Major Monasteries in Himachal Pradsh
Monastery at Mcleodganj ( Dharamshala) - The most important Buddhist site in Mcleodganj is Tsuglag khang, The Dalai Lama temple. It has statues of Shakyamuni, Avalokite?vara, and a statue of Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche).Other Buddhist and Tibetan sites in McLeod Ganj include the Namgyal Monastery, the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, Gompa Dip Tse-Chok Ling (a small monastery), the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Gangchen Kyishong, Mani Lakhang Stupa, Nechung Monastery, Norbulingka Institute.
Dalai Lama temple is the most important Buddhist site in the town Main attractions in the temple are its three magnificent
statues of Lord Buddha, Avalokite?vara (Buddha of compassion) , and a statue of Padmasambhava (Tibet s Great Tantric
Leader). It is situated opposite the residence of H.H Dalai Lama. It is open from sunrise to sunset each day and is visited
by thousands of tourist and devotees.
Tsuglag Khang - Dalai Lama Temple :-
Tsuglag Khang, otherwise known as Dalai Lama Main Temple, is the most important Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. Tsuglag Khang is the temple of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his private residence is just opposite this holy structure. It is located about one kilometer out of the center of McLeod Ganj down the Temple Road. The temple is one of the first structures built when His Holiness arrived in India in 1959. Today, as well as being the site of public worship, it is
also the place where the Dalai Lama holds his public and private audiences and his public teachings. There are many
religious festivities and dances held here throughout the year also. It is a place that is often bustling with prayful
Named after a 7th century temple in Lhasa, Tsuglag Khang is simple in comparison, yet still fascinating and extremely
peaceful. The temple enshrines three main images: a three meter high gilted bronze stature of the Shakyamuni Buddha; one of Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion of whom the Dalai Lama is considered an incarnation; and Padmasambhava, the 8th century Indian who introduced Buddhism to Tibet. Both Avalokitesvara and Padmasambhava are facing Tibet. The image of Avalokitesvara has a powerful history. During the cultural revolution in China the original Avalokitesvara image, which was in the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, was discarded into the streets with may other sacred Buddhist objects.
Some Tibetans managed to salvage a wrathful face and a peaceful face image of the Avalokitesvara. In 1967 these pieces
made it to India via Nepal, having been passed through thousands of hands in the process. In 1970, these faces were
encased in the new Avalokitesvara which stands at Tsuglag Khang. It is silver crafted and has eleven faces, one thousand
arms and one thousand eyes. Also at Tsuglag Khang is a collection of sacred texts known as the Khagyur and the Tengyur.
The Khagyur are the direct teachings of Buddha. The Tengyur are commentaries on the Khagyur by Indian and Tibetan
scholars. Both texts have been translated from original Sanskrit. An important Buddhist shrine (located opposite to the Namgyal Monastery in the same courtyard) in the town is the Tsuglagkhang or Tsuglag Khang, known as the Dalai Lama's temple. It houses the statues, in sitting postures, of Shakyamuni (gilded)- the central image, Avalokite?vara (the deity of compassion sulpted in silver with eleven faces and thousand arms and eyes -linked to a legend), and Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) - both facing the direction of Tibet - and also the
Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts.
Dalai Lama's residence is opposite to this temple. A festival is held here every year, during April and May, when traditional dances and plays are enacted.8 kilometres (5.0 mi) away from Dharamshala, at Sidhpur, a small monastery called the Gompa Dip Tse-Chok Ling, the Gangchen Kyishong (called Gangkyi in short by Tibetans and Library by Indians is the premises of the Tibetan government-in-exile), Mani Lakhang Stupa, Nechung Monastery, Norbulingka Institute, Sidhpur are located. The Karmapa (who was in Norbulinga in Tibet before taking refuge in India) is now living in Gyato monastery.
Kalachakra Temple is located adjoining the Tsulagkhang which is dedicated to the Kalachakra. The temple has fresco
decorations of 722 deities of the mandala, Shakayamuni Buddha, and the central Kalachakra image. Dalai Lama personally
directed the painting of the frescos done by three master painters over a period of three years. The walls and columns here
have many traditional Tibetan Thangka paintings.
Library of Tibetan works and archives
A Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA) was also set up by the Dalai Lama, in June 1970, to provide exhaustive
information on Buddhist and Tibetan culture. The LTWA boasts of more than 110,000 titles in the form of manuscripts (40%
are the Tibetan originals), books and documents; hundreds of thangkas (Tibetan scroll paintings), statues and other
artefacts; and over 6,000 photographs, and many other materials. The LTWA has nine departments guided by a governing body.
The library conducts seminars, talks, meetings and discussions and also brings out an annual 'News Letter.' On the third
floor of this library there is a museum (opened in 1974) that houses notable artefacts such as a three-dimensional carved
wooden mandala of Avalokiteshvara and items that date back to the 12th century.
The Norbulingka Institute founded in 1988, by the present Dalai Lama has the primary objective of preserving the Tibetan
language and cultural heritage. This institute has been patterned on the same lines as Norbulingka, the traditional summer
residence of the Dalai Lamas, in Lhasa, amidst a well-maintained garden setting, and the emphasis here is more on
traditional art. A temple named as the “Seat of Happiness Temple” (Deden Tsuglakhang) is located here. Around this temple,
craft centres are located, which specialise in traditional forms of Thanka painting to Metal art that are considered
integral to Tibetan Monastery architecture. 300 artisans work here and also impart training to their wards.
The Losel Doll Museum here has diorama displays of traditional Tibetan scenes, using miniature Tibetan dolls in traditional
A short distance from the institute lies the Dolma Ling Buddhist nunnery and the Gyato Monastery, temporary residence of
the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje.
Toshijong Monastery - Tashi Jong, is 15 kilometers(almost 10 miles) from Palampur and 2 kilometers from Baijnath. This is a small village in between Paprola and Tara Garh (famous for its Taragarh Palace hotel and beautiful tea gardens and main indian Army base (Alhilhal)).Tashi Jong is a famous Tibetan monastery and set on beautiful Dhauladhar mountains.
Tashi Jong is home to The Drukpa Kagyu tradition, which is one of the schools of the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
It has a few sub-schools, though they are very similar and transmit the same core of teaching.
In the late 1950′s, the eighth Khamtrul Rinpoche, Dongyu Nyima, seeing that a great problem was imminent, left Tibet with
many of his followers just prior to the Communist Chinese invasion. He led his followers to North of India in Himachal
Pradesh and started a new Khampagar which they called Tashi Jong. At Tashi Jong, Khamtrul Rinpoche did everything he could to re-establish the various traditions that he and his followers carried with them from Tibet so that they would survive
for posterity. Amongst many things, he envisaged a projet for the complete restoration of the texts of the Drukpa Kagyu
tradition and began the work by having copies of the texts that had been carried out of Tibet freshly transcribed and re-
printed in Delhi. He also began work on a new edition of one of the most important written works of the Drukpa Kagyu
tradition, The Collected Works of All-knowing Padma Karpo which has become hard to obtain. He assembled good editions of the texts, supervised the cutting of new wood blocks, and did the correction and editing himself. The new edition was not
completed before he died but the wood blocks that had been cut were taken to the Bhutanese National Library where they
became the basis of a completed work that was published in February, 2000. This is the best edition readily available.
Tashi Jong is also home to Dongyu Gatsal Ling .This Drukpa Kagyu Tibetan Buddhist Nunnery was founded in 2000 for young women from Tibet and other Himalayan regions like Ladakh, Spiti,and Kinnaur. http://www.gatsal.org
Diane Perry a British who became the first fully ordained Western Buddhist nun, Drubgyu Tenzin Palmo, runs this nunnery.
She is a multi dimensional personality and has written many books. Her biography tells all about her and her 12 year
solitary retreat in a cave in the snowy mountains of northern India, and the effects of her Buddhist experiences on her
Kye (ki) Monastery - Kye is the oldest and bigggest monastry of the spiti valley. The ancient monsatery has rare
thangka paintings, ancient musical instruments, manuscripts of sacred tangyur texts etc.Key Monastery
It is situated 12 kms. north of Kaza 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 Budha and other
goddesses. Lamas practice dance, sing and play on pipes and horns. Many Lamas get religious training here. It has murals
and books of high aesthetic value. Key Gompa is said to have been founded by Dromtön (Brom-ston, 1008-1064 CE), a pupil of the famous teacher, Atisha, in the 11th century. This may however, refer to a now destroyed Kadampa monastery at the nearby village of Rangrik, which was probably destroyed in the 14th century when the Sakya sect rose to power with Mongol assistance.
Key was attacked again by the Mongols during the 17th century, during the reign of the Fifth Dalai Lama, and became a
Gelugpa establishment. In 1820 it was sacked again during the wars between Ladakh and Kulu. In 1841 it was severely damaged by the Dogra army under Ghulam Khan and Rahim Khan. Later that same year suffered more damage from a Sikh army. In the 1840s it was ravaged by fire and, in 1975, a violent earthquake caused further damage which was repaired with the help of the Archaeological Survey of India and the State Public Works Department.
The successive trails of destruction and patch-up jobs have resulted in a haphazard growth of box-like structures, and so
the monastery looks like a fort, with temples built on top of one another. The walls of the monastery are covered with
paintings and murals. It is an outstanding example of the 14th century monastic architecture, which developed as the result
of the Chinese influence.
Key monastery has a collection of ancient murals and books of high aesthetic value and it enshrines Buddha images and
idols, in the position of Dhyana.
There are three floors, the first one is mainly underground and used for storage. One room, called the Tangyur is richly
painted with murals. The ground floor has the beautifully decorated Assembly Hall and cells for many monks.
Key Gompa now belongs to the Gelugpa sect, along with Tabo Monastery and Drangtse Monastery, one of three in Spiti.
"The monastery of Kee, for instance, accommodates nearly 250 monks, who reside within the sacred walls in winter, and stay during the summer with their parents or brothers, working in the fields, or employed in carrying travellers' goods. These
monasteries have their regular heads, or abbots, and the higher ecclesiastical titles can only be obtained by the
candidates proceeding in person to either Shigatzee (Shigatse) or Lhassa (Lhasa).
Dhankar Monastery - Dhankar was the capital of spiti kingdom. the fortified monastery overlooking the valley is a fine
example of spiti's traditional architecture. It has a statue of Vairochana ( Dhyan Budha) and has Budhist scriptures in
Bhoti language.Dhankar Monastery (or Gompa) was built as a fort monastery (Dhan=cliif, Kar=Fort) built on the the Tibetan
pattern. Nestled on a 300 metre rock spur, high above the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers. The gompa stands at
3894 metres above sea level.
Most of the monasteries buildings are derelict, including rooms full of old frescoes, images of Buddha in his many
incarnations and Lamas.The main monastery building has an incredible energy, ancient, with its crocked stairways and small musty rooms. Very little renovation has taken place, giving it ancient mystique and a reverential air.
Dhankar is part of the Gelupa (the yellow hats) branch of Tibetan Buddhism, the same as the Dalai Lama, the reality is that
many Indian (or Spiti) elements are woven into the belief system. Its more Indo-Tibetan Buddhism.
Padmasmbhava, the Tibetan tantric mystic, responsible for bringing Buddhism to this part of India, passed through here in
the 8th century. Converting and incorporating local belief systems. One such cult still exists, the ‘Bons’. The holy men
wear colourful garments and have dreaded, long hair. Their religious ceremonies resemble a circus performance. They chop large rocks off each others chest, using swords. The men also hover in mid air, their full body weight balanced on the tip of an upturned sword. I regret that I could not see this with my own eyes, the Bon monastery is quite remote.
Dhankar is sinking and nobody can tell how long it will cling to the rocks. The World Monument Fund have listed Dhankar as one of the worlds 100 most endangered sites. Have a look here for a website that is helping http://www.wmf.org/field
just feel blessed to have spent some time there and got to know such wonderful characters.
Thangyud at Komik ( 6 km trek from Kaza) - This is another important monastery around kaza.
Tabo Monastery - This famous Gompa is about 50 kms from Kaza, it was founded in 996 AD and is regarded as Ajanta of
Himalayas due to its exquisite wall paintings and stucco status. It is the second most important gompa after the Tholing
Gompa in Tibet and is a national historic treasure of India, preserved by Archelogial survey of India. This large monastic
complex has nine temples, 23 chorten, a monks chamber and a nuns chamber besides various caves and contemporary structures. It houses a large collection of scriptures, wall paintings and Murals.
Recong PEO - recong peo is the headquarters of Kinnaur District, it is perched at an altitude of 2300 meters. There is an
ancient gompa HU-BU-LAN-KAR esteblished by Rinchensang-po ( 950-1055) and a new gompa commemorating the vanue of Kalchakra initiation conducted by Dalai lama in 1992. The sight of Kinner kailash from here is awesome
keylong is known for its three gompas - Kardang Gompa ( 5 km), Shashur Gompa ( 3 km) & Tayul Gompa ( 3 km)
Himachal Monasteries :
Monasteries in Himachal:
Kaza and Kunzum Pass :
Kaza : (3,660 meters) It is sub-divisional headquarters of Spiti valley. It is situated at the foot of the steep ridges on
the left bank of Spiti river. Once it was the headquarters of the 'Nano' the chief of Spiti. It is 425 kms. from Shimla.
Kunzum Pass : (4,590 meters) provides chief access to Lahaul valley by the great Kumzum range. The lofty Bara Shigri
glacier is seen in front in all its grandeur. The crest of the pass has been marked by a chorten of stones erected ages
List of Famous Monasteries in Himachal :
Ki Monastery : is the oldest and the biggest monastery of Spity dominating Ki-Village. About 300 lamas are receiving their
religious training in its monastery, which houses rare paintings and beautiful scriptures of Buddha and other gods and
goddesses. It is serving western population of Spity. It is regarded as the largest in the sub-division. It is a collection
of rooms and a labyrinth of corridors that do not follow any defined plan, but seem to have grown over the years. No
definite data can be ascribed to the construction of the gompa - that acted both as a monastery and as a fort. In the
architectural definitions given to various monasteries, Ki falls in the 'Pasada' style which is characterised by more
stories than one and often plays the role of a fort-monastery.Ki is the repository of the rare 'Thangka' paintings and several ancient musical instruments - trumpets, cymbals and drums. Its lybrary holds the manuscripts of the sacred Tangyur texts. Apart from the cells pccupied by the monks, the monastery has a large 'Du-Khang', assembly chamber lined by religious paintings and other chambers of the incarnate abbot, the zim-
chung is the highest point in the building. The village of Ki is just short of the monastery.
Tabo Monastery : 3,050 metres ) It is 47 km. from Kaza. At the right of Spiti river, is an ancient village named Tabo,
flanked on either side by lofty brown hills and sun burnt, 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 Thelong Gompa in Tibet. The 10th Century Tabo monastery houses more than 60 lamas. Large number of scriptures and pieces of art, wall paintings - 'Tankhas' and 'Stucco'. Tabo has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In terms of area, this is the largest monastic complex in Spiti, and the old section has 9 temples, 23 chortens, a monk's chamber and a nun's chamber. There are several caves and contemporary structures that form a part of the Tabo complex. Founded in 996 A.D., the Tabo 'gompa' has exquisite wall paintings and stucco statues - and is often called the 'Ajanta of the Himalaya'.
Yang-Yud Gompa : It is located near a narrow gorge of Kaza Nullah (1,300 feet high cliff) The head of the monastery - Lama is from Tibet. It is serving western part of Central Spity.
Kungri Gompa : built around the year 1300 A.D. The Kungari monastery provides unmistakably evidence of the impact of the 'Tantric Cults' of Buddhism as practised in Pin valley.Guru Ghantal Gompa : 3,020 metres ) This Buddhist temple is situated 4 km. above the confluence of Chandra and Bhaga in village Tupchiling in Lahaul. The Avalokiteshwara - a marble head sculpture belongs to 8th century AD. It has been consecrated by Guru Padamshambhava. This is fully wooden temple. An annual fair is held here in the month of June called 'Ghantal Festival'. There is also an idol dedicated to Bajreshwari Devi in the Gompa.
Gemur Monastery : The beautiful sculpture of 'Marichi Vajravarahi' belongs to 11th to 12 th centuries AD., located in
Lahaul. The figures of the goddess is lovely and dophisticated. It is 18 km. from Keylong in 'Bhaga Valley' where devil
dance is held during July in the Gompa.
Sashur Gompa : This Buddhist temple was built in the 17th century by Deva Gyatso in Lahaul. During June/July this monastery attracts lots of visitors when Lamas perform devil dance. It belongs to red had sect and is located among blue pines. This gompa has a 15 feet 'Tankha' an invaluable wall painting depicting all 84 sidhas of Buddhism.
Kardang Gompa : It is situated in the village Kardang at 15,000 feet high 'Rangch peak' in Lahaul. It was erected around
900 AD. Kardang is the largest Gompapopular throughout the region. It was in ruins uptil 1912 when 'Lama Norbu' of Kardang renovated it. With colorful frescoes and murals, 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 liberary here contains largest collection of 'Kangyur' and 'Tangyur'. Nuns and Lamas enjoy equality. Lamas can marry and generally they stay with their families during summer and work in fields only to return in winter. The store here has large collection of musical instruments, dresses, tankhas and other articles.
Tayul Gompa : This was built in the 17th century by a Lama of 'Tibet Khan' area named 'Lama Sarjan Rinchain'. He belonged to Gompa Dugma community. This gompa above the village of 'Satingri' has 5 metres tall statue of Padamsambhava and his two manifestations as 'Singhmukha' and 'Vajravarashi'. The library here houses 101 volumes of 'Kangyur' and 'Tankhas' depicting the life of Lord Budhha. This monastery hoses a hundred million 'Mani' wheel by turning the minds of sentiment beings open to the compassion of the lord. This 'mani' wheel is reputed to be 'self turning' on auspicious occasions.
Dhankar Monastery : It is situated about 25 kms. east of Kaza and serves eastern part of central Spiti. Dhankar is a big
village and erstwhile capital of Spiti King. On top of a hill there is a fort which use to be a prison in olden times. The
Monastery has about 100 Lamas and is in position of Buddhist scriptures in Bhoti language. Principal figure is a Statue of
"Vairochana" (Dhayan Budha) consisting of 4 complete figures seated back to back. It has relics in the shape of paintings
Inner Line Area (for foreign tourists) :
As per Government of India's Notification No. Home-B (F) 3-17/86-Vol.1 dated 13-12-91, that the Government of India has
authorised Himachal Government to issue inner line Permits to visit part of Kinnaur and Spiti regions to a group of 4 or
more foreign tourists, sponsored by the recognised Travel Agent with pre-drawn itinerary. However Indian Nationals require
no permission to visit any of Kinnaur and Spiti, but it has been decided that the Inner area would run from Jangi to Tabo.,
and the principal city of Spiti 'Kaza' has been kept outside of the Inner Line area. Foreign tourists may obtain Inner Line
Permit from District Magistrate at Shimla, Recong Peo, Kullu and Keylong - Sub-Divisional Magistrate at Shimla, Rampur,
Nichar, Kalpa, Udaipur and Kaza are also authorised to issue Inner Line Permit to foreign tourists. However foreign
tourists would not be allowed overnight stay between Moorang and Kaza.
Getting to Ki Monastery :
From Shimla : Arrive in Shimla by air, rail or road. Drive to Kaza ( 12 km. from Ki ) in the following stages.
Day 1 : Shimla to Rampur or Sarahan.
Day 2 : Drive to Sangla or Recong Peo, Day 03 = Drive to Tabo or Kaza.
From Manali : Arrive in Manali by air or road.
Day 1 : Drive to Keylong over the Rohtang Pass.
Day 2 : Drive to Kaza over the Kunzum Pass.
Important Distances :
1.Delhi to Shimla - 380 km.
2.Shimla to Rampur - 131 km.
3.Shimla to Sangla - 219 km.
4.Shimla to Recong Peo - 221 km.
5.Recong Peo to Kaza - 190 km.
6.Kaza to Ki Monastery - 12 km.
7.Kaza to Keylong - 188 km.
8.Keylong to Manali - 122 km.
9.Manali to Delhi - 570 km.
Important Heights :
1.Kaza - 3,660 metres
2.Ki - 4,116 metres.
3.Tabo - 3,050 metres
4.Dhankar - 3,370 metres
5.Kibber - 4,205 metres
6.Rohtang Pass - 3,980 metres
7.Kunzum Pass - 4,590 metres
Ref: Wikipedia, Lonely Planet & Yatra Himachal team