Oldest and Most Popular Buddhist Monasteries in Ladakh, India

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Apart from its breathtaking topography and tranquil atmosphere, India’s Ladakh is revered for its rich cultural heritage. A number of beautiful monasteries that dot this high altitude region serve as a window to the Buddhist way of life and draw culture enthusiasts from far and wide. The stupendous architectural beauty of these ancient structures leaves an indelible impression upon visitors. Here is a quick rundown on some of the oldest and most captivating monasteries in Ladakh.

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Hemis Monastery

This is the largest monastery in Ladakh and is well known for its picturesque location. The monastery is also famous for its age-old museum that holds meticulously preserved sacred Buddhist artefacts. The monastery was founded in 1630 A.D. Inside the monastery, there are plenty of Buddha statues, and beautiful murals and sculptures. Every year, the famous Hemis Festival is celebrated here.

Spituk Monastery

This 11th century monastery is built on the side of a hill, about 7kms southwest of Leh. Also known as Spituk Gompa, it features a beautiful mix of halls, stupas and sculptures. More than a hundred monks stay in the monetary. During the annual Spituk Gustor Festival, these monks perform wonderful dances representing the victory of good over evil. Popular attractions include the Maitreya Temple that houses a massive Buddha statue, and a newly constructed gompa within the monastery complex.

Alchi Monastery

What makes this monastery different from the others in the region is the fact that it is built on flat ground instead of on a hill top. The architectural beauty of this multi-storeyed building is quite impressive. The monastery complex is full of beautiful Buddha statues and various interesting structures. One such structure is the temple of Manjushri, famed for its collection of paintings and sculptures by Rinchen Zangpo, a famous translator of Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Tibetan. The Monastery is said to have been built around the 12th century and is located about 70kms west of Leh.

Phyang Monastery

Surrounded by lofty hills and situated about 17kms west of Leh, this ancient and sacred monastery belongs to the Dri-gung-pa sect of Buddhism. It has a 900-year old museum with a lovely collection of old paintings, murals, weapons and Buddhist artefacts. Phyang Monastery also runs a school, where modern education is combined with Buddhist studies.