The Spituk Gonpa "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 Gonpa 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 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.
Tsemo in Leh:
King Gragspa Bum-Lde built the "Red Gonpa" known as Tsemo Gonpa in 1430 AD. The monument has three-storied Maitriya Buddha's statue
Shanti Stupa in Leh, Ladakh
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):
It 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 penetration 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.
The Sankar Gonpa is a couple of kilometers away from Leh town. It belongs to the Gelukspa school of Tibetan Buddhism. This small Gonpa is a branch of the Spituk Monastery, founded by the first incarnation of Skyabje Bakula (head monk of Spituk).
Gonpa Soma (Jokhang), Leh:
The Ladakh Buddhist Association in 1957 built the small Gonpa opposite to SBI, in the main bazaar, which is open throughout the day for visitors. The Gonpa contains a statue of Joyo Rinpochey (crowned Buddha).
Stok Gonpa and Palace:
Stok, 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 start 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 Gonpa, 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.
Shey Gonpa and Palace:
Shey, around 15kms south of Leh was the seat of power of the first king of Ladakh, Lhachen Spalgigon, who constructed the hill top fortress. The ruins can be seen further above the present Shey Palace. There are hundreds of Chortens (stupas) and Dresthang Gonpa built around the palace, which are under the Thiksey
Shey Palace in Ladakh, India
Monastery. King Deldan Namgyal built Shey Palace in the beginning of the 17th century AD. The main image in the monastery is the three-storey statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, made of copper guilt, which was made by Deldan Namgyal in the memory of his father Singay Namgyal. The statue is the only of its kind in the region. Dresthang Gonpa near the palace was built during the reign of King Singay Namgyal, with a three-storey statue of Buddha. "Shey Srubla" festival is also held here at Dresthung Gonpa. The Rock-carved statue of five Buddha can be seen below the palace on the roadside, which was probably carved during the reign of Singay Namgyal.
Thiskey Gonpa, 17kms. South of Leh the most beautiful of all the Monasteries in Ladakh belongs to the Gelukspa order. The Gonpa was first
Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh, India
built at Stakmo by Sherab Zangpo. Later the nephew of Sherab Zangpo, Paldan Sherab, founded the Thiskey Gonpa 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.
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.
Matho Gonpa, around 26km. south east of Leh is the only Gonpa, which belongs to the Saskya order and Lama Tungpa.
Gompa is on the hill top near Indus, around 18 Kms from Leh. Which was founded in 11th century by Od-De the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub-od, the Gompa named Spituk (exemplary) when Rinchen Zangpo translator came to that place and said that exemplary religious community would rise. Initially it belonged to the Kadampa school then during the life time of king Gragspa Bumide made it Gayluk Pa order. The Spituk festival held every year from 17th to 19th days of the 11th month.
Phyang is 17 Kms west of Leh on the blue hill, belongs to Dingung order, founded in 15th century by Chosje Danma Kunja Dragpa in the time of King Jamjang Namgyal. Phyang monastery is also called Tashi Chosang, which mark the first established of the Dingung to teachings in Ladakh. The festivals of Gang-Sgnon Tsedub are held every year from 17th to 19th of the 1st month.
Located around 52 Kms from Leh, know as Klu-Kkhjil (water spirits) founded in the 14th century by Lama Dhwang Chosje a great champion of meditation. The site of the monastery was encircled by the bodies of two great spent spirits. Therefore, name became widely renowned as Lekir. In the 15th century the disciple of Khasdubje know a lhawang Lodos Sangphu caused the monastery to flourish. This monastery also belongs to Gaylukpa School. Every year from the 17th to 19th of the 12th month the Lekir festival is held.
Alchi Choskor is the only monastery in the Ladakh on flat ground, around 69 Kms west of Leh. Largest and most famous of all of the temples and built by the great translator Ringchem Zangpo. The temple was founded in 11th century which accounts for the Indian and particularly Kashmiri influences.
Alchi monastery in Ladakh, India
Rizong is also known as Yuma Changchubling about 73 Kms from Leh and around 6 Kms from main road, founded about 138 years ago by the great Lama Tsultim Nima. Gompa belong to Gelukpa order. Dress and food provisions are provided for all member of the community by the Governing body of the monastery. The monastery is sited in a most solitary position and there is a nunnery place called chulichan down the monastery. The work of spinning wool, milking, and extracting oil for the temple lamps has to be performed by all the nuns.
The oldest and spectacularly set Lamayuru monastery is about 125 kms. West of Leh, founded in the 10th century in 11th century the Mahasiddha Naropa came to this place. Then Rinchen Zangpo translator came and built many temples and stupas and then teaching of the Kadampa School came to flourish. Later Jamyang Namgyal offered it to Chosje Danma and Digung Kargyut School were introduced and named Yungdrung Therpalling. The Yundrung Kabgyad festival is held on the 28th and 29th days of the 2nd Tibetan month.
The Karsha Monastery of Ladakh is situated in the Karsha village of the Zanskar region. The full name of Karsha, the largest monastery of Zanskar, is Karsha Chamspaling. Phagspa Shesrab, the translator of Zanskar first founded this monastery. The monastery, as it stands today, was the result of the efforts of the Teacher, Dorje Shesrab. It was under him only that the monastery flourished and prospered. Shesrab Zangpo of Stod was the one to introduce the Gelukpa Order in the Karsha Gompa of Leh Ladakh.
The monastery consists of a number of shrines and boasts of some of the most exquisite wall paintings, by the Lama Dzadpa Dorje. The collection of Karsha Gompa also includes the bone relics of Dorje Rinchen. It serves as the residence of approximately 100 monks. The Gustor Festival is celebrated at Karsha every year, on the 28th and 29th day of the sixth month of the Tibetan calendar. The celebrations also include the
performance of the sacred dance.
Temples built by Rinchen Zangpo, the translator, known as the Thugsjechhenpoi Lhakhang and the Lhakhang Karpo, are situated near the Karsha Monastery. Also close by are the monasteries of Khagsar, Purang and Phagspa and a nunnery called Dorjezong, situated at the top of the valley.
Karsha monastery in Ladakh, India
A cave monastery of Zanskar, Zongkul stands perched on the rock face of the Ating George. There is an interesting legend associated with the Zongkul Monastery of Ladakh. It is said to be connected with Naropa, the famous Indian Yogi from Vikramshila. Infact, it is believed that he even used the two caves of the monastery for the purpose of his solitary meditation. Even today, one can see Naropa's footprint embedded in the rock and his sacred spring, located inside the meditation cave.
After Naropa meditated here, the monastery became the sacred place of meditation for all the mahasiddhas of Zanskar. Enlightened people like Dubchen Kunga Gyatso, Dubchen Nawang Tsering, Dzadpa Dorje, Karmapa, Kunga Choslag, etc have used Zongkul for meditation purposes. The Zongkhul Gompa of Leh Ladakh consists of a number of blessed shrines.
It also boasts of a rich compilation of precious artifacts, like ivory image of Samvara, a crystal stupa, texts containing the spiritual songs and biographies composed by the successive mahasiddha, etc. Not to be missed are the splendid murals, made by Zhadpa Dorje almost 300 years ago.
Sani Monastery of Ladakh belongs to the southern branch of the Drukpa Kagyupa School. It is situated on the road to Kargil, at a distance of approximately 6 km to the west of Padum. The entire Sani Monastery of Ladakh has been built in parts, each dating back to a different century. The chorten inside the oldest part of Sani Monastery is believed to be erected in the 2nd century AD. On the other hand, the Dukhang (assembly hall) of the monastery is said to be constructed in the early 17th century.
The monastery is built in the form of a castle and has the Kanika Stupa in the backyard of its walled complex. Because of the existence of this stupa, it is believed that the monastery was associated with Kanishka, Kushan ruler of 2nd century AD. The central praying hall is situated in the main building of the monastery and stands ornamented with a rich collection of the statues of popular Buddhist divinities and Kargud-pa high lamas. Even the walls of the praying hall are adorned with frescoes and thangkas.
As you exit the main building from the backside, you will come across a small, neglected chapel. Although not in a very good condition, still the chapel stands adorned with some of the most beautiful stucco murals depicting landscapes and floral designs, based on the life of Guru Padmasambhava. Outside the complex of the monastery is one of the eight most important cremation grounds of Tibetan Buddhists. The cemetery stands encircled by a ring of ancient rock-carvings, which reveal a touch of the Indian art.
The Sani Gompa of Leh Ladakh is also alleged to be connected with the famous Indian Yogi Naropa. It is believed that the Yogi meditated under the Kanika Stupa, situated in the backyard of the monastery. The same spot, where the Yogi sat in meditation, now houses a small room with a veiled bronze statue of the Yogi. Every year the statue is unveiled in late July, i.e. on the eve of the Naro-Nasjal Festival. In this festival, the lamas from Bardan Monastery perform masked dances as ritual offering.
One of the most isolated monasteries of the region, the Phugtal Gompa of Ladakh dates back to the early 12th century. Situated in the Zanskar region, the Phugtal Monastery stands at the opening of a huge cave. The cave is located on the front of a huge gorge, which also serves as a passageway for a major tributary of the southern Lungnak River (Lingti-Tsarap). To reach the Pugthal Monastery of Leh Ladakh, one can also go through the Padum-Manali trekking route.
A number of chapels are situated inside the premises of the Phugthal Gompa. And one of these chapels even reflects a strong Indian touch. The frescoes as well as the ceiling decorations, adorning the chapel, bear the marks of artistic and iconographic influence of India. Also, the monastery serves as the residence for approximately 40 monks.