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Thiksey Monastery

Place : Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir
Significance : It is one of the greatest and most important Gompa in Ladakh.
Best Season : June to September
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Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir State has some of the oldest extant monasteries and Thiksey Monastery is one among them. It is also one of the biggest monasteries in Ladakh. It is situated 18 km from South of Leh in the Indus valley. Great view from the top,interesting set of prayer rooms, wall-paintings, statues etc makes Thiksey as one of the must visit monastry when visiting Leh in addition to Diskit and Lhamayuru monstries. Thiksey is referred as ‘Mini Potala’ of India as it resembles Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Thiksey monastery belongs to the Gelukpa Order of Buddhism.

Also known as Tsultim Namdag Ling, this fantastic architectural complex is situated at an altitude of 3,600 metres (11,800 ft) on a hillock overlooking the Indus Valley. The monastery offers clear view of the Indus Valley and some monastery like Shey, Stok and Matho.

As per historians, during the early 15th century, Tsongkhapa, the founder of Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, sent six of his disciples to remote regions of Tibet to spread the teachings of the new school. Tsongkhapa gave one of his disciples, Sherab Sangpo, a small statue of Amitayus (Chepakmet), and asked him to meet the King of Ladakh with a message seeking his aid in the propagation of Buddhist faith. The King, liked the gift and ordered his minister to help Sherab Sangpo to establish a monastery of the Gelugpa order in Ladakh.

As a result, in 1433, Sangpo founded a small village monastery called Lhakhang Serpo in the village of Stagmo, to the north of the Indus River. Tsongkhapa pictured behind a prayer wheel, located on the steps that lead to the main part of Tikshe monastery. And, Spon Paldan Sherab, the nephew of Sherab Zangpo Spon Palden Sherab rebuilt Thiksey monastery.

Painted in red and white and ochre, it is a 12-storey monastery which boasts 10 temples, assembly hall, and residence for 120 monks and nunnery. The monastery houses many items of Buddhist art such as stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings and swords.

Thiksey is one of the finest examples of Ladakhi architecture. A remarkable feature of this monastery is the 14 feet high statue of Maitreya Buddha. It was installed to memorialize the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to Thiksey Gompa Ladakh in 1970. The statue is one of the largest statues in Ladakh covering two storeys of the building and was made under the guidance, supervision and direction of Kushok Nawang Chamba Stanzin, the present head Lama of Thiksey monastery. Depicted in the standing posture, with golden face and blue eyes,it took four years to build this statue.

Inside the monastery, there are several big and small stupas, relics of noted Buddhist personalities. Close the entrance gate, a group of white stups is adorned with patterns in gold. The patterns consist of the Tibetan Buddhism symbols.

The monastery has one assembly hall. On the entrance to the assembly hall one can find Tibetan Calendar with bhavacakra (Wheel of Life). The Wheel contains murals of pig,bird and a snake which significantly means ignorance, attachment, and aversion. In the centre of the assembly halls, there are a few seats, the centre one being for the Dalai Lama. The Assembly hall contains the pictures of 11 headed Avalokitesvara with Padmasambhava.

There are also images and murals of various deities. Various guardian deities considered to be the protectors are placed in a red building by the side of the assembly hall.

Prayer room is next to this wall which has lots of handwritten as well as painted books which date back to many centuries. Buddhist Kangyur - the holy books - translated word of Buddha and the translated commentary compiled by the religious compiled by the religious teacher Bu-Stun (1290-1364 AD), called the Tangyur - a 225-volume commentary on the Kangyur are stored inside the main hall, wrapped in silk.

Behind the prayer hall there is a small chamber of Buddha flanked by Bodhisattvas.

Tara Temple dedicated to goddess Tara or kali is another important attraction inside the monastery complex. 21 images of the goddess are placed in glass-covered wooden shelves.

Lamokhang temple is situated in the top floor of the monastery, which is the storage area of many scriptures like Kangyur and Stangyur are preserved. This is an importance place of teaching also, where only men are allowed to enter this floor. The top floor is used as the official residence of the incarnate lama of the Thiksey Monastery. A large pillar engraved with the Buddha's teachings is also located here.

There are big stupas and mani walls at the entry to the monastery. 4 small rooms with about 15 to 20 students – boys only have been made above the temple in order to teach the local boys of the villages and some of these boys are chosen as Lamas.

The monastery complex has a number of white washed huts, which house the Lamas. A number of nunneries are also part of the complex.

Festivals celebration is another major attraction for the tourists. The popular festival held in the monastery is Gustor festival, celebrated on 17th to 19th of the ninth month of Tibetan calander. A hallmark of this festival is the mask dance performed by the monks who sport various masks representing the guardians, protectors and the gods and goddesses. Trade fair is organized in the Thiksey monastery where persons residing in neighbouring villages comes to exchange ,buy and sell the items.

The religious ceremonies usually starts at 0630 which attracts many worshippers to observe the services. They are preceded by the playing of large standing drums and long horns.

Along these they also provide facilities of hotel, restaurant, medical shops and many more. After prayer one can get an excellent breakfast at the bottom restaurant. Entry cost is Rs.30.