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The Monasteries Of Ladakh

Monks gather around to pray at the Naropa Festival taking place at the Hemis Monastery, Photo Credit: Meenketan Jha
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Ladakh is a land rich in culture and steeped deep in Buddhist history. Its monastery form a large part of its identity and are very influential amongst the locals.

A trip to one of India's hallmark destinations, Ladakh, isn't complete until you have visited the Buddhist monasteries that populate the serene location. Forming a significant part of the Buddhist heartlands in India, this part of Jammu & Kashmir sees large amount of visitors from the Buddhist faith. Deeply influenced by the Tibetan branch of the faith, which follows the Mahayana and Vajrayana schools, the Dalai Lama continues to be an influential face among the locals and the monks. 

During my visit to this gorgeous destination, I went on a tour to several such major monasteries which hold a place of special value among the locals. These homes reflect the essence of the mountain-locked region. Elegantly built, and intricately designed, the monasteries are the key to unlocking the cultural background of India's pinnacle location. So much so is their significance that these monasteries play an unforgettable and central role in the education of the upcoming generation.

Shey Monastery

Noted for its giant Shakyamuni Buddha statue, the Shey monastery and Shey Palace complex are one of the oldest of its kind in Ladakh. Shakyamuni Buddha, named so since Buddha was the leader of the Sakya community who resided in the Himalayan foothills. The road to Shey is flooded with large number of monasteries, stupas, and rock carvings providing a great sight for the journey.

The statue of the Shakyamuni Buddha at the Shey Monastery

The entrance to the Shey complex

Sacred scriptures written on cloth hung outside the Shey Monastery

Thiksay Monastery

A twelve-story complex housing innumerable items in close association to the Buddhist faith such as stupas, statues, wall paintings, and swords, Thiksay is home to the Maitreya (future) Buddha. Located on a slope, the buildings are arranged in an ascending order of importance.

The wall paintings at the Thiksay Monastery

A snow lion statue guards the entrance of the Thiksay Monastery

One of the many complexes at the Thiksay Monastery in Ladakh

Hemis Monastery

Host of the Naropa Festival, the Hemis Monastery is one of the most influential of the region. Situated on a high altitude, Hemis is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. On my short stay there in September, light snowfall made the sight all the more alluring. 

The entrance complex of the Hemis Monastery from where one can venture inside to see the different components that make up this historical Buddhist home

The Hemis temple is a short drive from the Hemis Monastery and is where ancient relics are kept

The prayer wheels at the Hemis Monastery which are to be spun only clockwise. Prayer wheels like these are planted all over Leh.

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