Not writing separately about the monasteries of Ladakh would leave this series incomplete. Monasteries, as I have observed during my stay at Ladakh, are a distinction in Ladakh. Every village, every turn were equipped with monasteries which not only seemed like a religious centre but a place where refugees could be taken by villagers during the times of war in our history. With every speeding movement of your road trip, you will come across monasteries architecturally fashioned over the hilltops. My father asked me during the tour as to why I enjoy visiting monasteries. I guess I know my answer to it – my love for Art! Apart from just being the religious centre, monasteries are also a home to monks.
Following are the monasteries that I covered during my road trip across Ladakh:
- Lamyuru monastery: This is the most picturesque monastery that falls on Srinagar-Leh Highway and houses around 150 monks. It is massive and is mounted on a hill, the area around which is known as the Moonland due to its resemblance to moon’s surface!
- Hemis Monastery: This is the largest monastery of Ladakh, situated around 48 kms away from Leh. This highly popular piece of architecture is famous for Hemis festival which is organized in the month of May-June. It also seemed to be the wealthiest monastery of the Drukpa lineage. This is a lineage which existed even across Bhutan. The best part of Hemis Monastery was the Buddhist statute over the hilltop. It could be accessed only by trekking up till there which I obviously did to enjoy a hilltop view of Hemis.
- Thiksey: This sky touching monastery will give you chills if you enjoy architecture. While driving from Pangong to Leh through Karu, you will come across four monasteries – Stakna, Thiksey, Matho and Shey. We could not visit each and every monastery due to the paucity of time but Thiksey. It is one of the most impressive monasteries that I have come across. The statue of Buddha inside the monastery, embellished with precious art and jewels is the most remarkable and brilliant piece of art. The monastery has three parts to it depicting different kinds of human forms, evil and the good.
- Stakna: Although I could not visit this monastery, I witnessed its beauty from afar. Situated on the banks of River Indus, this is a small monastery built on a hilltop.
- Shey Palace: A little lower than Thiksey and a little bigger than Stakna, this palace initially belonged to the Namgyal, a lineage of Tibetian Buddhist rulers who lost its possession a long time ago. Now, it houses a copper statue of Buddha.