY (Zanskar)

Located in Rangdum, highland of Zanskar valley, this Monastery was founded by Lama Gelek Yashy Takpa in 18th century. Belonging to the Gelugpa sect. situated at an altitude of 3,657 m (11,998 ft) at the head of the Suru Valley of Kargil District. Here one cannot harvest barley and wheat because of high altitude and brief summer; both the villages situated on monastery depend on livestock and the monastery depend on supplies, other than locally produced dairy, donated largely from Zanskar. The monastery is home to about 30 monks.

SANI MONASTERY (Zanskar)

Located in picturesque Zanskar valley, Sani Monastery belongs to the Drugpa Kagyud school of Tibetan Buddhism. It is thought to be the oldest religious site in the whole region of Ladakh and Zanskar. The Gompa was built to accommodate an ancient chorten 6 m (20 ft) high and of unusual shape, known as the Kanika Chorten, is presumed to date back to the time of the famous Kushana emperor, Kanishka (127 CE). The monastery is also claimed to be connected with the famous Indian Yogi Naropa (956-1041 CE). There is now small room next to the Kanika Chorten where it is believed that Naropa meditated in which there is a veiled bronze statue of the yogi. The smaller temple dedicated to Naropa is decorated with unique bas-reliefs in stucco painted in bright colors and with niches for the images. There is also "a magnificent plantation of huge old poplars" adjoining the gompa - a rare treat in the mostly treeless Zanskar. Festivals, Nungnes has no fixed date but usually takes place in July. Sani Naro-Nasjal is usually in the first week of August, between the 15th and the 20th of the sixth Tibetan month.

BARDAN GOMPA (Zanskar)

Located in Zanskar valley, Bardan Gompa was founded in 17th century. It belongs to the Drugpa-Kargyud monastic order and was one of the first monasteries of this sect to be established in Zanskar. The monastery also ran several smaller hermitages in the area. The monastery consists of a large Dukhang or assembly hall which has some grand statues of Buddhist figures and several small stupas in clay, bronze, wood and copper.

KARSHA GOMPA (Zanskar)

Founded by the Great Translator Phagspa Shesrab of Zanskar , Karsha Gompa is situated on craggy hill, the site of an ancient palace and fort of valley on the bank of Stod River and is the largest and most important monastery of Zanskar valley. The monastery belongs to the Gelugpa sect and is under the jurisdiction of the younger brother of the Dalai Lama Ngari Rinpoche. The Gompa consists of a number of shrines and boasts of some of the most exquisite wall paintings, includes the bone relics of renowned holy Abbot Lama Dorje Rinchen. One of the shrine rooms has 500 year old fascinating wall painting. The oldest remaining shrine room have statue of Avalokiteshvara-Bodhisattva of compassion and beautiful frescos paintings which are believed to be associated with the great Translator Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055). Monastery serves as the residence of approximately 100 monks.

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