Almost 2500 years back, a Prince from a small kingdom realized the true meaning of life and started the journey towards peace for mankind. Born as a prince, Siddhartha Gautama abandoned home in search of the meaning of existence. After attaining Enlightenment at Bodhgaya,, he shared the 4 Noble Truth of life. Buddha means "awakened one" or "enlightened one”. Buddha hood is nothing but the supreme state of mind to get ultimate peace and unshakable happiness irrespective of our earthly desires and problems. According to him one Buddha is hidden within every common mortal. Its our effort and “karma” which can surface it. Buddha continued to teach his philosophy throughout his life to his disciples. Initially Buddhism was a small sect. Great king Ashoka played a key role to spread Buddhism not only within India but also to Srilanka and Southeast Asia. Slowly Buddhism began to spread southwards from its place of origin in northern India to Burma, Thailand, Indo-China and other South East Asian countries. It also moved northwards into the Himalayan kingdoms like Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, China, Korea, Japan and other parts of Central Asia. But India remains the heart of Buddhism .
In last thousand of years Buddhism flourished in the remotest part of India.. Monasteries immerged around fourth century BC as the work place of Buddhist community “ These monasteries are known as Gompa or Vihara in Buddhism. Thousand of manuscript, Thangkas, Murals and rock sculptures treasured the Monasteries of Himalaya and other part of India. Simple life of Lamas, colorful rituals & dances, art & craft of century old monasteries with picturesque backdrop will pull you to make a spiritual journey through this Buddha land.
Ladakh is the land of age old monasteries situated amidst some of the magical and enchanting landscape of the world. Buddhism was introduced in 2nd century and it entered through Kashmir. Later it spread all along Ladakh. Initially Ladakh accepted Tibetan guidance for religious matter for protecting themselves from Muslim invaders then slowly converted itself as a religious stronghold for Buddhism practitioners. Presently people and monasteries of Ladakh practice Tibetan Buddhism and make it a must visit destination for followers of Lord Buddha.
Founded in the year 1630, Hemis is one of the biggest and wealthiest monasteries of Ladakh. Belonging to the Dugpa Order, situated 47 km away from Leh on the western bank of river Indus .There are numerous gold and silver stupa, invaluable manuscripts and above all a copper-gilt statue of the Lord Buddha in the monastery. Hemis monastery is the venue of famous annual Hemis Festival. This festival is celebrated as a commemoration of the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. One of the most attractive event of Hemis is the Musk Dance .
This 550 years old monastery is counted as one of the most beautiful monasteries of Ladakh. located at a distance of 18 Km of Leh ,on the north bank of river Indus. Thiksey belongs to the Gelukpa Order of Buddhism. It houses a temple called Lakhang Nyerma, dedicated to goddess Dorje Chenmo. The huge temple of its time, stands mostly in ruins today. Thiksey monastery has a reach collection of valuable artifacts and ancient relics.
Built in 11th century Spituk monastery is located at a distance of 8 km from Leh ,belongs to Gelukpa Order of Buddhism. The name “Spituk” means “exemplary” derived from the translator Rinchen Zangpo, who said, an exemplary religious community would vbe developed in the monastery.. The monastery has a rich collection of rare thankas, ancient masks and antique arms. Spituk monastery host the yearly Gustor festival,which takes place from 27th to 29th day in the eleventh month of the Tibetan calendar. A sacred dance being performed as a part of the celebration.
This 14th century monastery is a subsidiary of the Spituk Monastery and located at a distance of 15 Km from Leh. This monastery belongs to the yellow-hat sect of Buddhism. There are precious paintings in the monastery. Biggest attraction of Stok Monastery is its library with a complete set of the Kandshur, the 108 volumes of the Buddha’s teaching and other ancient manuscripts. Sankar and Saboo monastery is also considered to be the branches of Spituk Gompa..
Shey Palace and Monastery (Gompa) is located 15 km from Leh, overlooking Thiksey monastery in the South and Zanskar range in the west. This palace is made by Deldam Namgyal, the Ladakhi king as his summer capital. Later in the year 1655 the same king built the two storey monastery adjacent to the palace in memory of his father. Main attraction of this monastery is 12 meter high Buddha statue built by Copper sheet and gilded with gold. The upper storey of the monastery contains numerous murals on the walls. When facing the Buddha, the left wall is painted black and decorated with skulls. The walls on both side is painted with images of 16 Arhats (Worthy Ones who have achieved Nirvana). In front of the Buddha there is a large bowl of wax with a central flame that burns for one year before being replaced. The monastery also has a library with old and rare book collection.
This 16th century monastery of Drugpa Sect is located 25 km away from Leh on the right bank of Indus river. The name, literally meaning 'tiger's nose' , reason being it was built on a hill, shaped like a tiger's nose.. Inside the main Assembly Hall there is a silver gilded chorten with a statue of Buddha and numerous Buddhist text.
This unique monastery is located 46 km from Leh, and the only monastery in Ladakh which follows the Nying-ma-pa sect of Buddhism, also known as the Old Order. Takthok literally means ‘Rock-Roof’, as both its roof and wall is made out of rock . it is believed that Padmasambhava lived and meditated in this monastery for three years. Every year a festival held at Takthok monastery on the 9th and 10th day of the sixth month of the Tibetan Calendar Takthok is famous for its invaluable Murals and 108 volumes of Buddha’s teaching.
The word ‘Likir’ means “The Naga-Encircled”. It is believed that the monastery is surrounded by two serpent spirits, the Naga-rajas, Nanda and Taksako. The Likir monastery founded around the year 1605 by Lama Duwang Chosje , and belongs to the Yellow Hat Sect and located 62 km west of Leh. It is the residence of approximately 120 Buddhist monks. The ritual of the three basic Pratimoksa disciplines, the basic Buddhist teachings are observed at the Likir Monastery, even in the present times. The Likir monastery has been served by the succeeding reincarnations of Naris Rinpoche,.The monastery houses a protective deity wearing golden armour. The annual event of the monastery is called Dosmochey, the assembly of votive offerings which takes place from 27th day to 29th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar. During Dosmochey, sacred dances are also performed at the monastery.
Alchi monastery is located near the small village of Saspal approximately 67 km west of Leh. It is one of the oldest monasteries built in Ladakh during 1000 AD , built by the Translator, Rinchen Zangpo. Main feature of Alchi monastery is – it was built on lowland, rather that on hill top unlike other monastery of. There are a number of images inside the monastery. However, the main one is that of Vairocana. The other images include the ones of the five Buddha Families, along with their attendant deities.
Lamayuru Monastery is located 127 km west of Leh ,on Srinagar-Leh Highway. This monastery belongs to the Red-Hat Sect and houses approximately 150 Buddhist monks. During 16th century a lama from Tibet help to cure Ladakh's King Jamyang Namgyal from leprosy. In gratitude, the King gave Lamayuru monastery (gompa) to this lama with other privileges like no taxes will be collected.. The monastery comprises of a number of shrines and has a very rich collection of thankas and magnificent wall paintings. Every year the Lamayuru monastery hosts a masked dance, which takes place on the 17th and 18th day of the 5th month of Tibetan calendar. The monks from the monasteries of the nearby areas also come to take part in the celebrations.
Diskit & Hundar Monastery:
Both Diskit and Hundar monastery is located in Nubra Valley in the north of Leh and accessible by crossing Khardung la (5600 m) the highest motorable pass in the world. Nubra Valley was on the ancient caravan route from Leh to Kashgar via the Sasir and Karakoram passes which is also called Silk Route. All the monasteries in this region are located amidst spectacular landscapes with the snow capped Karakoram mountains in the backdrop.
More than 750 years old Diskit monastery belonging to the Gelugpa (yellow hat) sect and houses 120 resident monks.. The monastery is located on the highest point near the village amidst innumerable chortens. Both the monasteries are famous for its murals. One can also visit the 150 years old Samsthanling monastery at Sumur. It is a big complex of 7 temples including the Rimpoche's room.