Himachal Monasteries Guide
The state of Himachal Pradesh is well known for its Buddhist Monasteries. The state has been under strong Buddhist influence, and this has been the reason that Dalai Lama also made Himachal Pradesh as is residence.
Himachal Pradesh has some of the best Buddhist Monasteries. The impact of Buddhism can be clearly seen on the buildings, temples and monuments of the state. The valleys of Lahaul and Spiri, Dharamshala, Mcleodganj enshrines numerous monasteries. Splendid Gompas, Buddhist monasteries, built along bare mountain-sides seem to be a part of the Himalayan terrain. These are the repositories of a wealth of Buddhist art and culture in the state. The dim, cool interiors of ancient monasteries glow with the brilliance of painted murals, stuccos and elaborate thangkas framed with rich borders of silk. Himachal Pradesh is a perfect blend of Hindu and Buddhist culture, thus persenting a very harmonious picture.
The Buddhist Influence on State
Himachal Pradesh shares its borders with Tibet. The influence of Tibet culture and Buddhism can be clearly seen in the state. Himachal Pradesh has been a favorite of the Buddhist monks and priests. The earlier constructions show the fondness of Buddhist for Himachal Pradesh. Many Buddha followers ccame Himachal Pradesh to earch for peace and settled here. The serene ambience of state is perfect for meditating. The land of Himachal Pradesh is also associated with uncountable Hindu mythologies as well.
After the Tibet Invasion in 1949, people of Tibet left there country and sought refuge in Himachal Pradesh. Dharamshala became there residence. Mcleodganj, a small town in Dharamshala valley has the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The cuisine of Himachal Pradesh also seems inspired from Tibetan cuisine. The fairs and festivals of Himachal Pradesh are the Hindu as well as Tibetan festivals. Most of the Buddhist festivals are celebrated here with a great enthusiasm.
Tabo Monastery is one of oldest monasteries of India, dating back to 996 AD. The Tabo Monastery is actually a complex, which enshrines 33 deities, 9 temples, 23 chortens, a chamber and many small gompas. Tabo Monastery is an important link to the history of Tibetan and Indian art. The monastery celebrated a millenium of its glorious existence.
The Kye (Ki) monastery is another very old monastery of Himachal Pradesh. The dates of Monastery goes back to 1000 AD. About 300 lamas receive their religious training in the monastery, which houses rare paintings and beautiful scriptures of Buddha and other gods and goddesses. The Monastery doesnot follow any particuler design, but it seems that random construction came through its way, giving it the shape of a fort.
Dhankar monastery is situated at an altitude of 12,774 feet, 24 kms from Kaza. The Dhankar Castle is sets picturesquely on a clay hill above Shichilling village. The Dhankar monastery belongs to Gelugspa School of order. The Gompa has over 150 monks, some fascinating 'thangka' sculptures and a statue of the 'Dhyan Buddha'. Principal deity is "Vairochana", the Dhyan Budha, consisting of 4 complete figures seated back to back. It has relics in the shape of paintings and sculptures.
The Namgyal Monastery was founded in 1575, by Sonam Gyatso, the third Dalai Lama. Namgyal means Victorious. Since its inception, the monastery has assisted the Dalai Lamas in their public religious activities and performed ritual prayer ceremonies for the welfare of Tibet. From the beginning, Namgyal has been a center of learning, contemplation and meditation on the vast and profound Buddhist treaties. The monastery still continues to provide education to young Buddhists. It is situated in Dharamshala.
Guru Ghantal Gompa
This Buddhist temple is situated 4 kms above the confluence of Chandra and Bhaga in village Tupchiling in Lahaul. The Avalokiteshwara - a marble head sculpture belongs to 8th century AD. The monastery is completely built in wood. An annual fair is held here in the month of June called 'Ghantal Festival'. There is also an idol dedicated to Brajeshwari Devi in the Gompa.
The Kardang Gompa is situated in the village Kardang at 15,000 feet high 'Rangch peak' in Lahaul. It was erected in around 900 AD. Kardang is the largest Gompa and most popular in the region. With colorful frescoes and murals, it has an enormous prayer drum containing strips of paper upon which the sacred mantra 'Om Mani Padme Hum' is inscribed a million times. The liberary here contains largest collection of 'Kangyur' and 'Tangyur'. Lamas can marry and generally they stay with their families during summer and work in fields only to return in winter. The store here has large collection of musical instruments, dresses, tankhas and other articles.
The beautiful sculpture of 'Marichi Vajravarahi' belongs to 11th century AD and is located in Lahaul. The figures of the goddess is lovely and sophisticated. It is 18 kms from Keylong in 'Bhaga Valley' where devil dance is held during July in the Gompa.