Distant valleys of Kinnaur, Spiti and Lahual display a strong Buddhist influence. It is characterized by Buddhist monasteries and gompas constructed along mountains. This showcases the richness of Buddhist art and culture present in the state. A feature of ancient monasteries is their cool and dim interiors that are filled with brilliantly painted murals and stuccos and intricate thangkas with rich silk borders.

Dharamsala

the current house of Dalai Lama is a wonderful Tibetan township that nurtures a complete culture. This place attracts pilgrims, scholars and tourists in large numbers.

Kye or Ki Monastery

This oldest and largest monastery lies above Kye Village, 12 kms north of Kaza, which is in Lahaul and Spiti district. The monastery contains splendid paintings of Buddha and several Goddesses, plus scriptures of sacred Tangyur texts. This place imparts religious training to over 300 Lamas, who sing, dance, play horns and pipes. Visitors can find valuable books and murals here. The rare “Thangka” paintings and ancient musical instruments like drums, cymbals and trumpets can be found here.

Guru Ghantal Monastery

This lies on the banks of Chandra River around 4 kms above Tandi. Locals believe it to be the oldest Gompa in Lahaul. It features wooden structure with wood carvings and pyramidal roofs. The structure preserves the idols of Brajeshwari Devi and Padmasambhava. In mid June, Lamas and Thakurs here celebrate a festival known as “Ghantal” on full moon night.

Rewalsar Monastery

This is the holiest spot for Buddhists in the whole of Himachal Pradesh. It is situated some 20 kms south west of Mandi. Legend says that Guru Padmasambhava traveled to Tibet from here to spread the “dharma”. He is today popular as “Second Buddha”. Visitors are fascinated by the pagoda-style monastery at the edge of the lake.

Tabo Monastery

It originated in the 10th century. It lies about 50 kms from Kaza, located in Lahaul and Spiti district. The monastery houses around 60 Lamas, plus a huge collection of wall paintings like “Stucco” and “Tangka” art works and scriptures.

The stucco statues and wall paintings are so exquisite that this gompa is often known as the “Ajanta of the Himalayas”. UNESCO has granted the monastery World Heritage Site status.

This is Spiti’s biggest monastic complex. The older part features 23 chortens, 9 temples, a nun’s chamber and a monk’s chamber. The complex has several contemporary structures and caves.

Kardang Monastery

It lies in Kardang Village, which is situated at a height of 15000 feet on “Rangch Peak” in Lahaul. The monastery is a fascination to visitors through its colorful murals and frescoes. There is a big prayer drum featuring strips of paper on which the holy mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” is written a million times. The monastery’s library harbors the biggest collection of “Tangyur” and “Kangyur”. Lamas and nuns are treated equally here. The store house here contains a huge collection of dresses, musical instruments, tankhas and other items.

Other Important Monasteries of Himachal Pradesh

Kungri Gompa

It is in Pin Valley that lies around 10 kms from Attargo. Visitors must cross Spiti River to enter the valley.

Tayul Gompa

It lies 6 kms from Keylong. It is one of the oldest monasteries in the valley. It features a big statue, about 5 m high, of Guru Padmasamhava and a library of Kangyur with 101 volumes. “Ta-yul” is a Tibet term meaning the “chosen place”.

Shashur Monastery

It lies on a hill some 3 kms from Keylong, which is in Lahual and Spiti district. During the months of June and July, flocks of tourists come here to see Lamas do the devil dance. Paintings in this monastery depict the history of 84 Buddhas.

Thang Yug Gompa

It lies in the secluded area of Kaza Nullah, about 13 kms above Kaza. It usually has one Lama from Tibet. Above this, there is the Shilla Peak.

Dhankar Monastery

It lies around 25 kms east of Kaza. Dhankar is a large village and former capital of Spiti King. The hill top features a fort that was once a prison. This Monastery houses around 100 Lamas. One of the attractions is a statue of “Vairochana” called the “Dhyan Buddha”. It comprises 4 figures seated in a line. Visitors can also find relics in the shape of sculptures and paintings.

Lotsabaage Monastery

It is situated at Nako, a village at high altitude in Kinnaur near a limpid lake. It is believed that Second Buddha’s legendary footprints are enshrined here.

There is also the Tashigang Gompa and the Tilasangh Monastery.

The state, indeed, has a powerful influence of Tibetan Buddhism.

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