Alchi Monastery , Ladakh

Alchi monastery is situated on a low land unlike the other monasteries which are constructed on  high lands or hilocks it is situated on a down stream 70 kms from Leh about 6 km from the main Leh Srinagar Highway on the banks of Indus river in the Alchi village at a height of 3100 meters from sea , it is one of the oldest well preserved dates back to about 1000 years, main attraction is thousands of minature paintings of lord Budha on a wall three large clay images of Budha in bright colours, past 500 years no religious activity has taken place here it is looked after by a monk from the Likir monastery.  The monasteries of this period did not belong to any of the established Tibetan schools, they were initially brought under the control of the Kadampa  Sect . When the condition of the monasteries deteriorated, they were mostly taken over by the Gelukpa Sect .

Wooden carvings at main entrance , Alchi monastry

Alchi is part of three villages the other two villages are Mangdu and Sumnda Chun . It was built between 958 AD – 1055AD by the great translator Guru Rinchen Zangpo, assembly hall and the main temple is three storied are built in Kashmiri style, Manjushri is the third temple , there is a huge statue of lord Budha , walls of temple have the oldest preserved paintings of that time and reflects the Hindu and Budhist artistic and spritual details, there were 108 monasteries built in the trans Himalyan region to spread  Vajrayana Budhism from Tibet also known as Lamaism , Kashmiri artists were engaged to create sculptures and paintings .

Manjushri Temple, also called ‘Jampe Lhakhang‘, is built around the four central images of Manjushri (seated back to back) seen on a common platform each of the four images is single-headed with four arms that are adorned with a sword, a book on top of a lotus, a bow and an arrow. Each wall in the shrine is dedicated to a Buddha image. Manjushri is depicted on the main wall, seated on a lion throne; the side walls have images of Amitabha  on the right and Aksharabhya on the left. The images are set around the central image of Manjushri in a niche in the wall. Manjushri is adorned with jewellery (pearls and other moulded forms) and a crown made of a flower band. In the base of the throne on which the Manjushri image is deified, is a depiction of ‘Seven Jewels’ and ‘Eight Suspicious Symbols’ (flanked by lions) enclosed in a square frame that is distinctive. The top of the throne frame has Makara mountings.

Alchi Monasrty , Information display

This village is very fertile and it is all green with apricot trees on both side of road. This region had influence of Islam , Hinduism and Budhism because it falls on the route to Turkestan of China but its isolation helped the village and gompa to keep their cultural traditions safe from the outer influnces. The effect of Tibetian culture can be seen here , there are five shrines in the Choskor temple complex.

Green fertile land at Alchi Village

Alchi , ages old Chortens

These chortens are decorated gateways known locally as Kakani Chorten  are considered unique to Alchi with historical link to other monuments. More chortens were added between the 13th and 14th centuries. In the Alchi complex, there are also three other chortens, which have ancient paintings .

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Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, Monastery, Leh, Ladakh

The Namgyal Tsemo Gompa of Ladakh was founded by King Tashi Namgyal in the early 15th century, around the year 1430. This fort was once the royal residence of the Namgyal dynasty and is flanked by some temples built in veneration of the guardian deities , these temples are still standing today, unlike the fort which is almost in ruins , temples are visited everyday by a monk who opens the doors to light the butter-filled lamps every morning and evening in adoration of the deities. This is the time one can visit the Gompa.

Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, Monastery, Leh Ladakh

The palace also called Lechen Palkhar‘  is situated on a hill. Above the palace on the highest point of Namgyal hill stands the victory tower it was built to commemorate Ladakh’s victory over the Balti Kashmir armies in the early 16th century, Dards bodies are placed under the image of Mahakala, the guardian deity to stop further invasion of Dards. At the back of the fort there are remains of much older fort , according to locals it is a Dard Castle which was built much before the Tibetan rulers came to Ladakh.

It boasts of a rich collection of some ancient manuscripts and wall paintings. One of the most treasured possessions of the monastery is a three-story high solid gold idol of Maitrieya Buddha (future Buddha, also known as the laughing Buddha). Namgyal Tsemo Monastery of Leh, Ladakh also houses a statue of Avaloketesvara and Manjushri, approximately one story high.

Gold statue of Lord Buddha at Namgyal Tsemo Gompa

In the gloomy interior, one can just make out murals of “Shakyamuni” (the historical Buddha) and Tsongkha-pa, founder of the Gelug-pa sect. The veiled central deity itself sports a shiny phallus, believed to cure infertility in women. It also enshrines nearly 10 feet high of statues of Manjushri and Avaloketesvara. The  view of Leh city and valley from the top is worth spending time .

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