Monasteries of Himachal Pradesh

01 Monasteries in Himachal

The sub-divisions of Lahaul and Spiti combine to make this trans Himalayan district of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The district headquarters are at Keylong in Lahaul, and the administrative seat of Spiti is at Kaza. Spiti is connected to Lahaul by the Kunzum Pass ( 4,590 metres ) and to the state capital, Shimla, through the district of Kinnaur. Spiti means the -middle country- a name obviously given as a result of its ties with both India and Tibet.Fed by several fast flowing sub-streams, the river Spiti flows through the area and joins with the other mighty river of the region, the Satluj, at Khab. With freckels of green over a dry, weather-beaten face, Spiti is a cold desert where the monsoon rain never comes. It is characterised by stark beauty, narrow valleys and high mountains. A century ago, Rudyard Kipling in Kim called Spiti “a world within a world and a place where the gods live” - a description that holds true to the present day.

02 Kaza and Kunzum Pass

Kaza : (3,660 meters) It is sub-divisional headquarters of Spiti valley. It is situated at the foot of the steep ridges on the left bank of Spiti river. Once it was the headquarters of the 'Nano' the chief of Spiti. It is 425 kms. from Shimla.

Kunzum Pass : (4,590 meters) provides chief access to Lahaul valley by the great Kumzum range. The lofty Bara Shigri glacier is seen in front in all its grandeur. The crest of the pass has been marked by a chorten of stones erected ages ago.

List of Famous Monasteries in Himachal are as given below

03 Ki Monastery

Ki Monastery : also known as key, kye, kee, or kie monastery is the oldest and the biggest monastery of Spity dominating Ki-Village. About 300 lamas are receiving their religious training in its monastery, which houses rare paintings and beautiful scriptures of Buddha and other gods and goddesses. It is serving western population of Spity. It is regarded as the largest in the sub-division. It is a collection of rooms and a labyrinth of corridors that do not follow any defined plan, but seem to have grown over the years. No definite data can be ascribed to the construction of the gompa - that acted both as a monastery and as a fort. In the architectural definitions given to various monasteries, Ki falls in the 'Pasada' style which is characterised by more stories than one and often plays the role of a fort-monastery.

Ki is the repository of the rare 'Thangka' paintings and several ancient musical instruments - trumpets, cymbals and drums. Its lybrary holds the manuscripts of the sacred Tangyur texts. Apart from the cells pccupied by the monks, the monastery has a large 'Du-Khang', assembly chamber lined by religious paintings and other chambers of the incarnate abbot, the zim-chung is the highest point in the building. The village of Ki is just short of the monastery.

04 Tabo Monastery

( 3,050 metres ) It is 47 km. from Kaza. At the right of Spiti river, is an ancient village named Tabo, flanked on either side by lofty brown hills and sun burnt, is the seat of one of the most famous Buddhist monasteries - Sherlang, Duang, Chamba, Chibbo, Domlang Gompas, regarded by many as only next to the Thelong Gompa in Tibet. The 10th Century Tabo monastery houses more than 60 lamas. Large number of scriptures and pieces of art, wall paintings - 'Tankhas' and 'Stucco'. Tabo has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In terms of area, this is the largest monastic complex in Spiti, and the old section has 9 temples, 23 chortens, a monk's chamber and a nun's chamber. There are several caves and contemporary structures that form a part of the Tabo complex. Founded in 996 A.D., the Tabo 'gompa' has exquisite wall paintings and stucco statues - and is often called the 'Ajanta of the Himalaya'.

05 Yang-Yud Gompa

It is located near a narrow gorge of Kaza Nullah (1,300 feet high cliff) The head of the monastery - Lama is from Tibet. It is serving western part of Central Spity.

06 Kungri Gompa

Built around the year 1300 A.D. The Kungari monastery provides unmistakably evidence of the impact of the 'Tantric Cults' of Buddhism as practised in Pin valley.

07 Guru Ghantal Gompa

( 3,020 metres ) This Buddhist temple is situated 4 km. above the confluence of Chandra and Bhaga in village Tupchiling in Lahaul. The Avalokiteshwara - a marble head sculpture belongs to 8th century AD. It has been consecrated by Guru Padamshambhava. This is fully wooden temple. An annual fair is held here in the month of June called 'Ghantal Festival'. There is also an idol dedicated to Bajreshwari Devi in the Gompa.

08 Gemur Monastery

The beautiful sculpture of 'Marichi Vajravarahi' belongs to 11th to 12 th centuries AD., located in Lahaul. The figures of the goddess is lovely and dophisticated. It is 18 km. from Keylong in 'Bhaga Valley' where devil dance is held during July in the Gompa.

09 Sashur Gompa

This Buddhist temple was built in the 17th century by Deva Gyatso in Lahaul. During June/July this monastery attracts lots of visitors when Lamas perform devil dance. It belongs to red had sect and is located among blue pines. This gompa has a 15 feet 'Tankha' an invaluable wall painting depicting all 84 sidhas of Buddhism.

10 Kardang Gompa

It is situated in the village Kardang at 15,000 feet high 'Rangch peak' in Lahaul. It was erected around 900 AD. Kardang is the largest Gompapopular throughout the region. It was in ruins uptil 1912 when 'Lama Norbu' of Kardang renovated it. 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'. Nuns and Lamas enjoy equality. 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.

11 Tayul Gompa

This was built in the 17th century by a Lama of 'Tibet Khan' area named 'Lama Sarjan Rinchain'. He belonged to Gompa Dugma community. This gompa above the village of 'Satingri' has 5 metres tall statue of Padamsambhava and his two manifestations as 'Singhmukha' and 'Vajravarashi'. The library here houses 101 volumes of 'Kangyur' and 'Tankhas' depicting the life of Lord Budhha. This monastery hoses a hundred million 'Mani' wheel by turning the minds of sentiment beings open to the compassion of the lord. This 'mani' wheel is reputed to be 'self turning' on auspicious occasions.

12 Dhankar Monastery

It is situated about 25 kms. east of Kaza and serves eastern part of central Spiti. Dhankar is a big village and erstwhile capital of Spiti King. On top of a hill there is a fort which use to be a prison in olden times. The Monastery has about 100 Lamas and is in position of Buddhist scriptures in Bhoti language. Principal figure is a Statue of "Vairochana" (Dhayan Budha) consisting of 4 complete figures seated back to back. It has relics in the shape of paintings and sculptures.

13 Inner Line Area (for foreign tourists)

As per Government of India's Notification No. Home-B (F) 3-17/86-Vol.1 dated 13-12-91, that the Government of India has authorised Himachal Government to issue inner line Permits to visit part of Kinnaur and Spiti regions to a group of 4 or more foreign tourists, sponsored by the recognised Travel Agent with pre-drawn itinerary. However Indian Nationals require no permission to visit any of Kinnaur and Spiti, but it has been decided that the Inner area would run from Jangi to Tabo., and the principal city of Spiti 'Kaza' has been kept outside of the Inner Line area. Foreign tourists may obtain Inner Line Permit from District Magistrate at Shimla, Recong Peo, Kullu and Keylong - Sub-Divisional Magistrate at Shimla, Rampur, Nichar, Kalpa, Udaipur and Kaza are also authorised to issue Inner Line Permit to foreign tourists. However foreign tourists would not be allowed overnight stay between Moorang and Kaza.

14 Getting to Ki Monastery

From Shimla :

Arrive in Shimla by air, rail or road. Drive to Kaza ( 12 km. from Ki ) in the following stages.

  1. Day 1 - Shimla to Rampur or Sarahan
  2. Day 2 - Drive to Sangla or Recong Peo
  3. Day 3 - Drive to Tabo or Kaza.
From Manali :

Arrive in Manali by air or road.

  1. Day 1 - Drive to Keylong over the Rohtang Pass
  2. Day 2 - Drive to Kaza over the Kunzum Pass

15 Important Distances

Delhi to Shimla380 km.
Shimla to Rampur131 km.
Shimla to Sangla219 km.
Shimla to Recong Peo221 km.
Recong Peo to Kaza190 km.
Kaza to Ki Monastery12 km.
Kaza to Keylong188 km.
Keylong to Manali122 km.
Manali to Delhi570 km.

16 Important Heights

Kaza3,660 meters
Ki4,116 meters
Tabo3,050 meters
Dhankar3,370 meters
Kibber4,205 meters
Rohtang Pass3,980 meters
Kunzum Pass4,590 meters