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Shanti Stupa
Shanti Stupa of Ladakh is located on the hilltop at Changspa. It can be reached quite easily from the Fort Road. The Stupa was constructed by a Japanese Buddhist organization, known as 'The Japanese for World Peace'. The aim behind the construction of the stupa was to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism and to promote World Peace. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama inaugurated the Shanti Stupa in the year 1985.
 
A magnificent white-domed structure, the Shanti Stupa of Leh Ladakh offers spectacular views of the sunrise and sunset. The stupa looks best at night, when it is beautifully illuminated with glittering lights. A large number of tourists come to Ladakh every year to visit this amazing stupa.
 
Sankar Gompa
Sankar Gompa of Ladakh is located at a distance of approximately 3 km from the town of Leh. A subsidiary of the Spituk Gompa, it belongs to the Gelukpa or the Yellow Hat Sect. The monastery also serves as the official residence of the Ladakh's head of Gelukpa Sect, known as The Kushok Bakul. There are time restrictions for visiting the Sankar Monastery of Leh Ladakh. You can also go either between 7:00 am and 10:00 am, or between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm. These restrictions have been placed because a few of the monks, of the yellow-hat sect, attached to the monastery reside here permanently.
 
To the right of the front yard of the monastery is the Dukhang (assembly hall). Both the sides of its entrance are adorned with the paintings of the Guardian of the Four Directions. On the left wall of the entrance verandah is a "Wheel of Life", held by Yama. As you enter the Dukhang, you will come across some relatively new paintings of various Buddhas, along with guardian deities. There is also a throne inside the Dukhang, reserved for the head lama of the monastery. On the right-hand side of the throne is an image of Avalokitesvara (Lord of All He Surveys), with 1000 arms and 11 heads.
 
The central image inside the Sankar Monastery is that Tsong-kha-pa, founder of the yellow-hat sect of Buddhism, along with his two chief disciples. To the left of this image is another image of Avalokitesvara, again with 1,000 arms and 11 heads. And to its right is a case full of Tibetan bronzes. There are a number of other images also, like those of Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha), The Present Buddha, Maitreya (the Future Buddha), White Guardian and Amchi (the Buddha of Medicine).
 
Diagonally opposite to the door, leading to the small inner courtyard of the monastery, is Dukar Lokhang, a temple devoted to the deity Dukar. The main image inside Dukar Lokhang is that of Dukar, inset with turquoise and shown with 1,000 arms, 1,000 feet, 1,000heads, and 100,000 eyes. To the right of the image is a statue of Maitreya (the Buddha of the Future). Sankar Gompa also has the possession of Kandshur, the 108 volumes of Buddha's teachings.
 
Shey
Shey Gompa of Ladakh is situated on a hillock, at a distance of approximately 15 km to the south of Leh town. The monastery was erected on the instructions of King Deldon Namgyal, in the memory of his late father, Singay Namgyal. The main image inside the Shey Monastery is that of Buddha Shalyamuni. It is a huge image of the seated Buddha and is considered to be the biggest metal statue and the second largest Buddha statue in the Ladakh region. Copper sheets, gilded with gold, make up this amazing Buddha statue.
 
The image also contains sacrificial offerings such as grain, jewels, holy signs and mantras inside it. On both the sidewalls of the Buddha statue, are displayed the 16 Arhats (Worthy Ones who have achieved Nirvana), eight being on each side. The back wall of the statue is painted with the images of the two chief disciples of Buddha, namely Sariputra and Maudgalyayana. There is hardly any wall around the Buddha statue that is not painted with any image.

A large bowl of wax with a central flame, symbolizing divinity and purity, is placed in front of the Buddha statue. This flame burns continuously for one year, before getting replaced. Some exquisite murals adorn the second story of the Shey Monastery of Leh Ladakh. While, the lower story comprises of a large library and is decorated with murals depicting Buddha, with various types of hand gestures. An annual festival is also held at Shey Gompa, on the 30th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar.
 
Thiksey
Thiksey Gompa of Ladakh is situated at a distance of approximately 18 km from the town of Leh. One of the most beautiful monasteries of Ladakh, it belongs to the Gelukpa Order of Buddhism. Sherab Zangpo of Stod got the Thiksey Monastery built for the first time, at Stakmo. However, later Spon Paldan Sherab, the nephew of Sherab Zangpo, reconstructed the monastery in the year 1430 AD. The new monastery was sited on a hilltop, to the north of Indus River.

Thiksey Monastery of Leh Ladakh houses a temple, known as Lakhang Nyerma. This temple, built by Rinchen Zangpo, the Translator, is dedicated to Goddess Dorje Chenmo. A huge temple in its time, today it stands mostly in ruins. Apart from this temple, there are a number of other sacred shrines inside the monastery complex. The monastery also has a rich collection of numerous valuable artifacts and ancient relics.
 
Thiksey Gompa serves as the residence of approximately eighty monks. It has been served, for quite a long time, by the successive reincarnations of the Skyabsje Khanpo Rinpoche. The monastery also plays the host to Gustor ritual, organized from the 17th to 19th day of the ninth month of the Tibetan calendar. Sacred dances also form a part of this ritual, which takes place on an annual basis
 
Mashro Gompa
Mashro Gompa of Ladakh is located on the opposite bank of the Indus River across the Thiksey Monastery. It dates back to the first part of the 16th century. The Mashro Monastery of Leh Ladakh boasts of an amazing compilation of an array of ancient and very beautiful thankas, of which some are even in the form of 'mandalas'. The monastery also serves as the venue for a festival of oracles, which takes place on an annual basis.
 
The festival, held in early March, is considered to be one of the important events in the religious calendar of the Ladakhis. In the preparation for the festivals, young monks are selected as oracles. These monks are required to go through meditation, fasting and ritual purification for a long period of time, to gain spiritual strength. At the time of the festival, they carry out amazing exploits with the help of swords and knives, cavorting blindfolded along narrow parapets.
 
Hemis
Hemis Monastery holds the distinction of being the biggest as well as the wealthiest monastery of Ladakh. It dates back to the year 1630 and was founded by the first incarnation of Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso. Hemis Monastery is positioned inside a gorge, at a distance of approximately 47 km from Leh. Belonging to the Dugpa Order, it stands on the western bank of the Indus River. The monastery also boasts of a very rich collection of ancient relics.

The array of items kept inside the monastery consist of a copper-gilt statue of the Lord Buddha, various gold and silver stupas, sacred thankas and several other exquisite objects. Situated slightly higher than the Hemis Gompa of Leh Ladakh, is a sacred hermitage, founded by Gyalwa Kotsang. The meditation cave of Gyalwa, along with his footprints and handprints on the rock and sacred shrines, still bring back his memories to life.
 
The Hemis Monastery also serves as the venue of an annual festival, known as the Hemis Festival. This festival is celebrated as a commemoration of the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. On the day of the Hemis Festival, the thangka of the monastery is displayed, with a gap of twelve years between successive displays. The Thanka is the sacred appliqué-work tapestry wrought with pearls, which depicts Guru Padmasambhava.
 
And not to be forgotten is a sacred mask dance that is performed at the monastery every year. The dance takes place on 9th and 10th day of the fifth month of the Tibetan calendar.
 
Matho Gompa
Lama Dugpa Dorje founded the Matho Gompa of Ladakh in the 16th century. It is situated on the opposite bank of the River Indus, at a distance of approximately 26 km to the southeast of Leh town. Matho is the only gompa of Ladakh that belongs to the Saskya order of Tibetan Buddhism. The oracle of the monastery is a priest, who resides in the monastery itself. Also situated near the monastery, are a number of sacred shrines, of which one is dedicated to the guardian deities.

Matho Monastery of Leh Ladakh hosts the Matho Nagrang Festival, on an annual basis. The festival takes place on the 14th and 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar. All the monks participate in the sacred dances, performed at this annual event. It is believed that, during Matho Nagrang Festival, two gods, known as the Rongtsan, descend to visit the monastery. Matho Monastery also boasts of housing an amazingly rich collection of four hundred years old Thankas.
 
On the right side of the monastery courtyard, is the entrance to the Dukhang (the main assembly hall). Paintings of the Guardians of the Four Directions adorn the verandah of the Dukhang. Inside are two rows of seats for the lamas, along with a throne seat that is reserved for the Rimpoche, the head lama of Matho. There are four statues behind the throne seat, that of the thousand-armed Avalokitesvara, Maitreya, Sakyamuni and a blessing Buddha. The entrance wall displays Mahakala, the fiercest Buddhist guardian divinity, on the left and other protecting deities, on the right.
 
Stakna Gompa
Stakna Gompa of Ladakh is situated on the right bank of the Indus River, at a distance of approximately 25 km from the town of Leh. The name, 'Stakna' literally means 'tiger's nose'. The monastery was so named because it was built on a hill, which is shaped just like a tiger's nose. Stakna Monastery of Leh Ladakh owes its inception to Chosje Jamyang Palkar, the great scholar saint of Bhutan. It formed a part of the many religious estates offered by the Dharmaraja Jamyang Namgial to the saint, around 1580 AD.
 
The central image inside the monastery is that of the sacred Arya Avalokitesvara from Kamrup (Assam). Stakna belongs to the Dugpa order and serves as the residence of approximately 30 monks. The successive reincarnations of the Stakna Tulku continue to serve as the incumbents of the monastery, preserving the teachings of the Dugpa order. Stakna Gompa also has a number of monasteries attached to it, namely Mud and Kharu and those of Stakrimo, Bardan and Sani in Zanskar.

On entering the central courtyard, one comes across the Dukhang (main assembly hall). The head lama got seven feet high, silver gilted chorten erected inside the Dukhang, in the 1950s. The chorten comprises of a statue of the Buddha as well as numerous Buddhist texts. The left wall of the Dukhang is adorned with three new paintings, those of the Tsephakmad (a Buddhist deity), Sakyamni (the Historical Buddha) and Amchi (the Medical Buddha).
 
The wall opposite to the Dukhang entrance is also painted with three images, those of a Bodhisattva, Padma Sambhava (8th century Indian Buddhist scholar and translator of Buddhist texts into Tibetan) and Tshong-san-gompa (an early king of Tibet). To the right of the hall are the statues of Sakyamuni (Past Buddha), the Present Buddha and Maitreya (Future Buddha). And, the throne of the head lama of Stakna lies on the left side of the Dukhang
 
Stok Gompa
Stok Gompa of Ladakh is situated at a distance of approximately 15 km to the south of the Leh town. It dates back to the 14th century and was founded by Lama Lhawang Lotus. Stok is a subsidiary of the Spituk Gompa and belongs to the yellow-hat sect of Buddhism. As you enter the verandah of the monastery, you will come across bright friezes, depicting the Guardians of the Four Directions. The Dukhang of the monastery was repainted, not a long time back, and displays a rich collection of banners and thankas.
 
The left-side wall is adorned with the images of Vajrapani (Vajra-in-Hand) and Avalokitesvara (Lord of All He Surveys), in his four-armed manifestation. At the same time, the right-side wall stands proud with the images of Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha) and his two disciples, Amchi (the Buddha Medicine), Tara (the Saviouress) and Nangyalma. There are two thrones inside the Dukhang. The central one has been reserved for the Dalai Lama, while the one on its right is for the head lama of Stok Monastery.
 
As you exit the Dukhang from the backside, you will come across a small chapel. The chapel holds the distinction of being the oldest structure inside the Stok Monastery of Leh Ladakh. The central image inside the temple is that of Tsong-kha-pa, the founder of the yellow-hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism. There are also images of Avalokitesvara, in his four-armed manifestation, and Maitreya, the Future Buddha or Buddha of Compassion, inside the chapel. To the right of the Dukhang is another chapel. It boasts of an array of Buddha images, depicting the eight hand gestures of Buddha.
 
One of the major attractions of the Stok Monastery is its own library. The library has a complete set of the Kandshur, the 108 volumes of the Buddha's teachings. A new temple, dedicated to Avalokitesvara, was added to the monastery some time back. The central image inside the temple is that of Avalokitesvara, with his 1,000 arms and 11 heads. A ritual dance-mask takes place near the gompa, on the 9th and 10th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar.
 
Takthok Monastery
Takthok Monastery of Ladakh is situated in Sakti Village, at a distance of approximately 46 km from the town of Leh. The site where the monastery is now situated, once served as the meditation cave of Mahasiddha "Kunga Phuntsog". The name Takthok literally means 'rock-roof'. The monastery was so named, as both its roof as well as walls are made up of rock. Tak Thok belongs to the Nying-ma-pa sect of Buddhism, also known as the Old Order, and serves as the residence of approximately 55 lamas.
 
It is the probably the only Gompa in Ladakh that follows this order. Every year a festival is held at the Tak Thok Gompa of Leh Ladakh, on the 9th and 10th day of the sixth month of the Tibetan calendar. Celebrations of the festival include sacred dances and the ceremony of hurling a votive offering. To the left of the central courtyard is the cave chapel of the monastery. Opposite the chapel are the images of Padme Sambhava and Avalokitesvara. There is a small cave behind these images, believed to the place where Padme Sambhava lived and meditated for three years.

On the right of the central courtyard, lies the Dukhang or the main assembly hall. Murals of guardian divinities adorn the verandah entrance to the Dukhang. But, they are displayed only at the time of the annual festival of the monastery. There is a throne inside the Dukhang, reserved solely for the Dalai Lama. It is situated just opposite to the Dukhang entrance. The wall to the left of the throne stands decorated with the mural of Padmasambhava, while the one on the right has a painting of Sakyamuni.
 
Also inside the Dukhang, are the statues of Maitreya (the Future Buddha or Buddha of Compassion), Padmasambhava and Dorje Takposal (a manifestation of Padmasambhava). Takthok Monastery also houses the Kandshur, the 108 volumes of Buddha's teachings.
 
Chemrey Gompa
Chemrey Gompa of Ladakh was founded by Lama Tagsang Raschen and dates back to the 17th century. Situated at a distance of approximately 40 km to the east of the town of Leh, this monastery belongs to the Drugpa Order. Infact, it serves as the residence of approximately 20 monks of the diminishing Drugpa community, and also their young apprentices. Chemrey Monastery of Leh Ladakh was initially built to serve as a memorial to King Sengge Namgyal. There are a number of shrines situated inside the monastery.
 
However, one of the major attractions of the Chemrey Gompa is the one-story high image of Padmasambhava it houses. Other than that, the monastery also boasts of a precious collection of scriptures, having title pages in silver and the text in gold letters. The successive reincarnations of Lama Tagsang Raschen have being serving as the incumbents of the Chemrey Gompa of Ladakh, since quite a long time.
 
The monastery also serves as the venue for the festival of sacred dances. The festival takes place, on an annual basis, on the 28th and 29th day of the 9th month of the Tibetan calendar. The dances, at this annual festival, are performed in association with the festival of an initiatory ritual.
Spituk Gompa
Spituk Gompa of Ladakh dates back to the 11th century. It owes its inception to Od-de, the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub Od. Od-de led to the establishment of a monastic community at this place. A three-chapel monastery, Spituk is located at a distance of approximately 8 km from the town of Leh. The name "Spituk", meaning exemplary, has been derived from a statement of a translator, Rinchen Zangpo, about the monastery. He said that an exemplary religious community would develop there, providing the name Spituk for the monastery.

At that point of time, the Spitok Monastery of Leh Ladakh was under the Kadampa School. Slowly and gradually, as time passed, the monastery started functioning under Dharmaraja Takspa Bum - Lde Lama Lhawang Lotus. He brought about the restoration of Spituk and introduced the stainless order of Tsongkhapa (Gelukpa). Even today, the monastery functions under the Gelukpa order only. Three other monasteries of Ladakh, namely Stok, Sankar and Saboo, are considered to be the branches of Spituk Gompa.
 
The incumbents serving in all these monasteries are the successive reincarnations of Skyabsje Bakula Rinpoche. The main image inside the Spitok Monastery is that of Lord Buddha. Along with that is a sacred image of Amitayus, about a finger high in length. Tsongkhapa, himself, presented this image, to Takspa Bum-Lde. It also boasts of a rich collection of thankas, ancient masks, antique arms, etc. And not to be missed is an impressive image of Mahakaal.

The Dukhang (main temple) also has a high throne at its far end, reserved for the Dalai Lama. The door beside this central throne leads to dark old chapel. The central images inside the chapel are those of Tsong-kha-pa, his two chief disciples and of the Buddha. Spituk Gompa also plays the host to the Gustor Festival, held every year. The festival takes place from the 27th to 29th day in the eleventh month of the Tibetan calendar. A sacred dance also forms a part of the celebrations.
 
Phyang Monastery
Phyang Monastery of Ladakh is situated at a distance of approximately 40 km to the west of the Leh town. It belongs to the Red Hat Sect of Buddhism. The site where the monastery now stands was once a part of the numerous monastic properties, offered during the time of Dharmaraja Jamyang Namgial to Chosje Damma Kunga. The hill of Phyang served as the venue of a monastery, known as Tashi Chozong, established in the year 1515. A monastic community was introduced to the monastery and with this started, the first establishment of the Digung teachings in Ladakh.
 
The traditions of the Digung teachings began with Skyoba Jigsten Gonbo. In the present time, the Phyang Gompa of Leh Ladakh is under Apchi Choski Dolma. The monastery is served by the successive reincarnation of Skyabje Toldan Rinpoche. There are a number of sacred shrines situated inside the monastery complex. Also, there are some exquisite wall paintings, dating from the royal period, adorning the monastery.

Another attraction of Phyang Gompa is its 900 years old museum. Its rich collection boasts of numerous idols, thankas, Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian firearms and weapons, etc. The festival of Gang-Sngon Tsedup is held every year from 17th day to 19th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar. The monastery also serves as the venue of the sacred dances, held every year on the 2nd and 3rd of the 6th month of the Tibetan calendar.
Likir Gompa
The name Likir means "The Naga - Encircled". The reason behind this naming of Likir Gompa of Ladakh is that it stands surrounded by the bodies of the two great serpent spirits, the Naga-rajas, Nanda and Taksako. The monastery is situated at a distance of approximately 62 km to the west of Leh town. Lhachen Gyalpo, the fifth king of Ladakh, offered the site where the monastery now stands, to Lama Duwang Chosje. The Lama, a great champion of meditation, blessed the site offered to him, after which the construction on the monastery was undertaken.

The Likir Monastery of Leh Ladakh was founded in the later half of the 11th century, around the year 1605. It belongs to the Yellow Hat Sect, founded by Tsongkhapa. It consists of a number of shrines inside its complex. Presently, it serves as the residence of approximately 120 Buddhist monks. The monastery also has a school, in which almost thirty students study. In the 15th century, Likir Gompa came under the influence of Lodos Sangphu. A disciple of Khasdubje, he made efforts to see that the monastery flourished and prospered.
 
From that time onwards and till today, the monastery continues to be under the Tsongkhapa order. The ritual of the three basic Pratimoksa disciplines, the basic Buddhist teachings, are observed at the Likir Monastery, even in the present times. The Gompa also serves as the venue of an annual event Dosmochey, the assembly of votive offerings. This event 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.
 
The Likir Gompa Ladakh has been served by the succeeding reincarnations of Naris Rinpoche, since quite a long time and continues to do so. The monastery also houses a protective deity, which stands inside, wearing a golden armor. There are two Dukhangs (assembly halls) inside the monastery, one of them relatively new. The older one is on the right of the central courtyard of the monastery and comprises of six rows of seats for the lamas.
 
Inside this Dukhang are the statues of Bodhisattva (Lord of All He Surveys), Amitabha (Buddha of the West), Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha), Maitreya (the Future Buddha or Buddha of Compassion) and Tsong-kha-pa (Founder of the yellow-hat sect). After you exit from this Dukhang, you will see the new Dukhang, diagonally across from the courtyard's entrance. The main image in the new Dukhang is that of Avalokitesvara, with 1000 arms and 11 heads.
 
Alchi Gompa
Alchi Gompa dates back to the year 1000 AD and was built by the Translator, Rinchen Zangpo. He even made a reference about the monastery in his biographies. It is written that he brought thirty-two sculptors and wood carvers from Kashmir, for the construction of the Alchi Monastery of Leh Ladakh. The monastery is sited at a distance of approximately 67 km to the west of Leh. One can easily see an Indian touch in this monastery, especially in the way its paintings have been made.
Three sacred temples, with the main one being that of Rinchen Lhakhang at Lotsa Lhakhang, make up a major part of the Alchi Gompa of Ladakh. However, there are other temples also, namely Jamyang Lhakhang (Manjusri temple), Sumtsag Lhakhang and so on. 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
Lamayuru Monastery is situated in Ladakh, in between Bodhkharbu and Kha-la-che, on a steep rock mountain. It lies at a distance of approximately 127 km to the west of Leh town. Lamayuru Monastery belongs to the Red-Hat sect of Buddhism and houses approximately 150 Buddhist monks. The monastery is made up of a number of shrines and also has a very rich collection of thankas and magnificent wall paintings. At the outset, the Lamayuru Monastery consisted of five buildings, out of which only the central one exists today.
 
Every year the Lamayuru Gompa plays host a masked dance, which takes place on the 17th and 18th day of the 5th month of Tibetan lunar calendar. The monks from the monasteries of the nearby areas also come to take part in the celebrations. There is an interesting legend associated with the Lamayuru Gompa of Leh Ladakh. It is said that the Lamayuru Valley used to be a clear lake, at the time of Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha). And, nags (holy serpents) used to reside in the lake.
 
Bodhisattva Madhyantaka had once a prediction quite a long time back that the lake would eventually be dried, making way for the construction of a Buddhist monastery. The legend moves further to state that Mahasiddhacharya Naropa, an 11th century Indian Buddhist scholar, sat in meditation for a number of years in one of the caves in Dukhang. He was the one who caused a crack in the hillside surrounding the lake.
 
Through this crack, the lake started draining. When the lake dried out, the scholar found a dead lion lying inside it. On the same spot, where he found the tiger, he constructed the first temple of the area, known as the Singhe Ghang (Lion Mound). Another legend has it that the building of Lamayuru Monastery was constructed, as per the instructions of King of Ladakh, under the direction of Rinchen Zangpo, the Translator. After this, the monastery came under the administration of the Zhwa-mar-pa (Red Hats).
 
Later, Dharmaraja Jamyang Namgial offered the monastery to Chosje Danma. And this led to the observance of the rituals of the Digung Kargyud School, with the monastery being renamed as Yungdrung Tharpaling. Today, the Lamayuru Monastery is served by the successive reincarnations of Skyabsje Toldan Rinpoche.
 
Rizong Gompa
The Rizong Gompa of Ladakh was founded by the great Lama Tsultim Nima in the year 1831. It belongs to the Gelukpa Order, and is situated at a distance of approximately 73 km from the Leh town. The monastery serves as the residence of approximately 40 monks. However, they have to follow some very strict rules. The inmates of the monastery are not permitted to have anything on their person, except for religious robes and books. Ridzong Monastery of Leh Ladakh consists
of a number of shrines inside its complex.
 
The gompa also has quite a rich collection of the painting blocks of Lama Tsultim Nima's biography as well as a number of objects made and books composed by the first Sras Rinpoche. Serving as the incumbents of the Rizdong Monastery, are the successive reincarnations of Lama Tsultim Nima and his son, Sras Rinpoche. A nunnery, known as Chulichan (Chomoling) is located near the monastery, at a distance of approximately 2 km.
 
comprising of about 20 nuns, the nunnery is under the control of the governing body of Rizong Monastery only. The nun, known as Chomos, worship at the temples of the monastery itself. They also perform a number of chores for the monastery like spinning wool, milking, extracting oil for the temple lamps, etc.