Hemis Gompa The Hemis Gompa is the biggest
monastery in Ladakh. Located 45 Km to the south of Leh. Hemis Gompa was
built in 1630 and houses monks of the Brokpa or Red Hat sect. Tourists
can see beautiful frescoes (paintings) on the walls and the largest Thangka
painting in Ladakh, which is over 12 m in length. The Hemis Gompa is famous
for its annual Tse Chu Festival held in June-July, which is characterized
by colorful masked dances. The festival commemorates the anniversary of
Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. Dancers wearing brightly
colored masks that represent good and evil characters in Mahayana Buddhism,
enact an age-old tale of the victory of good over evil. The Hemis Festival
also includes a vibrant bazaar where craftsmen sell handcrafted items.
Shanti Stupa (Entry Free.
Timings: 5 a.m.-9 p.m.)
The Shanti Stupa is an impressive
white-domed structure in Chandspa that is beautifully illuminated at night.
It was built by a Japanese Buddhist organization to commemorate 2500 years
of Buddhism and to promote World Peace. The Shanti Stupa was inaugurated
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1985. You can approach the monastery
by a steep flight of steps or by a 3 Km route from the Fort Road. The views
of the sunset and sunrise from the Shanti Stupa are spectacular.
Sankar Gompa (Prayer Timings
7 - 8:30 a.m)
Situated 2 Km North of the
city center, the Sankar Gompa houses monks of the Gelukpa or Yellow Hat
order. It has a grand image of Avalokiteshvara (The Buddhist deity of compassion)
who is depicted with 1,000 heads and 1,000 arms.
Namgyal Tsemo Gompa
(Prayer Timings 7 - 9 a.m)
The Namgyal Tsemo Gompa,
was constructed in 1430. This historic gompa has a rich collection of Buddhist
art and manuscripts and an image of Buddha, which is 3 stories high. There
is a ruined fort ahead of the monastery, from where you can see panoramic
views of Leh Town.
Leh Palace (Entry
Fee: Indian Rs 5, Foreigners Rs 100 / Timings: sunrise to sunset)
The Leh Palace is a smaller
version of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. Built in the
17th century for King Singge Namgyal, the Leh Palace was the residence
of the Ladakhi royal family till they were sent into exile in Stok in the
1830s. Now undergoing reconstruction the Leh Palace also houses the Ladakh
office of the archeological conservation organization of the Indian Government.
Stok Palace (Entry
Fee: Rs 25, Timings 8 a.m. - 7p.m.)
The Stok Palace is located
on a glacial deposit of pebbles and overlooks fields of barley grown on
terraces on the mountains. Standing four storeys tall, the Stok Palace
was the official residence of the royal family of Ladakh and was constructed
in 1814 by Ladakh's last ruler. The museum at the Stok Palace has an intriguing
collection of Buddhist art, weapons, jewelry and artifacts, including thangkas
painted with colors derived from crushed precious stones. Also on display
are the ceremonial headdresses or 'peraks' of the erstwhile rulers of Ladakh.
These headdresses are decorated with turquoise, lapis lazuli and coral
and gold, making them an exotic sight.
Lamayuru Monastery The Lamayuru monastery is
located on a high rocky outcrop, which overlooks a valley and the village
of Lamayuru, 125 Km west of Leh. It is also called the Yung Drung or Swastika
monastery and its stunning location makes this monastery a must visit on
a tour to Ladakh. The monastery has a many Thangka paintings in its main
hall. The annual festival of Lamayuru Monastery is held every summer on
the 28th and 29th days, of the 2nd month of the Tibetan Buddhist calendar.
Shey Monastery Situated on a hillock 15
km south of Leh, Shey Gompa was previously the summer palace of the Ladakhi
kings. A prince of Ladakh installed the 12 m tall gold-plated copper statue
of Sakyamuni Buddha, which can be seen here. The Shey Gompa celebrates
its annual festival on the 30th day of the 1st month of the Tibetan Buddhist
Alchi Gompa The Alchi Gompa is situated
on the bank of the River Indus and is easily accessible since it is the
only Gompa in Ladakh, which is located on flat ground. Founded by Ringchen
Zangpo, the Great Translator, the Alchi Gompa displays a Kashmiri influence
in its art and architecture. Within the monastery you can see many beautiful
images of Buddha. Photography is not permitted within the Alchi Monastery.
Likir Monastery The Likir Monastery is also
called the Klu-Kkhjil or "water spirits" gompa and is situated 52 Km from
Leh. Built over an earlier Gompa burnt down in the 15th century, the present
Gompa is an 18th century construction and houses monks of the Gyalukpa
sect. The Likir monastery has a rich collection of paintings, robes and
artifacts. The Likir Festival is held from the 17th to 19th of the 12th
month of the Tibetan Buddhist calendar.
Spituk Monastery The Spituk Gompa is perched
on a high hill overlooking the Indus river about 18 Km from Leh. Rinchen
Zangpo the Great Translator who helped spread Buddhism in Ladakh named
the monastery. (Spituk means exemplary). The Spituk monastery is known
for its collection of Buddhist artifacts and for the Spituk festival held
from the 17th to 19th days of the 11th month of the Buddhist calendar.
Further up the hill is a Mahakal Temple, where a fearsome image of Vajrabhairava
is unveiled once a year at its annual festival.
Thiksey Monastery The Thiksey monastery located
17 Km from Leh is 12 storeys high and has many statues of Buddha, a pillar
inscribed with Buddhist teachings, a 15 m high seated Maitreya Buddha in
the main prayer hall, and a vast collection of Buddhist art. Home to monks
of the Gelukpa order the Thiksey monastery is known for its annual festival
held from the 17th to 19th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan Buddhist
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