My traveller guide to Monasteries of Ladakh

In this particular post on a traveller guide to Monasteries of Ladakh as with the previous post, we will once again journey to have a look at the Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh. These monasteries are considered to be one of the top Ladakh pictures . If you interested in short visual stories , click on travelstorybysumit

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They also figure in the list of places to visit in Ladakh. Thus they form a part of the cultural heritage. As discussed in the previous post, we will also reiterate the best time to visit Ladakh to see these monasteries and also look at some top Ladakh pictures to frame.

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Tibetan culture as i understand

I feel it is essential to get a grip on the relationship of Tibetan culture with Buddhism. From various articles and the discourses, I have now understood that monasteries were in the olden time’s, centres for archiving literate culture. Students from all over Asia would come to study here. They were also centres of study of painting. Sculpture, music, dance chants and rituals Recognised as undisputed vaults of treasures of Tibetan art and literature.

Times however changed and the Tibetan culture, as well as state, underwent cataclysmic upheaval in the preceding years. Now the monasteries stand silent, yet the essence of them is still visible fo those who can understand the subtlety of them.There is another interesting location in India where Buddhism thrives , do read here about Mundgod.

Traveller Guide to Monasteries of Ladakh

What is the best way to explore Ladakh

Best way to explore Ladakh. It is to be remembered that to reach most of the top attractions in Ladakh, one would need some form of transportation. The best way to explore Ladakh, see the local sights is to rent a taxi. I generally drive my own vehicle when I visit Ladakh owing to my familiarity with the region.

The drive to reach the region is a journey in itself, and one can click some memorable Ladakh pictures as well. Read here my account of my road trip to Ladakh. So without further ado let me begin with the series on famous monasteries of Ladakh.

Monasteries of Ladakh

Thiksey Buddhist Monastery, Ladakh

Then there is Thikse , Wonderful Thikse ,with its Gompa
perhaps the most picturesque and beautiful in Ladakh region
whose hundred buildings descend in steps  from the top of a 
great ridge of rock right down into the valley plain below
which bristles with a forest of Chortens 
                                        - Giotto Dianelli (1933)


Located 19 km from Leh town, situated atop a hillock with the Indus Valley spread out in the background with the Stok range acting as a natural barrier stands the Thiksey Gompa. Founded in 1433 AD this monastery of Ladakh conforms to the Gelugpa School of Buddhism.

There is an interesting observation wherein all the monasteries of the Gelugpa sect are placed on the right side of the Indus river as ordained by the founding monk Tsongkhapa.

The Monastery had adapted to the changing ways of the world. It was the first in Ladakh region to integrate the modern changes in agriculture with the introduction of tractors, threshers for grain harvesting, mills for corn and many more. Today the Monastery has grown in size, stature and is self-sufficient in almost all aspects. It also has one of the largest nunneries in Ladakh.

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Account of constructional features of Thiksey Monastery  

The entire monastery complex, when looked from the North, is seen to be massive with rectilinear structures running down the slope of the hill. The windows which strike one’s vision are small and painted black in the otherwise white background of the wall structure. Thiksey is a classic example of a postcard model of Ladakh picture.

The primary building material uses in stone while the roof os compacted clay and mud. This monastery of Ladakh, Thiksey is listed under the ASI as a structure of national importance.

What can the visitor see in the Thiksey Monastery?

The Thiksey Monastery has an enormous statue of 40 feet Chamba Maitreya Buddha, seated in a lotus pose wearing an intricately decorated crown. This is a must-visit indeed. This image has been the face of Ladakh tourism for years now. It is a two-storied structure in fact.  The walls of the gallery leading to the prayer hall are covered with beautiful murals including one of Kalachakra ( the circle of life )

The other exciting site to visit is the Tara Temple, which contains a gallery of 21 forms of the Goddess Tara preserved in glass cased shelves. The wooden panels are also painted with murals that cover the entire wall from floor to ceiling.

The elusive point of interest in the whole of the Monastery is the Lamokhang temple located on the topmost floor. This is a restricted entry, and not everyone gets a chance to see it. The temple contains rare collections of ancient Tibetan scriptures. It is the protector deity and the eyes are covered with a veil at all times and opened only by the senior monks. The entire complex is interspersed with murals, thangkas, paintings and sculptures and is a sight to see indeed.

monasteries of Ladakh
Thiksey Monastery – Ladakh Pictures

One needs to spend at least a day here if they are interested in understanding the various chortens, prayer rooms, the significance of the various deities and to visit the entire massive complex in addition to clicking some iconic Ladakh pictures.

Celebrations at Thiksey

There are two main events which happen as per the Tibetan calendar, which is of significance. The first is the Thiksey Gustor traditional ceremony related to the Gelugpa sect. It is marked by traditional mask dances and rituals.

The second is the sand Mandalas which are made every year. This I think, is a unique feature of Thiksey Monastery and the is done using millions of grains of coloured sand. The Mandalas are aids to meditation said to form a link between the monk meditating and the deity who is being worshipped.

Ladakh Pictures – Maitreya Buddha

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Likir Buddhist Monastery, Ladakh

52 km out of the Leh town towards the West is situated Likir Gompa. The Gompa was established in 11th-century and after that reconstructed in the 18th century. The literary meaning of  Likir is  “Naga-Encircled “ thus denoting prayers to the great Serpent spirits. This is one of the less visited monasteries of Ladakh.

The monastery is situated in the Indus River Valley, and one reaches here using winding roads of National Highway 1D. As one rounds the sideroad bend, the massive gilded statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha is visible like a beacon from a distance. This is a definitive site for memorable Ladakh pictures.

Likir village is a stark contrast to the surroundings. It reflects the hard work of the villagers as they have transformed the village and its surrounding areas into a bright green carpet of terraced fields amidst a valley of brown boulders in a series of rugged mountains. Do plan to click a long range zoom image of Likir Village as a part of the portfolio of Ladakh pictures.

What can the visitor see in Likir Monastery

The primary attractions are the 75-foot high image of Sakyamuni, which overlooks Likir village as well as the Monastery. Also, one can visit the central prayer hall, which is richly furnished with intricate murals and thangkas. The central prayer hall are two, known as Dukangs. One is the older and more richly furnished while the other one is a recent addition.

 In fact, Likir is famous for a giant Juniper tree in the central courtyard, one of the last survivors of this species in the region. One will come face to face with the statues of Bodhisattva, Amitabha Buddha as well Tsong-Kha-Pa ( founder of the Yellow hat sect ). In the list of monasteries of Ladakh, Likir has its special place revered by the denizens of this region.

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Tangtse Buddhist Monastery, Ladakh

Tangtse is one of the largest village of Changthang region. Located in the North East of Ladakh. One could in the earlier times travel to Tibet via Rudok. The vast majority of tourists zipping to Pangong Tso drive straight past this beautiful remote Monastery located in the hills near to the Tangtse village.

The Tangtse Monastery belonging to the Drikung Kagyu sect. Built into a rock-cleft beneath a crumbling fortress ruin, the beautiful Monastery receives hardly any visitors. I am not sure when was the Gompa established. I would definitely recommend it for a short visit and also site for amazing Ladakh pictures.

  • ladakh pictures
    TangTse monastery
  • ladakh pictures
    TangTse Monastery

Near to the Monastery lies the Rock site of Tangtse. This rock site is one of the most essential site with a significant number of inscriptions and gives information about the role of Ladakh at the end of the 1st millennium AD.

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So that is it for this post. I hope this write up was insightful to plan your next list of monasteries of Ladakh and also locales for great Ladakh pictures for the next time you visit Ladakh. Read about my experience of Ladakh. Do reach out to me for exact details if needed, would be glad to help out. Do check out the following video to get an exciting glimpse of Ladakh

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14 Replies to “My traveller guide to Monasteries of Ladakh”

  1. This is such an amazing read. Not missing out on the details. Highly informative. The photographs are as beautiful and serene as Shakyamuni.
    You will go a long way, photographer.

  2. It’s my first time to hear about this place. You should post more about unique places like this. They deserve to be shown in the world! Everything here is just so amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  3. This is a brilliantly detailed post about a place I had never heard of. Ladakh seems like an incredible place, and I hope to be lucky enough to see some of the monasteries in the future.

  4. Very well written post, very detailed and informative. Ladakh has been on my wish list since a very longtime. thanks for sharing.

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