Karsha Gompa, Monastery, Zanskar, Ladakh

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Karsha Gompa is the biggest monastery in Zanskar situated in scenic surroundings few kilometers from main Zanskar town, Padum , is an imposing complex of neatly white washed building blocks comprising several chapels, besides residential cells for its nearly 150 lamas, who belong to the Geluks-pa sect. Built picturesquely along the steeply rising mountainside above Karsha village,  It was established by Lama Phagspa Sherab in the 11th century above the Stod river.

 

Karsha Gompa, Monastery, Zanskar, Ladakh

Karsha is the largest and most important monastery in Zanskar. It is didicated to Padmasambhava, and there are ancient rock-carvings at the site. The oldest remaining structure, an Avalokiteshvara temple, Chuk-shik-jal, contains wall paintings which belongs to the era of Rinchen Zangpo , The bone relics of Dorje Rinchenare is a part of this collection at Karsha Gompa.

 The Karsha area include an old nunnery called Dorje Dzong,  occupying a hilltop to the west of the main monastery. The ruins around this nunnery are believed to be the original monastic foundation of Karsha ,  the monasteries of Khagsar, Purang and Phagspa , two Temples – the ‘Thugsjechhenpoi Lhakhang’ and the ‘Lhakhang Karpo’ the present monastery was founded during the 14th century. An old stupa surviving among the ruins is still adorned with the original murals, which reflect Indian artistic influence. Nearby is the ancient temple of ‘Chukshik-jal’, which houses an exquisite figure of Avalokitesvara as the main image.

View from Karsha Gompa , Chortens in Zanskar Valley, Ladakh

Mons of the Khesa race became Buddhist in Kushan period under the King Kaniska are the dominant population in the Zanskar their features do not match with that of the local tribes or with the Mongolians, Mons are credited with building Kursha Monastery in the main Zanskar valley along with other 30 monasteries, chortens and temples .  Kursha monastery houses the mummified body of an incarnate lama called the Rinchen Zangpo and sealed in a wooden box with silver lining.

The most important festival, known as the Karsha Gustor, is held with masked cham dances on the 26th to the 29th day of the 11th Tibetan month, which is usually in January.

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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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Spituk Gompa , Monastery, Leh, Ladakh

Spituk Gompa, monastery  is located at a distance of 8 km from the town of Leh ,  is perched on a high hill overlooking the Indus river. The name “Spituk”, meaning exemplary, a translator, Rinchen Zangpo, said that an exemplary religious community would develop here, thus give the name Spituk for the monastery. It was founded by Od-de, the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub Od in the 11th Century.

Spituk Gompa , Monastery, Leh, Ladakh

It was originally established as Kadampa school  after some time the monastery started functioning under Dharmaraja Takspa Bum – Lde Lama Lhawang Lotus  and introduced order of Tsongkhapa (Gelukpa), today the monastery functions under the Gelukpa order . Three  monasteries , Stok, Sankar and Saboo are the branches of Spituk Gompa all these monasteries are the successive reincarnations of Skyabsje Bakula Rinpoche.

Spituk Gompa Monastery Ladakh

Dukhang  the assembly hall is the main attraction of the gompa housing a high throne, reserved for Dalai Lama. The Chapel features images of  two chief disciples of Tsong-kha-pa and Lord Buddha.The large statue of Shakyamuni draws the first glance of the visitors. To the left of Shakyamuni is the statue of Guru Padmasambhava and to the right is the statue of the goddess Tara. The Gonkhang is the largest temple of the monastery and is dedicated to Kali Mata or Mahakala ,  in this temple there is a Six-Armed form of Mahakala, the White Guardian, the Brother and Sister, Khyitra on his dog and the Goddess on her horse.

Spituk Gompa has one of the fine collection of exquisite antiques such as ancient masks, thankas, antique arms and many more. Huge image of Lord Buddha and Amitayus which is about a finger high in length in the Gompa is very stunning.

Stupa at Spituk Gompa, Monastery Ladakh

Annual festival, known as the Spituk festival, is held here from 17th to 19th days of the eleventh month. There is another shrine, higher up the hill, known as the Mahakal Temple, dedicated to the deity of Vajrabhairava. It has a frightening face, which is unveiled only during the annual festival in January.

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