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Sum Tsek

Alchi, located in the scenic state of Jammu and Kashmir is home to five important Buddhist temples along with residential facilities for monks. Choskar, the main site of Sum-tsek, boasts of Chortens and glorious sculptures which make it a place worth visiting. This holy shrine is flanked by Du-Khang, which is the central structure dedicated to deities connected with Mahayana faith, Lha-khang Soma, Lotsawa Manjushri and Du-khang. All these architectural wonders make Alchi an important religious destination for devotees and visitors coming in from all parts of the world.

Alchi is a town tucked away on the banks of the River Indus in Ladakh. Alchi has always been an important route for invaders and traders alike and is a great repository of Buddhist clay sculptures and wall paintings dating back to over 800 years.

About Sum-tsek

Sum-tsek is appropriately a celebrated shrine of Alchi Gompa. It is located to the left of Du-Khang and is a three storied mud establishment that enshrines three huge figurines of four armed Bodhisattvas. These well crafted Bodhisattvas find a place of prominence on the far and side walls of alcove while the central region is dominated by a 14 1/2 feet idol of Maitreya Buddha. The upper arm of this statue is present in Abhaymudra. This idol transmits great spiritual energy and is placed close to idols of Avalokiteshvara and Manjushri.

Sum-tsek consists of an ornate wooden façade which boasts of carved brackets, pillars and capitals. The designs on all walls, brackets and doors of this holy shrine are in sync with one another and make the venue a delight for historians, art lovers, devotees and tourists. The function and form of these colorful designs are garbed in artistic details and provide deep insights into the traditional forms of art prevailing in Himalayan regions.

The three floors of this temple’s structure are well ventilated and lighted by open shafts that are present in the central region of the roof. Mandalas adorning the walls of the central hall are vibrant and bright. They provide a kaleidoscope of colors. The double-height niches on three sides of alcove are noteworthy and showcase four meter high statues of Bodhisattvas. These Bodhisattvas represent spiritual powers that refrained from taking nirvana so that they could guide the human race on the path of eternal peace and bliss.

A niche on eastern side of the presiding idol is attributed to Manjushri. This deity is an embodiment of knowledge and wisdom. She wears garments that are adorned with 84 Masters of Buddhist tantra and is as revered as Avalokiteshvara-the other deity in the shrine.

An idol of Avalokiteshvara rests on the western side and is a personification of the great preaching and ideals propagated by Mahayana faith. The figurine of Avalokiteshvara is adorned with bright costumes and headgear which contains paintings of various sites of Buddhist pilgrimage/ faith.

At the north is a prominent idol of Maitreya Buddha. This idol is appropriately decorated with roundish frames which depict stories from the preaching and life of Lord Buddha.

Along with the famous Sum-tsek, Alchi is also home to other spectacular monasteries which outline mountain ridges and rugged escarpments of these Ladakh terrains. Devotees also like to visit monasteries of Thikse, Shey and Hemis, which are renowned for their murals, Buddhist images and carvings.


Alchi was restored during the period of 2nd transmission of Buddhism and lies tucked away in plateaus of Ladakh. The monastic compound in this region is home to priceless stupas and temples that speak volumes about the austerities, religious life and preaching of Buddha. This holy shrine had been established by wise men and abbots of peace linked with the period of  Lochen Rinchen Sangpo (958-1055 A.D.)

Sum-tsek is well known for its colorful and fresh wall paintings that speak volumes about their Kashmiri style. These paintings are a conglomeration of artistic formats, teachings, and structural possibilities. They pose as a unified sanctuary of spiritual feelings of devotes and visitors coming to seek their blessings at this popular venue of religious significance.

Getting There and Around

The picturesque village of Alchi is located at a distance of 70 km from Leh. The temple of Alchi can be conveniently reached by regular bus services and taxis which ply from Leh and other close by towns/villages.

By Air

Daily flights from Delhi to Leh are the best option for international tourists reaching India at Delhi International airport. Jammu and Chandigarh are also connected to Leh via flights which operate twice a week. There are weekly flights from Srinagar as well. Affordable cab facilities are available from Leh Airport to Sum-tsek in Alchi.

By Rail

Jammu, located a distance of 734 km from Leh is the nearest rail head for devotees traveling to Alchi. Jammu is connected by many trains and broad gauged lines with important cities and towns of the country. With direct connectivity to Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi, Trivandrum and other important centers of Southern India, Leh is linked to the rest of the country via Jammu.

After getting off at the railway station of Jammu, tourists, visitors and devotees can avail of regular bus services or private taxis to Leh. The trip can be hectic and takes over two days. After reaching Leh, then can book themselves a cab or hop on to local buses which ferry them to Alchi.

By Road

The Srinagar-Leh highway stretches across 434 km and is the easiest and most popular way of traveling from other parts of the country into Ladakh. This road is open to public only in the months of June to November. Tourists traveling by road also choose to find themselves on the scenic Manali-Leh road which is 473 km long and is open for commuting during the period of mid-July to mid-October.

Sum-tsek - The Annual Festival

The celebrations and festivities connected with Sum-tsek reflect the living traditions and cultural attributes of Buddhism and Ladakh alike.

Along with the rest of the region, Alchi also celebrates the Hemis festival in the month of June. This festival lasts for over three days and showcases various competitions, masked dances and sports event. The ambience is joyous and colorful with the surrounding mountainous terrains reverberating with loud chants in praise of Lord Buddha.


It is said that Lochen’s accomplishments were testimonial of his richer, deeper and bountiful truths, which have been consistently present in the temple’s complex since the last 1000 years. Concealed amidst tall poplar trees and flanked by rigorous mountain sides, Sum-tsek Lhakhang is the abode of Lord Buddha, who sits atop a triangular arch present at the entrance to the complex.

Literary works by scholars and various other historical evidences provide great insights into the impressive shrines and temples located within the complex of Alchi Gompa. The most prominent of these relate to the Buddhist shrine is the three tiered temple of Sum-tsek. This holy shrine provides an eclectic mix of Kashmiri and Tibetan architectural and cultural heritage and also showcases some important elements of its central Asian antecedents.

Best Time to Visit

The summers are pleasant with clear skies and reasonable temperatures ranging between 12 -25 degrees centigrade. It is well advised to carry effective sun screen lotions, as the direct rays of the sun at this altitude can cause skin burns and other dermal problems.

Rains in Alchi can be very heavy and last from the months of July-September. Tourists should refrain from traveling to Alchi during this period as heavy rainfall can lead to bad weather, landslides and unwarranted road blockages which can cause grave concerns.

Winters are very harsh and chilly and prevent any outdoor activities through most parts of the day. Alchi is best visited in the months of April to June when the weather is clear and pleasant.

Tourists and devotees traveling to Alchi often find it difficult to acclimatize with the weather conditions prevailing at such high altitudes. The conditions can prove to be daunting and extreme for infants and senior citizens and all care must be taken to protect them in unfavorable seasons.


Tourists and devotees visiting the cold and arid deserts of Ladakh are often surprised by the presence of comfortable accommodation facilities in and around Alchi. The barren topography and sever climatic conditions of these Himalayan terrains can be best visited by putting up at budget hotels, luxury lodging facilities or the resort of Alchi.

The painted shrines of Sum-tsek can be visited after a comfortable night at Hotel Zimskhang or Sumdrubling Guest House in Alchi. The Ule Ethnic Camp Upper Topko also boasts of good lodging and boarding facilities and provides the amenities required for a comfortable stay. Ulley Adventure camp in Alchi and Alchi Resort in Tukcha Yogma are other places worth a stay.

These facilities are well maintained and affordable and provide all modern facilities required for the comfort of weary travelers.

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