Dhankar Monastery – The ancient seat of the King
Dhankar Village and Monastery situated at an elevation of 3,894 meters (12,774 feet) is at the perfect setting for any monument in this world. The monastery complex is built on a high spur overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers – one of the world’s most spectacular settings for a gompa. The monastery was built approximately one thousand years ago and now belongs to the Gelugspa School of order since the 1450s. Prior to this, Dhankar Monastery is also known to have been Nyingma-pa, Sakya-pa and Kagyu-pa, depending upon the religious allegiance of the King’s family. One of the major attractions of Dhankar Monastery is statue of Vairochana (Dhayan Buddha), consisting of 4 figures seated back to back. It also houses a collection of various centuries old thankas.
Dhankar was the traditional capital of the Spiti Valley Kingdom during the 17th century and has some features dating back to the 12th century. Dhang or dang means cliff, and kar or khar means fort. Hence, Dhankar means fort on a cliff. It was the place of the early ruler of Spiti, the Nonos, who has the right to promote the government lands nearby and were necessary to keep the fort in repair. They also gave justice to the people and were famous for their harsh penalties until the British replaced them.
In recent years, due to the deterioration of the building, some sections of the gompa have been abandoned and a new gompa has been built further down. Meanwhile, the fort of Dhankar, destroyed by an earthquake in 1975, now lies in ruins, but is still a place worthy of a visit. From the remnants of the fort one can see vast expanses of the Spiti valley. Dhankar is also of art historical importance. Dhankar Monastery is recognized by the World Monuments Fund as one of the Hundred Most Endangered Sites in the world (http://www.wmf.org/project/dhangkar-gompa).
Above Dhankar is a fresh water lake about 1.5 km from the village at a height of 13500 ft acting as the source of water supply for the village. Set amidst lush green pastures, the lake offers a perfect idyllic camping site but locals do not allow camping at the lake anymore.