Monasteries are an essential element woven in the fabric of life of the Buddhist Ladakhis. In their trademark white walls with maroon roofs, you will see several of these dotted across the rugged landscape of Ladakh. They seem precariously perched on jagged cliffs, but once you access them, they seem very safe and secure. Thangkas adorn the walls of many with a good measure of statutes, scriptures and other religious items too. Some of them provide spectacular views of the surroundings like snow-capped mountains, valleys, and plains. After you have admired them do find a quiet corner where you can contemplate and meditate for some time. The aura and inner peace that they exude cannot be described in words but needs to be experienced.
Here are some of the monasteries of Ladakh that we managed to get a glimpse of. We went in and explored some, while others we saw en route to the numerous road trips we did.
It is the largest monastery in Ladakh located on a hill. You will love the colourful Tibetan Buddhist wall paintings, the giant prayer wheel and the view of the surroundings. The piece de resistance is the 15 metres tall statue of Maitreya Buddha with an elaborate, colourful crown, prominent eyes, elongated earlobes with earrings.
Located 15 km from Leh, it was built by Ladakh’s first king and was the royal residence for centuries. It has Ladakh’s second largest statue- a 12m high copper statue of Shakyamuni Buddha studded with precious gems. You will see the rock carvings of the 5 Dhyani Buddhas and a large prayer wheel here.
This one of the most popular monasteries in Ladakh which is known for the famous Hemis festival that is held once a year. The highlight of the festival is the elaborate Cham or mask dance where the dancers wear masks of gods, goddess and demons, carry props dexterously, dance and enthral the onlookers. You will love the colourful Tibetan Buddhist paintings or thangkas that adorn the walls. A colourful statue with exaggerated eyes, a series of prayers wheels waiting to be spun can be seen.
Located 11 km from Leh in Spituk village you can see this monastery from the courtyard of the ‘Hall of Fame’ war memorial. It is known for Mahakaal’s (Lord of Death) image hidden behind a veil only to be revealed during the annual festival.
This monastery is 1000 years old! The Manjushri temple with a wooden framework has brightly coloured paintings and idols. Something about this temple was so alluring and enigmatic that I didn’t feel like leaving.
The Diskit Monastery founded in the 14th century is one of Ladakh’s oldest monasteries. Close by is a giant brightly-hued statue of Maitreya Buddha on a high podium. You can see it on your way to Nubra Valley.
Located in Likir Village in the Indus Valley the highlight here is the 75 feet tall statue of Maitreya Buddha gilded in gold. The view of the surrounding valley and hills is nothing short of spectacular.
This monastery in Sakti village is at a distance of 40 km from Leh. We passed it on our way to Pangong Lake. Imagine a monastery on a hill with a range of mountains behind it in monochromes of brown.
Nampgyal Tsemo Monastery
It is situated next to the fort on a crag-top, and a zig-zag path leads you to it. We could see it from the Shanti Stupa and were told it provides some panoramic views of the surroundings.
This is a sprawling monastery on ‘Moonland’, and the views of the moonscape from here are jaw-dropping. The monastery walls are covered with brightly coloured paintings of Buddha, deities, demons, stories and lots more.
Here was our list of Monasteries of Ladakh. Which one would you like to visit the most?