Friday, October 10, 2014

Monasteries along the Indus

We decided to drive in the opposite direction from Leh, along the Indus to visit the monasteries there. The photo above is taken at the confluence of the Indus (on the left) and Zanskar  rivers (in the centre).  The landscape was bleak but spectacular.

The first monastery we stopped at was Likir which is one of the oldest and best maintained monasteries in Ladakh.  It is famous for the 75 foot tall statue of Buddha.  Likir means "Naga encircled" - it is believed that 2 serpent spirits protect the monastery.  Likir is a "Yellow Hat" monastery.

The monastery was built like a fort so that the local people could retreat to it as a sanctuary during war.  There are fields at the base, and above them are the monks' residences and then finally at the top are the temples and assembly hall.  Around 120 monks live in this monastery.

After Likir, we drove on to Alchi, where we eventually stopped for lunch in the garden of a lovely little restaurant right outside the monastery.  The village of Alchi is very green, in contrast to some of the other areas of Ladakh and is full of apricot trees and donkeys.  Alchi monastery is one of the most important Buddhist centres in Ladakh and is around a thousand years old so the influence of Tibetan culture is obvious.  There are various shrines and temples covered in amazing wall paintings with thousands of miniature pictures of the Buddha as well as huge clay models.

Our final stop of the day was at Phyang monastery.  At first we thought this monastery was closed/deserted, but eventually we met a monk who opened up various temples and let us in.  In fact the monastery is home to 100 monks and is building a lovely new temple at the back.

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