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Traveler's Delights






































































































































The most attractive feature of the landscape of Ladakh are the Buddhist monasteries situated on the isolated hillock in the vicinity of villages, these aesthetically pleasing, architecturally interesting monasteries provide the focus for the faith of the highly religious Buddhist people. Monasteries are the places of worship, isolated meditation and religious instruction for the young. Many monasteries celebrate their annual festivals in winter, which are marked by gay mask dances. Monasteries have a wealth of artifacts, Lamayuru, the oldest religious centre of Ladakh, beats all other in sheer grandeur. In its uniqueness of wood carving, statues and frescoes, Alchi offers the highest rewards. The wealth of its possession and its annual summer festival make Hemis the most popular, while Thiksay rates high in terms of architectural impact and the beauty of the festival performances at Likir and Phyang with their proximity to Leh are great attractions in their favour while the accessibility of the Shey, Spituk and the Sankar monasteries make them suitable for visitors with time at a premium.
The approach to the monasteries is lined with mane walls and Chortens. Mane walls are made of votive stones on which prayers and holy figures are inscribed, while Chortens are semi religious shrines or reliquaries, containing relics of holy people or scripts. Besides monasteries, the 9 storey Leh Palace, Stok Palace Museum and the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies Choglamsar, Mosque and Moravian Church at Leh are added attraction for the tourists. Most of these can be conveniently visited from Leh as buses ply daily between Leh and those monasteries. Most of the monasteries remain open throughout the day.


The government of India has declared following historical monuments in Ladakh as national importance under Archaeological Survey of India.
1. Sculpture at Drass
2. 2. Rock Cut Sculpture at Mulbekh.
3. 3. Lamayuru Monastery.
4. 4. Likir Monastery.
5. 5. Alchi Monastery
6. 6. Phyang Monastery.
7. 7. Hemis Monastery.
8. 8. Leh Palace.
9. 9. Old Castle Tsemo Hill.
10. 10. Stupa at T- Suru.
11. 11. Shey Palace


Leh is the capital of Ladakh and there are many temples, castles and stupas here, which were built by the ancestral Dharmaraja. Leh was the Ist of all the capital of King Takspa Bum-lde who rules over the area of Stod, which included Leh from 2400 to 1430. It was he who built the ‘Red Chapel’ containing the statue of the Buddha Maitreya, three storeys in height with the statue of Avalokitesvara & Manjusri on either side, each one storey in height. As speech-supports he had the Sungbum Chenmo and many other sacred texts written out in gold & silver. As a mind- support he built, the stupa of Ti’u-Tashis Od-phro containing 108 temples inside. This he built on top of the so-called’ Yellow- Te’u Demon’ which had been harming the valley of Leh. The ruin of the stupa can be seen to this day and is known to everyone as Tisuru. Thereafter, the temple of Namgail Tsemo was built during the lifetime of King Tashi Namgial who rules from 1500 to 1532. He founded the village of Chubi.

The Leh Palace, known as “ Lhachen Palkhar ‘ was built by Dharmaraja Singey Namgial in 1600. It has 9 storey. The historians say that its completion took three years. In the Leh valley, there is Sankar monastery to be seen which the first Skyabsje Bakula Rinpoche founded. It 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 Translator.In the centre of Leh there is the “ New monastery’ calledThe Buddhist Association of Ladakh in 1957 built it. Inside, there is a sacred image of the Buddha Shakya Muni that was brought from Tibet. Close by the Radio Station in Leh there is two large Mani walls. The one built in the Centre of the open plain known as her son Deldan Namgial in about the year 1635 built Rongo Thang as a memorial to Queen Skalzang Dolma. At its head and end there are the stupas of Enlightenment and of victory which contain relics. Tsetan Namgail in 1785 and intended as a memorial built the long Mani wall further down from this one to his father king Tsewang Namgial.
The festival of Dosmochey in Leh takes place every year in the 28th & 29th of the Tibetan 12th month. The monks of different monasteries are invited by turn to perform the ceremonies, which ensure health & prosperity. The monks of Takthok monastery come and erect a large thread-cross model (Dosmochey) after which the festival is named. Continuing on the Changspa Lane across the stream, you reach the start of the stiff climb up to the new white Japanese Shanti Stupa ( 1983). There are good views from the top. There is also a jeepable road.
The architecturally striking Leh Mosque, in the main Bazaar is worth visiting. The Sunni Muslim Mosque is believed to stand on land granted by King Deldan Namgial in the 1660s, his grand mother was the Muslim Queen of Ladakh.


15 Kms South of Leh at the West Bank of river Indus is the Royal Palace dating from the 1840s when the invading Dogra forces deposed the king of Ladakh. The Palace is a rambling building where only a dozen of the 80 rooms are used. The Palace Museum (3 rooms) is worth visiting. It is a show piece for the royal thankas (many 400 years old), crown jewels, dresses, coins, peraks encrusted with turquoise and lapis lazuli as well as religious objects. The monastery founded by Lama Lhawang Lotus in 14th century, a short distance away, has some ritual dance- mask (Guru Tseschu) held on the 9th and 10 th day of the Ist month of Tibetan calendar.


King Deldan Namgial (1620 - 1640) built Shey palace in the beginning of the 17th century AD. The main image in the monastery is the 3- storey statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, made of copper guilt, which was made by King Deldan Namgail in the memory of his father Singay Namgail. The statue is the only of its kind in the region.


It was build during the reign of King Singay Namgial, containing the two-storey statue of Buddha. (Shey Srubla) festival is also held here at Tresthang Gonpa. The rock- curved statue of five Buddhas can be seen below the Palace on the roadside.


Thiksay Gonpa, 18 Kms from Leh is the most beautiful of all monasteries in Ladakh, belongs to the Gelukpa order. The Gonpa was first build at Stakmo by Sherab Zangpo of Stod. Later the nephew of Sherab Zangpo, Spon Paldan Sherab, founded the Thiksay Gonpa on a hill top to north of Indus river in 1430 AD.There are sacred shrines and many precious objects to be seen there. Eighty monks are in residence. The successive reincarnations of the Skyabsje Khanpo Rinpoche act as incumbents of the monastery. Sacred dances are held at the time of the Gustor ritual, which is performed every year from the 17th to 19th day of the 9th month of Tibetan Calendar. Although there was a very large temple built in ancient times at Thiksay by Rinchen Zangpo, the Translator, now it is in ruins. What remains of the building and walls can be seen at the site of the temple which was called Lakhang Nyerma and which was dedicated to the goddess Dorje Chenmo.


The Stakna monastery lies at a distance of 25 Kms from Leh on the Right Bank of the River Indus. The monastery formed part of the one of the many religious estates offered to the great scholar saint of Bhutan called Chosje Jamyang Palkar in about 1580 AD by the Dharmaraja Jamyang Namgial who had invited his to Ladakh.The monastery was built on a hill shaped like a tiger’s nose and so its name was given as Stakna (Tiger’s nose). The most important image in the monastery is that of the sacred Arya Avalokitesvara from Kamrup (Assam). There are about 30 monks in residence. The successive reincarnation of the Stakna Tulku act as the incumbents the monastery and they continue to fulfil the fine responsibility of upholding the teachings of the Dugpa order. The branch monasteries attached to Stakna are those of Mud and Kharu and those of Stakrimo, Bardan and Sani in Zanskar.


47 Kms from Leh on the west bank of the Indus, 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. Sacred musk dance is performed on 9th and 10th day of the Tibetan 5th month. During the Hemis Tsechu held in the year of the Monkey it is possible to se the sacred appliqué- work tapestry wrought with pearls the depicts the precious teacher. Padmasambhava.Next display of great Thanka will be in 2004.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 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 9th 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.


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 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.


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.


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 (Gang-sngon Tsedup) are held. The successive reincarnation of Skyabje Toldan Rinpoche acts as the incumbents of the monastery.


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.


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 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 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.


Although there are a great many temples, caves and stupas built in Ladakh by Rinchen Zangpo, Translator, Alchi Choskor is the large and most famous of all of them. Alchi is situated at a distance of 67 Kms west of Leh, founded by Rinchen Zangpo, Translator, in 1000 AD. 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.


Lamayuru Monastery issituated 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 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.


Tingmosgang lies at a distance of about 92 Kms west of the Leh.This castle was built at the time when Gragpa Bum, Younger brother of Takspa Bum-Lde, the 17rth king of the Ladakhi dynasty, was ruling over Sham in accordance with religious tenets. About 50 years have elapsed since its construction. Contemporary to this was the Red Chapel “ Tsuglagkhang Marpo “ containing an image of the Buddha Maitreya to the height of 3 storeys. In particular it was at those times that the self-originated image of Avalokitesvara from Kamrup was brought & installed inside the castle of Tingmosgang. The image is considered to be a most excellent object of pilgrimage which leads to the accumulation of great merit and to which prostration and oblations have been offered by the successive Dharmaraja of Ladakh and by the whole populations of Ladakh.


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 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


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 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.      
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