Set 3050 m above sea level, Tabo Monastery, one of the most important
in the country, is considered the most sacred after the Tholing Gompa
in Tibet. The monastery is situated in the village of Tabo, in the Lower
Spiti valley of the state Himachal Pradesh, India. It lies on the left
bank of the Spiti River. Founded in 996 AD, it has exquisite frescoes
and stucco statues, and often called 'Ajanta of the Himalayas'.
The largest monastic complex in Spiti, the old section
has 9 temples, 23 chortens, a monk's chamber and an extension that houses
the nun's chamber.
The complex houses several caves which were used as
dwelling units by the monks and contemporary structures too. According
to an inscription on one of the walls, " This temple was first founded
by the ancestor the Bodhisattva in the Ape Year and now 46 years later
the Royal Descendent, the Mighty One Chang - Chub Od, motivated by the
thought of enlightenment, has carried out repairs to this temple', the
year 996 AD is considered as the year of monastery's construction. But
tradition attributes Tabo's founding to the Great Translator and teacher
Rinchensang Po. He also founded several other monasteries in the area.
The temples of the complex
The Temple of the Enlightened Gods (gTsug Lha-khang)
Also known as the Assembly Hall (du-khang), this is the main attraction
of the complex. It houses an entrance hall, an assembly hall and a sanctum.
There is a 4 bodied image of Vairocana, one of the five spiritual sons
of the primordial, self creative Buddha in the assembly hall, portrayed
in a posture "turning the wheel of law". The old Entry Hall
in the Main Temple is considered as a sacred monument which boasts portraits
of the founder of the temple, Yeshe O'd and his two sons Nagaraja and
Devaraja. It also served as the temple for the protective deity of the
Main Temple, Dorje Chenmo (originally called Wi-nyu-nin).
The Mystic Mandala Temple or Initiation Temple (dKyil-hKhor-khang)
The wall facing the door is embellished by a large painting of Vairocana,
who is surrounded by the eight Bodhisattvas. Mystic mandalas cover the
other areas. It is here, that the initiation to monkhood takes place.
The Bodhisattva Maitreya Temple (Byams-Pa Chen-po
It houses the image of a more than 6m high Bodhisattva Maitreya, the future
Buddha. Divided into a hall, vestibule and sanctum, it's array of murals
are an added attraction, depicting the monastery of Tashi-Chunpo and Lhasa's
The Temple of Dromton (Brom-ston Lha-khang)
Founded by Dromton, an ardent disciple of Atisha, it lies on the northern
edge of the complex entered via a small portico and long passage. The
doorway is intricately carved and the inner walls are covered by murals.
The Chamber of Picture Treasures (Z'al-ma)
Attached to the Enlightened Temple of Gods, it is a simple room covered
with remarkable paintings all done in the Tibetan style of art.
The Large Temple of Dromton (Brom-ston Lha-khang)
It is the second largest temple in the complex. The front wall of the
temples is adorned with a figure of Sakyamuni, flanked by Sariputra and
Maha Maugdalayana. The other walls depict the eight Medicine Buddhas and
The Mahakala Vajra-bhairava Temple (Gon-Khang)
This temple enshrines the protective deity of the Geluk-pa sect. Often
it is also called known as 'the temple of horror'.
The White Temple (dKar-abyum Lha-khang)
The walls of this shrine are intricately adorned leaving a low dado for
the monks and nuns to lean against.
Outside the temple complex, there are many contemporary
monastic buildings, a guest house run by the monks.