The state located at the northern region of our country which can be otherwise known as the crown of our India is the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This state occupies an area of about 222,236 square Kilometer. The southern region of the state possesses a breathtaking neighboring state called Himachal Pradesh. People’s Republic of China is situated to the north of Jammu and Kashmir whereas lying to its west is the country of Muslims, Pakistan.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir is divided into three different regions depending on the variation in their topography and traditional culture.
The victorious Mauryan Emperor Asoka, the person who relinquished violence in the favor of peace is the credit taker for establishing the beautiful city called Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Hiuen Tsang, one of the well known travelers has accounted the relocation of many Buddhist monks towards Kashmir. Most of the Brahmins who were inhabited in this region were quiet comfortable with the Buddhism and they even had a high award towards Buddhism. But the beginning of Muslim era during the 13th century initiated a setback in the growth and development of Buddhism as many of the Muslim monarchs were not able to digest the development of religion other than Muslim.
This led to the migration of Buddhist from Srinagar to Ladakh, Tibet, followed by central Asia and China. As on today, Ladakh is inhabited by approximately 50 percent of Buddhist people and the top of the hilly regions witness a large number of monasteries and gompa.
The growth and development of Buddhist culture was greatly witnessed by the Kashmir region. Buddhism became the most important portion of the traditional Kashmir culture and it can be easily observed in the Nilamata Purana and Kalhana’s Rajatarangini. Though Buddhist culture was widespread in almost all parts of Kashmir, the religion became dominant only during the era of Asoka emperor. The Buddhist religion was overwhelmed with the benefaction not only from the Buddhist rulers but also from the great Hindu and Muslim rulers. Thus, the religion slowly moved from Kashmir to Ladakh.
Major Buddhist Places in Jammu and Kashmir
Leh - Ladakh
Being the third of the geo cultural region, Ladakh is the central core of Buddhist culture in the Jammu and Kashmir state. The capital of Ladakh, Leh forms the proper basement for many of the Buddhist monasteries in these places. Actually, there are two of the monastery circuits that can be visited when one plans to Leh. The first one comprises of Shey, Stakna, Thiksey, Matto, Tak-Tok, Chembray and Hemis whereas the second one comprises of Spituk, Likir, Phyang, Alchi, Lamayuru and Ridzong. The Monasteries situated in the Leh region stand as a representative to all the four different schools coming under Buddhism. They are Nyingmapa (the oldest among all the schools), Saskyapa, Drukpa and Gelugspa (the latest school but most popular among the four).
Ladakh is visited by saintly tourists in large numbers because of the presence of these famous monasteries. Among the popular monasteries, Hemis gets the crown of the largest and also wealthiest monastery in the entire Ladakh area. Hemis is situated approximately 45 km away from the region of Leh lying inside a wonderful valley besides the bank of the river Indus. Hemis acts as a gallery for a luxurious collection of the historical ruins depicting the faith and belief of people towards the Buddhist culture which includes the statue of Lord Buddha made from copper and also various other stupas of gold, silver and also various other precious metals. Along with this, there are also many other beautiful and invaluable stuffs.
Ladakh region is the largest part of the Kashmir state and it is the most popular place of Buddhist culture and religion in the Indian subcontinent.
Major Buddhist Monuments
Hemis, being the most important among all the monasteries, is situated at distance of about 45 km from Leh. This monastery was formed in the year 1630’s at the time of Sengye Namgyal and is also the wealthiest monastery in the area. These days, the most highlighted incident happening in this monastery is the two day yearly festival called, the Hemis festival. This festival exactly occurs during the season when the tourist starts plunging into this area. This area witnesses huge population of tourists during this festival period. Here one can enjoy the dances performed by the Buddhist monks wearing masks. They dance perfectly and brilliantly to the clashing of the cymbals. Once in every 12 years, the attraction towards this festival gets doubled as this is the time, the invaluable property of this monastery, a very huge pearl embellished thangka of their Padmasambhava gets unfurled for vision to the public. This incident happened last time during the year 2004.
Lamayuru stands as one of the oldest monastery present in the Ladakh region. This monastery lies on the promontory situated at approximately 120 km towards the west direction of Leh. This monastery was formed during the period of 10th century and it is in high necessity of preservation as most of the structure of Lamayuru is in destructing condition other than the assembly hall. Lamayuru monastery enjoys their festival called Yundrung Kabgyad during the 28th and the 29th day of the month that comes after the Tibetan New Year.
This monastery holds the pride of being the most beautiful monastery among all present in the Ladakh region. This monastery is about 600 years matured and it is widely distributed up to level 12 on the hilly region. Situated right, exactly on the top of this monastery is the private property of the incarnate lama. Monks belonging to this monastery get grouped under the yellow hat division of the Tibetan Buddhist culture. This Thiksey Monastery is located at a distance of approximately 17 km from the Leh region.
This Spituk monastery was framed by the Od-De during the 11th century. The Name Spituk which means exemplary was donated by the Rinchen Zangpo, the famous translator who toured this place. This monastery was earlier linked with Kadampa School but later on followed the Gelukpa order. The yearly festival of this monastery is popularly called as Spituk festival. This festival commences during the 17th, 18th and 19th days of the month that comes eleventh in the Tibetan calendar.
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