Hemis Monastery, Ladakh
The Hemis Monastery is located in Hemis, Ladakh. It lies at a distance of 44 km away from the beautiful valley of Leh. The history of the Hemis Monastery lies back in the 11th century. The king of Ladakh, Sengge Namgyal reconstructed this monastery in 1672.
Hemis monastery is the largest and is also considered to be the wealthiest monastery in the Ladakh region. It shares its root with one of the ancient pupils of Buddhism, Naropa who is believed to achieve enlightenment in Hemis.
The best time to visit this monastery is June-July. During this period, the visitors can also witness the famous Hemis Festival that is organised as a dedication to Lord Padmasambhava. During this time, the entire Buddhist population of this region dresses up in ethnic clothes and takes part in the festival. The villagers step ahead to welcome each and every visitor to their village. On this holy occasion, Hemis witnesses thousands of tourists. The ‘Mask Dance’ is the main attraction of this festival.
Thiksey Monastery, Ladakh
The Thiksey Monastery is located 20 km away from Leh at a height of 11,800 ft. The architectural layout of this Buddhist monastery is truly praiseworthy and makes this monastery one of the magnificent monasteries in India.
The importance of every building in the monastery can be gauged by their location; the ascending buildings are of more importance than the descending ones. The 12 storey complex of the Thiksey Monastery covers an entire side of a hill and the white colour of the monastery makes it look like a small whitewashed town consisting of many numbers of small buildings.
This monastery was constructed under the guidance of Pladen Sangpo in the mid 15th century. There are some mysterious tales that depict the establishment of the monastery in this region. However, according to the most believed tale, while performing some sacred rituals, two crows appeared mysteriously and carried the main ceremonial plates with them.
On searching for the ceremonial plates, the disciple of Pladen Sangpo found them in Thiksey; the plates were kept on a stone and were arranged in a perfect order. The Buddhist monk, Paladin took this as a holy indication and decided to build the monastery in the Thiksey region.
The entire monastery is very well constructed and the art of modern construction is clearly visible from it. Divided into various parts, the monastery has a lively collection of many Buddhist statues, scripts, stupas and paintings of the Buddhist culture. Amongst all the collections in the Thiksey Monastery, the 49 ft statue of Maitreya Buddha is the centre of attraction. This statue is the largest statue in the entire Ladakh valley and covers two entire storeys of the monastery.
Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery, Coorg, Karnataka
Located in the Bylakuppe, a remote place in the Mysore district of Karnataka, this monastery was established by Pema Norbu Rinpoche. The Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery is an ideal place for learning Buddhism and His Holiness Rinpoche himself, teaches the disciples. The fifth Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, the third Choktrul Rinpoche and the third Rago Choktrul Rinpoche were also trained in this monastery.
Major number of disciples in this monastery belongs to the Palyul tradition of the lamas. However, students from traditions like Sakyong (Mipham Rinpoche), Minling Dungse, and Minling Khenchen Rinpoche also studied in this monastery. Apart from the religious and spiritual teachings, this monastery also offers the students to learn courses like philosophy, logic and debate in the Ngagyur Nyingma University which is built within the monastery.
After coming to India, His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche established this monastery with a very little amount in his hand. Later, His Holiness Dalai Lama blessed this monastery and today, this monastery is home to more than 5000 lamas from across the world. His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche takes care of the monastery, all by himself. Even the expenses for the entire monastery are also managed by His Holiness.
On the eve of every Tibetan New Year, the monastery draws thousands of visitors and lamas from different parts of the world. The New Year celebration runs for around a couple of weeks. During this period,formal processions, lama dance and several traditional events are hosted. February-March is the ideal time to feel the blissful beauty of the Namdroling Monastery.
Tabo Monastery, Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Situated in the enchanting Spiti Valley, the Tabo Monastery lies to the left bank of the Spiti River and above the Tabo village. The Tabo Monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in India; Rinchen Sangpo laid the foundation of this monastery in India in 996 AD.
Most of the parts of the monastery are filled with paintings including walls and ceilings. A number of caves encircle the monastery and thus it is also known as the ‘Ajanta of the Himalayas’. These caves are used by the lamas for meditation as they provide extreme solitude.
The stupas in this monastery belong to the 13th-15th century and are still in good condition. Due to ageing, some of the paintings and the wooden work in some parts of the monastery are fading. But the endless effort of the Archaeological Survey of India has been successful in preserving the affected portions of the monastery.
The monastery has a total of 9 temples and one of these 9 temples holds the holy ‘Wheel of Law’. These temples are named differently and according to their usage. In the year 2000, His Holiness Dalai Lama inaugurated the ‘Kalachakra’ in the presence of several thousand monks from every corner of the world. The humming of daily prayers can be heard daily at sharp 6 am.
The Tabo Monastery is also considered as an ideal centre for learning Buddhism. Apart from the religious teachings, the Sekrong School within this monastery offers subjects like Sanskrit, Arts, Social Science, Maths, Social Studies, Hindi, English, Information Technology and General Knowledge.
Unlike most of the monasteries in India, the Tabo Monastery is not located in the hilly regions, but in the bottom of the Spiti Valley at a height of 3,050 m above the sea level. A large number of tourists visit this holy place every year.
May-October is considered to be the ideal time to visit this monastery as the Rohtang pass remains closed after the heavy snowfall in October. Visiting the monastery during September-October, one can become a part of the famous ‘Chakhar’ festival which is held every three years.
Phuktal Monastery, Zanskar, Ladakh
While trekking in the Zanskar region of Jammu and Kashmir, the trekkers might get amazed by the sight of a cluster of small huts, made up of muds and wood built in the shape a honey-comb. Well, this astonishing cluster of huts is the Phuktal Monastery.
The entire monastery is built on the mouth of a cave and hence the name Phuktal was given to this monastery; in native language, ‘Phuktal’ means ‘through caves’. A suspension bridge to reach the monastery makes the sight more wonderful and a proper destination for the trek lovers. A river flows below this suspension bridge, all through the year. But during the monsoons, the mouth of the cave serves as an outlet for water; this makes the monastery more picturesque.
Gangsem Sherap Sampo founded this monastery during the earlier part of the 12th century. But the monastery remained undiscovered to the outer world till 1826-27. Equipped with a library and several prayer rooms, Phuktal Monastery is presently the abode of around 70 monks. Buddhist art and culture reflects vividly from the wall and ceiling paintings of the monastery. The frescos are still vibrant and seem to be alive.
Ghoom Monastery, Darjeeling, West Bengal
The Ghum or Ghoom Monastery is located at a mere distance of 6km from the main centre of Darjeeling town. The monastery can be easily reached from the Ghoom Railway Station and it serves as one of the main tourist attraction points in Darjeeling.
Built in 1850 by Lama Sharap Gyatso, this is the oldest monasteries in this region and is located at an altitude of 7,470 feet above the sea level. The library of this monastery contains some of the most ancient Buddhist scriptures and books. This is one of the few Buddhist monasteries that serves as a main learning centre for scriptures.
A 15 feet high statue of Lord Buddha is the main attraction of this monastery. This statue is decorated with pure gold and precious stones. Right in front to this statue, two huge oil lamps are kept which keeps burning all through the year.
The Ghum Monastery belongs to the Yellow Hat sect of the Buddhists and is maintained and taken care of by almost 60 monks, living in this monastery. The influence of the Tibetan culture can be seen in this monastery. According to the natives of Darjeeling, Ghum Monastery faced a huge financial crisis in the recent past and henceforth the monks has started charging for photography and video recordings inside the monastery.
Enchey Monastery, Gangtok, Sikkim
The North-Eastern part of India is the home to some of the ancient and significant Buddhist monasteries. The Enchey Monastery is one such structure. Situated in the Kanchenjunga mountain range in one of the hilly folds of Gangtok; the Enchey Monastery is surrounded by dense forest; mostly pine trees.
A Buddhist tantric master, Lama Druptob Karpo; a master in the art of flying is believed to be the founder of this monastery. During one of the journeys to the Maenam Hill, Karpo took rest in this place for few days and built a small shelter for resting. Years after the visit of Lama Druptob Karpo, construction of the Enchey Monastery started in the very same spot as a remembrance of the master of flying. The construction completed in 1901.
The regional meaning of Enchey is ‘solitary temple’; the cliff where the monastery is situated is very peaceful and stays calm all through the day. Moreover, monks can be seen meditating in and around the monastery in their traditional attires.
The scenic view of the location and the colorful architecture of the monastery is the home to 90 monks. Every year, during the 18th, 19th and the 20th day of the Tibetan Calendar, the monks in this monastery organizes the ‘Chaam’ festival. This festival is very close to the inhabitants of Gangtok and also attracts thousands of tourists and monks from other Buddhist monasteries around the world. The ‘Singhe Chaam’ is celebrated once in every three years and is the main attraction of the Chaam festival. The Chaam festival signifies the love between the Bhutias and the Lepchas.
While visiting this monastery, care should be taken to avoid the rainy days within this part of Sikkim. The duration of June-October consists of the beginning of the main winter period in this entire region and is the best time to visit the monastery.
From gushing waterfalls to sprawling forests, from solitary monasteries to austere mountains, Gangtok offers a range of awe-inspiring things to do for visitors.
Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun
The foothills of the Himalayas in Dehradun are the home to the Mindrolling Monastery. It is one of the major Buddhist monasteries of the Nyingma School in Tibet and was founded in 1676. Rigzin Terdak Lingpa; whose ancestors are also known as ‘Nyo Lineage’, is the founder of the Mindrolling Monastery. The name ‘Mindrolling’ means ‘Place of Perfect Emancipation’. This monastery is also considered as one of the largest Buddhist Viharas in India.
The Mindrolling Monastery is an ideal centre for learning Buddhist scriptures as well as other academic courses. Traditional Tibetan medicine and Tibetan lunar calendar are also being taught under the guidance of the Ngagyur Nyingma College of the monastery. From the last three centuries, these monasteries in India has taught many numbers of monks and yogis.
The landscapes around the monastery are very enchanting and have been attracting visitors from centuries. The colourful gardens of the monastery serve as the best way to relax the mind and the body; escaping mental digressions is guaranteed.
In the year 2002, the monastery opened its door to the ‘Great Stupa’, which is 185 feet tall and the width measures up to 100 square feet. It is the largest stupa in the world. The shrines of this monastery depict the art and culture of the Buddhist culture in a closely understandable way. Blessing ceremonies and other ritual function can be seen all throughout the year in this monastery.
Tawang Monastery, Bomdila, Arunachal Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh, the North Eastern state of India which is considered to be one of the best places for trekking, is the home to the magnificent Tawang Monastery. The monastery is located at a height of 3,5000 m above the sea level. The snow covered mountains of the Himalayan range welcomes every visitor to this monastery, all throughout the year.
Tawang Monastery is also known as the ‘Chosen Horse Monastery’. The peaceful and serene surroundings of this monastery make it an ideal place to seek solace of mind. The monastery is also the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama. The fifth Dalai Lama wished for a monastery in this region and thus the monastery was established. Mera Lama Lodre Gyatso founded this monastery.
The infrastructure of this monastery is very rich and is very well decorated with stunning statues depicting Buddhist teachings and meanings of life. A 3-storey building comprises the main building of the monastery. This building is further divided into shrine rooms for the monks to meditate, worship and perform other religious activities.
Within the compound of the monastery, sixty-five residential buildings provide shelter to the monks and lamas. These buildings also include the ‘Parkhang Hall’ which is the library of the Tawang Monastery. The library has a large collection of ancient books on Buddhism and some of these scriptures are very old and rare.
Besides being one of the major Buddhist monasteries in the country, Tawang Monastery is also one of the finest craft centre in the entire Arunachal Pradesh. The craft centre within this monastery produces some of the finest quality woollen carpets in the world.
Cultural festivals are an integral part of the Tawang Monastery. Among all the festivals celebrated in this monastery, ‘Losar’ is the main festival. This festival is celebrated to mark the Tibetan New Year and it runs for 15 continuous days. The victory of good over the bad is depicted in this festival.
June-October is the best time to visit this monastery.
Tsuglagkhang Complex, Dharamshala
Alongside the tall gazing trees in the forest of Dharamshala, the prayer flags of the Tsuglagkhang Complex can also be seen; this view is simply mesmerizing!
The Tsuglagkhang complex is the official residence of the spiritual leader, Dalai Lama. The complex is located near Mcleod Ganj and is surrounded with beautiful forests of pine trees. The Dhauladhar Mountain ranges mainly comprises these forests.
The monastery is an ideal place for some peaceful time and in the presence of Dalai Lama, the holiness of the monastery knows no bounds. The simple life of Dalai Lama can be closely observed in this monastery.
The monastery also has a museum, Namgyal Gompa, Kalachakra temple and many more sacred paintings of the Buddhist culture. The entire monastery is open to the visitors; there are no restrictions on visiting any part of the monastery.
An evening walk with the monks, around the monastery is the best way to have a peaceful time.
Kye Monastery, Spiti District, Himachal Pradesh
The Kye Monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in the Spiti Valley. In the year 2000, it completed 1,000 years.
Located at a distance of 12 km to Kaza, this monastery stands 4,116 m above sea level. Since its establishment, it has faced several attacks from the Mongols. And, due to repetitive reconstruction, the monastery looks like a fort today.
Even after several changes in the structure, the beauty of the monastery is ineffable. It is one of the most important learning centres of the Buddhist monks and the lamas.
Influence of the Chinese architecture can be clearly seen from the structure of this monastery. The temples of this monastery are built one over the other. The Kye monastery is very rich in terms of collections of Buddhist paintings and Holy Scriptures. A wide range of ancient books can be found in the library of the monastery.
On the eve of completion of 1,000 years, His Holiness Dalai Lama visited this monastery. Over 15,000 Buddhist monks, lamas and devotees from all over the world visited the monastery to witness this celebration. Among all the celebrations, the ‘Kalchakra’ celebration was the holiest. This festival is celebrated on the completion of every 1,000 years.
Namgyal Monastery, Dharamshala
Another beautiful monastery to visit in Himachal Pradesh is the Namgyal Monastery. Since the third Dalai Lama himself founded this monastery, it is considered as one of the holiest monastery in India as well as in the entire world.
The Namgyal Monastery is also the home to one more monastery within its main campus. Several temples can be seen inside the monastery along with various learning institutions. Special prayers for the betterment of Tibet are carried out in this monastery.
The passage to the interior parts of this monastery is limited to His Holiness Dalai Lama and his disciples. It offers various religious, tantra and sutra learning centres to more than 150 students.
Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim
Amongst the 200 monasteries in Sikkim, Rumtek monastery is the largest and the most visited monasteries in the entire region. This monastery was founded in Tibet during the 9th century. Later, in the early 1960s, the monastery was re-established in India.
Due to several controversies, the Rumtek Monastery is one of the most closely guarded monasteries in India. The Rumtek Gompa and the Lingdum Gompa lays closeby to the monastery and are ideal places to visit.
During May-June, the monastery celebrates the Tibetan New Year. This celebration is followed by special prayers, processions and colourful masked dance. The celebration takes place two days before the Tibetan New Year.
The best way to discover the enthralling landscapes of Sikkim is to engage in the adventurous trek with Gangtok Tour Packages.
Diskit Monastery, Leh
Founded in the 14th century, the ‘Diskit Gompa’ or the Diskit Monastery is located in Leh. It is the oldest and also the largest monastery within this region. The Diskit Monastery belongs to the ‘Gelugpa’ sect. This sect is also referred as the ‘Yellow Hat’ sect of Buddhism. It was founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, who was a disciple of Tsongkhapa.
The monastery explains the Tashilhunpo Gompa of Tibet through its wall and ceiling paintings. Inside the monastery, a number of shrines can also be found. The steps that approaches towards the main entrance of the monastery are carved out of stones and gives a very spiritual look to the monastery.
The Diskit monastery is highly influenced by the Mongol mythology which depicts the life of an evil and anti-Buddhist monk. It is also believed that even though the evil monk was killed several times, he revived these attacks. It is said that the head and the hand of the evil monk has been kept inside the main temple of the monastery.
The monastery is also considered to be an ideal place to view the Naruba Valley. The monastery itself is very magnificent and the large statue of the Jampa Buddha makes the monastery more impressive. The statue measures 32 m and is located on the top of a hill. His Holiness Dalai Lama inaugurated this statue in 2010.
The ‘Festival of Scapegoat’ is the most popularly celebrated festival in this monastery. This festival is celebrated with the advent of winter during month of February. This festival draws a very large number of crowds to the monastery. Mask dance is also one of the significant parts of this festival.
Gonjang Monastery, Sikkim
The Gonjang Monastery is not very old. It was established in 1981 by H.E. Tingkye Gonjang Rimpoche, who was an incarnation of Yolmo Terton Ngak'chang Shakya Zangpo. It is located near the Tashi View Point in Sillim.
The 14th Dalai Lama laid the foundation stone of this monastery at Gangtok. Started as a small centre for learning Buddhism, presently this monastery has become one of the most important learning centres in the entire region. In this monastery, the Buddhist culture is preserved and presented in a very warm way.
Education is an important part of this monastery. Alongside the spiritual and religious teachings, the students are also taught English and Tibetan Language. Philosophical lessons on Buddhism are also taught in this monastery.
Buddha Purnima is very cheerfully celebrated in this monastery. During the occasion of the Buddha Purnima, ‘Saga Dawa’ is celebrated. Droogpak Tse-Shi is also one of the popular celebrations in this monastery. During this period, Gautam Buddha is believed to have turned the wheel of Dharma for the first time. ‘Pang Lhabsol’ and ‘Lhabab Duchen’ are also widely celebrated in this monastery.
During the month of December-January, thousands of devotees swarms to this monastery and take part in the ‘Nyingma International Peace Aspiration Prayer’.
Gondola Monastery, Himachal Pradesh
The Gondola Monastery is located in Himachal Pradesh. It lies at a distance of 18 km from Keylong. It is balanced on the top of a hill above the Tupchiling village. The place where the monastery is located is considered as a holy place as the Chandra and Bhaga River meets there.
The foundation of this monastery lies in the 8th century. Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava founded this monastery. Even before this monastery was founded, evidences of the existence of Buddhist culture has been found within this place.
The wooden statues in the monasteries are the centre of attraction and are very distinct. These idols consists the replicas of Guru Padmasambhava, Brajeshwari Devi and other lamas.
Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat, Kangra Valley, Himachal Pradesh
The Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat is spread over a tranquil pine forest of 30 acres. Located in the Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh, this is one of the few Buddhist monasteries that has snow covered mountains as the backdrop.
From Dharamsala to the Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat, it is a journey of two and half hours. The monastery has 126 quarters for the monks, 3 shrine halls, and 6 shrine rooms. Modern features are also available in the monastery. Though built out of modern materials, yet the monastery reflects the ancient Buddhist culture in a vibrant way. Kenting Tai Situpa designed the main 5-storey building. Each floor of this building is dedicated for different purpose.
The second floor of the building is dedicated for reading purposes. The environment inside the library is peaceful and silent. This is an ideal environment for studying. The monastery also offers a retreat centre for 25 monks. This centre was built in 1988 and accommodation for 25 monks can be made at one time.
The monastery is very rich in arts and crafts. Metal work, wood carving, sculpting, Thangka art, and tailoring are taught to the students of this monastery. Unlike most of the monasteries in India, the Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat provides a separate guesthouse for the tourist.