THE LAND OF GOMPAS As you drive into Leh and after the odyssey of a long drive, comes a fairy-tale ending. A fort, a palace and a monastery stand out against the sky, amidst an avenue of poplars. This is Leh. The journey has just begun. As the Buddhists say:`When you are ready, the teacher will appear
Like many other religious establishments all over the world, the gompas too have been gifted lands, by the ex-rulers of Ladakh. It is from these lands and public donations that the gompas derive their income. Cultivation on gompa land is done by the labourers and not by the lamas, for ploughing by lamas is considered inauspicious.
It is believed that in the olden days the gompas stood on the trading route to Tibet and offered sanctuary to travelers and traders. All the thirteen important gompas of Ladakh celebrate their annual festivals in winter, except the Hemis Gompa which celebrates it in June or July, lasting three days. Ladakhis gather enthusiastically for these gay festivals and witness folk and religious masked dances .
HEMIS GOMPA The Hemis Gompa was built in 1620 by the king-architect Singe Namgyal who was a great patron of Buddhism, This is the biggest gompa of Ladakh. It is situated 44 kms from Leh on the Leh-Manali road. For a visit to this place one has to travel 8 kms via Karu, after crossing the river Indus. Hemis Gompa is not visible from the road. There are several temples here, which contain stupas and precious images made of gold. The art pieces glitter with precious stones. There is a valuable store of thankas in this gompa including the biggest in Ladakh. It is displayed once in eleven years and the next display will be in 1992. However, they were soon to be in a pitiable plight for Zorawar Singh had reached the Hemis Gompa after plundering and destroying the other gompas on his route. The manager of the Hemis Gompa skillfully saved his monastery by surrendering before any more damage could be done. In 1956, the chief lama of the gompa disappeared never to be seen again. His absence led to the deterioration of the condition of the Hemis Gompa. A twelve-year-old lama was enthroned in 1976. The lamas of Ladakh respect other religions also. In this gompa important posts like that of the motbir (manager) were given to Kadir Sheikh and Akhon Abdul Hussain who were Muslims. The kitchen of this gompa is unique. There is a huge vessel of copper whose diameter is 12 m, capable of cooking rice or thuppa for 500 people at a time. Buddhist visitors donate money to the kitchen. There is is a courtyard in front of the gompa which is 60 m long and 18 m wide. In this courtyard four long poles are stuck in the ground at equal distances and four different banners fly atop these poles. A big worn-out thanka is hung in front of the temple, on which the picture of Chapgon Gyalshas, the founder of the Hemis Gompa, is painted. Three-fourths of the area of the courtyard is left for religious dances. The rest of the place is normally full of spectators on such occasions.
Likir Gompa King Lachhen Gyalpo built this gompa in the 11th century . From Leh, on the way to Saspol there is a road diverting to the right. About 5 km from the crossing of this road lies Likir. It has 120 lamas. The temple has many Buddha images of clay in different postures. The wall paintings of Likir are about a 1000-year-old. Likir is famous for its earthen pots, which are in great demand. These pots are sturdy, plain and beautiful. The pot makers of Likir have been making their wares for hundreds of years. The gompa school has about 30 pupils who learn three languages besides Ladakhi: Hindi and English, as these are the national languages of India, and Tibetan for religious purposes. The pupils, some of whom will be selected as lamas, live part of the time in the monastery and part of the time with their parents. Likir's head lama, a younger brother of the Dalai Lama, is married (against the rule of the sect) and is permanently absent from the gompa.
Lamayuru Gompa Apart from Alchi & Likir, this is the oldest gompa of Ladakh. On the Srinagar-Leh road, after crossing the highest pass of Fatu, there is a sharp turn signaling the descent into the Indus valley. As soon as one comes around this turn one beholds a strange looking valley on top of which the imposing building of Lamayuru gompa is clearly visible. It brings to mind the palace depicted in James Hamilton's novel `The Lost Horizon of Shangrilla'. In Lamayuru, caves have been dug out in the mountains. For centuries the lamas have been living in these caves. In some instances, the chomos have also been using these caves as habitation. Some of these caves are still inhabited. The king of Ladakh invited the great Buddhist monk of Tibet named Rinchen Zangpo, who established 108 gompas in western Tibet & Ladakh. One of these is Lamayuru, which had one central temple & four other temples at its Four Corners. The central temple thrived, but the corner temples were gradually neglected & turned into ruins.
Alchi Gompa About a 1000 years back, Rinchen Zangpo built this gompa. It is about 70 kms away from Leh. The village of Saspol is situated on the right side of the Indus river and across this, on the left bank of the river, is Alchi. Between Saspol & Alchi there is no bridge. A bridge has been built about 2-3 kms down the river, which is negotiable, by vehicles. The main temple of Alchi is comparatively small. The central pavilion is 3 m long, 3 m wide & 6 m high. Several clay images have been placed on three walls. On one of its walls thousands of mini-pictures of the Buddha have been painted. Wooden statues have been placed at the gate. On the right side stands the statue of Avalokiteshwar, which has a thousand arms. The head of an ibex with four horns, instead of the usual two hangs here. The ibex was shot by a soldier & presented to the gompa. The Alchi temple has three images as high as three floors of the building & they stand in a very narrow space. They are made of clay & painted with different colors. There are thousands of mini-pictures of the Buddha on the walls of the third temple. It was situated near Thikse, about 14 kms away from Leh. This age-old gompa is in bad shape now. The walls have been disfigured by rainwater seeping through cracks in the roof and many wall paintings have been spoilt. The gompa has no resources to maintain itself
Shey Gompa The oldest palace of Ladakh is located at Shey. Which is situated at a distance of 16 km on the Leh-Manali road. King Lhachen Smal Gigun built this palace. The Shey Gompa is situated on a hillock, and there is a 7. 5m high Buddha image in this temple. King Deldan Namgyal, son of King Singhye Namgyal, built this temple in A.D.1655 in memory of his father. The statue of the Buddha is made of copper, platted with gold, and is the biggest metal statue of its kind in Ladakh. A lamp with butter burns in front of the statue throughout the year. A Nepalese sculpture named Sanga Zargar Wanduk was commissioned to make this statue. Three Ladakhi craftsmen- Paldana Shering Gyaso, Gamani Jal Shring & Nakbiri-assisted him. The castings of the statue were made in Leh at a place called Zanstin Palace. Zans means copper & tin means to hammer. Actually the copper for this statue was hammered into plates on a big rock. For this, copper was collected from Lingshet & other villages of the Zanskar area. More than 5 kg of gold was used for platting. This huge statue was built in Zanstil Palace in parts & then transported the Shey temple, where they were assembled and installed.
Thikse Gompa This gompa is situated about 19 kms away from from Leh on Leh-Manali road. It stands on a hilltop in the desert and is visible from a distance. The houses of the lamas are situated on the slopes of the hill. The gompa is especially interesting from the point of view of its architectural beauty. There are several temples in this gompa containing images, stupas and wall paintings. The wall paintings of the main temple are exquisite.
Sankar Gompa is a subsidiary of Spitok gompa, having the same head lama. Sankar is easily visited on foot from Leh, lying as it does in Leh's suburbs. About 25 lamas of the yellow-hat sect are attached to Sankar but only a few live here permanently. Thus, it is only open to the public from 7 to 10 am and from 5 to 7 pm. Sankar gompa is about 90 years old but is located on the site of a small temple that was built about 500 years ago.
From the street one enters the gompa's front yard. To the right are a few steps climbing up to the double doors that open onto the Dukhang or main assembly hall. The entrance porch has paintings of the Guardians of the Four Directions on either side of the entry door. On the left wall of the veranda is a "Wheel of Life" held by Yama , the deity that determines a person's future fate after death. The wall on the right depicts the Old Man of Long Life.
Spituk Gompa About 7km from Leh on the right bank of the river Indus, this gompa is visible from afar, standing quite prominently on the top of a mountain. A new temple has been built here and the old one renovated. There are some fine "thankas" in this gompa. The main temple contains many icons of the Buddha. There is temple of Mahakal that is about 900 years old. This temple was built by King Takspa Bung . It has a images of Mahakal (yamantak) & others. The awe-inspiring image of Mahakal has 35 arms on each side. It has 8 legs on one side. The face of the Mahakal is covered throughout the year & is shown to spectators only at the annual function in the month of January. The walls of the temple are decorated with beautiful paintings. One of the wall paintings has human skeletons on it. In this temple there is a collection of 16 ancient masks of different animals, gods & goddesses. The temple also has a collection of antique arms. In a room adjacent to Mahakal's chamber, a big curtain is stretched between two long poles. People attach their photographs & currency to the cloth for the fulfillment of their wishes.
ZANSKAR A self contained multi-day river adventure down the spectacular and scenic Zanskar river gorge. The trip takes you down the extremely desolate, remote and sheer Zanskar gorge with walls rising a few thousand feet out of the river bed, culminating on the mighty Indus river. This, combined with hikes and visits to various gompas in the Ladakh and Zanskar region makes this a fascinating trip to the last and truly lost horizon of our shrinking planet - Zanskar, "the land of white copper". This run through Grade III/IV rapids enhances the experience of journeying down this otherwise untrekkable gorge.
Most festivals in Ladakh are religious and take place at the gompas. Unfortunately for the tourist, most of these festivals occur in the winter months. Ladakhi winter is extremely harsh and most social activities like weddings, visiting friends and family, indoor handicraft work and participating in religious festivals is postponed till the summers.
Traditionally, only Hemis gompa held a big summer festival but in 1983, Thiksey gompa held its festival in the summer for the first time. In addition to the religious festivals, there are small harvest thanksgiving festivals in the autumn. In 1983, Leh held its first Tourist Festival, in the first week of August.
Excursions around Leh : Zanskar valley Nubra valley - the highest road of the world passes through . Tsomiriri Lake - a place ready to shock you out of your world. The following can be traveled to by jeeps / private vehicles, we need permits to visit Nubra & Tsomiriri Lake with requirement of minimum 4 pax.
Sanskriti tour the indian way Please contact : Tarun Raikhy Sanskriti Tours 91 11 6146620 91 98101 29536 [email_address] Note: This slideshow was downloaded from the web. I have no connection with Sanskriti Tours. I have shared it for information purposes only. - avalok