Leh Ladakh Monasteries and Castles
Leh Ladakh also know as the land of monasteries, Leh Ladakh is known to have the largest number of Buddhist monasteries or gompas (Tibetan word for monastery) outside Tibet, which follows the Tibetan Mahayana school of Buddhism and it is considered the last stronghold of Himalayan Buddhism in India. Leh Ladakh’s spiritual life revolves around the monasteries, Leh Ladakh monasteries are the places of worship, meditation, education and protection strongholds during the time of invasions. Earlier, travellers often stayed at these monasteries but now, only seekers of spirituality come to live here. Most Leh Ladakh monasteries or gompas are majestically perched on top of hills or on steep cliffs, making them difficult to access.
Here is the list of majestic Leh Ladakh Monasteries
Rinchen Zangpo built Alchi Monastery in 1000 AD with several other temples and stupas and Alchi Monastery is the largest and most famous of all of them. Alchi Monastery complex include various sacred temples, to be seen there include the Principal one of Buddha Vairocana Lhakhang, Lotsava Lhakhang, the Jamyang Lhakhang (Manjusri temple) and the sumtsag Lhakhang. Alchi Monastery is situated at a distance of 67 Kms west of Leh.
Basgo Castle lies at a distance of 42 Kms west of Leh. The castle known as Basgo Rabtan Lhartsekhar is situated there on a clay hill. During the reign of 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 Maitreya Buddha.
Hemis Monastery in Leh Ladakh belongs to the Drukpa sect of Buddhism, located in Hemis (Leh Ladakh) around 47 Kms from Leh. Due to its proximity to Leh in comparison to other monasteries in Leh Ladakh makes it a popular destination amongst the tourist. Hemis Monastery was built in 11th century and was re-established in 1672 by the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal. Annual colourful Hemis Monastery festival held every year in early June.
Lamayuru Monastery in Leh Ladakh situated around 127 Kms from Leh on Leh – Kargil road. 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 and built several temples and stupas and so the teaching of the KadampaSchool came to flourish greatly there.
The Leh Palace, known as “Lhachen Palkhar” was built by Dharmaraja Singey Namgial in 1600. It has 9 storeys. The historians say that its completion took three years. Sankar monastery in Leh which the first Bakula Rinpoche founded is a branch monastery of Spituk Monastery. In the town of Leh there is a yellow Stupa called the “Mani Sermo” which was built by Rinchen Zangpo, the famous Translator. In the heart of Leh town is the New monastery called Gompa Soma. The festival of Dosmochey in Leh takes place every year on the 28th & 29th of the Tibetan 12th month.
Likir Monastery in Leh Ladakh lies at 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 the monastery was built. The monastery was encircled by the bodies of the two great serpent spirits, The Nagrajas (Nanda & Taksako) and so its name became widely renowned as Likir (The Naga – Encircled).
Matho is situated at a distance of 26 kms South-east of Leh on the left bank of river Indus. This is the only monastery which belongs to the Saskya Order. A Lama Dugpa Dorje founded it about five hundred years ago. Shrines and 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 oracles known as the Rongtsan make their appearance
Thiksey Gompa in Leh Ladakh is situated 22 Km from Leh on Manali Leh road. Thiksey monastery is the most beautiful of all monasteries in Ladakh, belongs to the Gelugpa (Yellow hat) sect of Buddhism. Thiksey monastery was first build at Stagmo by Changsem Sherab Sangpo called Lhakhang Serpo (meaning Yellow temple). Later the nephew of Sherab Sangpo, Paldan Sangpo, founded the Thiksay Gompa on a hill top to north of Indus river in 1430 AD. There are sacred shrines and many precious objects to be seen there. Thiksey monastery reminds of the Potala house in Tibet.
Diskit Monastery also known as Deskit Gompa or Diskit Gompa is the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery (gompa) in the Nubra Valley of Leh Ladakh. It belongs to the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. 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 Thikse gompa. Also there is a 32 metre statue of Maitreya Buddha near Diskit Monastery facing down the Shyok River towards Pakistan. It is said that Maitreya Buddha keep our borders safe from invasions from Pakistan.