Famous Buddhist Monasteries in Himachal Pradesh

By | January 4, 2021

In the district of Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur, there is a strong impact of Buddhism. That is why most of the Buddhist sculptures are found in the monasteries of Lahaul-Spiti.

The architecture here is quite different, from what we understand by the hill architecture. The roofs here are flat, walls have marked inward slope and are made of sun-dried bricks or simple stones, unlike the timber bonded stones.

The monasteries found here are of three types.

  • Tak-Phu (monastery lies in a cave)
  • Gompa (it is suggestive of a solitary place)
  • La-Khang (temple near some village) also called Da-Khang or Tsugla – Khang which means an academy or meeting room.

The monasteries in Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti differ radically from one at Rewalsar. The former is flat-roofed, while later is in the pagodas style with tiered roofs. But from inside both have rooms and corridors and the all are decorated with frescoes painted in the traditional Tibetan style with themes taken from the Lamaistic lore.

Thankas’ are also seen hanging against the walls. The chapel is situated in the centre. The Buddhist priest Padma Sambhava along with two eminent scholars from Nalanda i.e. Shanta Rakshita and Tamalashila is created with introducing in Tibet. The Lamaistic order that was known as ‘Vajrayana’.

In the Nako monastery, his footprints on the rock are held as a sacred record of his visit.

The main images which are generally installed in the monasteries are that of Budha, Padma Sambhava, Avalokiteshwara, Vajrapani, and Manju Shri (last three are family protectors).

Mrikula Devi:

  • 54 km from Keylong at Udaipur.
  • The ancient name of Udaipur was Moorgul or Mrikul.
  • There is a common belief that this temple was designed by the same architect, who designed the ‘Hidimba Temple’ of Manali for Raja Bahadur Singh of Kullu.
  • This temple was built by Ajay Verman of Chamba.

Triloknath Temple:

  • Triloknath Temple (Shikhar Style) situated 5 km from Udaipur at a village “Tunde” in Lahaul Spiti.
  • Archaeologists believe that this temple represents Kashmir-Kannauj art which flourished during the period of Raja Lalitaditya of Kashmir (725-757).
  • There are many presumptions that this Shiva temple was transformed into a Buddhist shrine but according to Goetz, it present image of Avaloki Teshwara can’t be earlier than that of the 12th century.
  • In the centre of the compound is a stone image of bull Nandi.
  • The silver idol of Kali in her aspect as Mahishasur Mardani was installed by Thakur Himpala in 1569-70.
  • The statue was cast by one ‘Panjamanka Jinaka’ from Bhaderwah.
  • Some believe that temple is the work of the same craftsman who built the famous Hidimba temple at Manali for Raja Bahadur Singh.
  • This theory seems plausible because Pratap Singh was a son-in-low and close friend and ally of Bahadur Singh.
  • This is the last wooden temple in the tradition of the early 8th century. “Every year in the month of August Pauri festival is celebrated for 3 days.

Guru Ghantal Gompa: 

  • Situated 4 km above the confluence of Chandra and Bhaga in village Tupchiling (in Lahaul).
  • There is a statue of Avalokiteshwara, a marble head sculpture that belongs to 8th century AD. It has been consecrated by Guru Padmasambhava.
  • This temple is known as Guru Ghantal because, at this place, one of the 84 Sidhas of Buddhists had been performing Tapasya.
  • This is a fully wooden temple. There is also an idol dedicated to Bajreshwari Devi.

Gemur Monastery: 

  • The beautiful sculpture of Marichi Vajravarahi belongs to the 11th-12th century located in Lahaul.
  • It is in the Kashmiri style.
  • It is 18 KM from Keylong in Bhaga Valley.

Sashur Gompa: 

  • It was built in the 7th century by Deva Gyatso in Lahaul.
  • It belongs to the red hat sect. the Gompa has a 15 feet ‘tankha’ an invaluable wall painting depicting
  • 84 sidhas of Buddhism.

Kardang Gompa:

  • In Lahaul Situated in kardang village at high Rangcha peak.
  • Erected around 900 A.D. It is the largest Gompa popular throughout the region.
  • It was in ruins until 1912 when lama Norbu of Kardang renovated it.
  • It has an enormous prayer drum containing strips of paper upon which the sacred mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” is inscribed a million times.
  • The library here contains the largest collection of Kangyur and Tangyur.
  • Its founder Lama Norbu died in 1952 and his mortal remains, silver Chityal Stupa are preserved in Gompa.
  • In Kardang village is another small Gompa of Lama Gozzangwa and outside the Gompa are rock carvings and two big chortens.

Tayul Gompa:

  • This was built in the 17th century by a “Lama Sarja Rin Chain”.
  • He belonged to the Gompa Dugma community.
  • It has a tall statue of Padma Sambhava and his two manifestations as Singhmukha and Vajra
  • The library here housed 101 volumes of Kangyur and Tankhas depicting the life of Lord
  • This monastery houses a hundred million “Mani” wheel.
  • This wheel is reputed to be “Self Turning” on auspicious occasions as it turned last by itself in 1986.
  • After almost a hundred years of construction, this Gompa renovated by a Ladakhi “Tulki Tashi Tanphel” of Tagna monastery.

Tabo Monastery 

  • It is the seat of one of the most famous Buddhist monasteries, “Sherlang”, “Duang”, “Chamba Chibbo”, “Domlang Gompas”. Regarded by many as only next to the Tholong Gompa in Tibet.
  • This monastery houses a large number of scriptures and pieces of art, wall paintings- Tankhas and Stucco.
  • It was built by a western Tibet ruler “Ye-Sashoad” around the year 996 AD with the inspiration from a Buddhist scholar “Rinchen Jango”.
  • It is the oldest and archeologically the most important monastery of Spiti.
  • It took 46 year to complete this monastery.
  • It is also known as the Ajanta of the Himalayas because of wall frescoes of the monastery one comparable in their antiquity and quality to those of “Ajanta caves”.
  • Chhamb is organized every year here.
  • On 12 Jul 1983 14h Dalai Lama Tenjing Gytaso inaugurated into Buddhist temple there. → Tabo celebrated 1000 years of its foundation in 1996.

Kye Monastery:

  • It is situated 12 kms. north of Kaza (Lahaul & Spiti) and serves the western population of Spiti.
  • It is the oldest and biggest monastery of the valley and located at (4116 m) above Kye village.
  • It houses beautiful scriptures and paintings of Buddha and other goddesses.
  • Lamas practice dance, sing and play on pipes and horns.
  • Relegious training to Lama’s is imparted here. It has murals and books of high value.

Thang Yug Monastery:

  • It is located 13 kms. above Kaza (Lahaul & Spiti) serving western part of central Spiti.
  • Situated in a secluded place in the narrow gauge of Kaza Nallah, it generally has a Lama from Tibet.
  • Above this there is a long plateau which leads to Shilla peak.

Kungri Monastery:

  • It is situated in the Pin valley about 10 kms. from Attargo where Spiti river has to be crossed to enter Pin valley.
  • It is serves the population of Pin valley.

Nako Monastery:

  • The legendary footprints of the Guru Padamsambhava are enshrined at the Lotsabaage Monastery at Nako.
  • This high altitude village in Kinnaur is located near a limpid lake.

Tashigang Monastery:

  • Can be visited by taking diversion from Khab to Namgya and then trekking to the Gompa.

Tilasangh Monastery:: 1 km. trek from Ka, it is 12 km. short of Yangthang.

Rewalsar Monastery:

  • Perhaps the most sacred spot for Buddhists in Himachal Pradesh, Rewalsar is 20 km southwest of Mandi.
  • According to legend, Guru Padmasambhava departed for Tibet from this beautiful spot, to spread the ’dharma’.
  • A pagoda-style monastery stands along the edge of the lake.

Read also: Administrative reforms for effective public service delivery in Himachal Pradesh – HPAS Mains

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