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Monasteries

Tabo Monastery
Tabo monastery, founded in 996 AD, is one of the most pious, biggest and oldest surviving Buddhist establishment in the Trans-Himalayas with its original decoration and iconographic program intact. Tabo Monastery is also referred to as the Ajanta of the Himalayas with a complex that holds nine temples, 23 chortens, a monks’ chamber and an extension that houses the nuns chamber. The monastery’s importance can be judged from the fact that its significance is second only to the Tholing Gompa in Tibet in the entire Himalayan region.
The monastery’s complex has nine temples built between the late 10th and the 17th century. The monastery has temples of Tug-Lha-Khang (The Temple of the Enlightened Gods), Ser-Khang (The Golden Temple), Dkyil-Khor-Khang (The Mystic Mandala Temple) and Brom-ston Lha khang (The Temple of Dromton) are the few very important to name. Tabo is famous for its exquisite murals and stucco sculptures which bear a striking resemblance with the paintings and sculpture in the Ajanta caves. The monastery also treasures some centuries old paintings which are not allowed to be photographed. Above the monastery, there are a number of caves carved into the cliff face used by monks for meditation. The unique beauty of its art and its pivotal historical role in the transmission of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and culture in the 10th and 11th century makes Tabo Monastery an historically significant site. The main temple preserves an extraordinary wealth of documentation of the history and culture of the period.

In 1996, Tabo attracted national and international attention when His Holiness the Dalai Lama celebrated Tabo Monastery’s millenium anniversary with a two week event of teachings and the Kalachakra initiation. His Holiness the Dalai Lama occupied the throne in the Main Temple for the opening ritual of the Kalachakra initiation. Attended by 26,000 pilgrims, the event transformed the village Tabo into a tourist destination.

Key Monastery
Kye Monastery was established by a Buddha’s Disciple named Drompton in the 11th century and is one of the main training centres for lamas in this region. Situated at an altitude of 4115 metres and is also known as the ‘Little Tibet’. The Monastery specializes in certain specific subjects like sadhana, Buddha hood, Cosmology and Physiology and is the most frequented religious destinations for the Buddhists in the state along with the Tabo Monastery.
Numerous invasions, natural calamities and patch-work as reconstruction has given it a box-like structures giving it a look of a fort with temples built on top of one another. There are low rooms and narrow corridors, not so well lit passages, difficult staircases and small doors lead to prayer rooms which themselves do not conform to a single design. There are three floors, the first one is mainly underground and used for storage. One room, called the Tangyur is richly painted with murals. The ground floor has the beautifully decorated Assembly Hall and cells for many monks.

Kye Monastery has Thangkas (a painted or embroidered Tibetan banner), valuable manuscripts of high aesthetic value, images, unique wind instruments and on the top of all this a collection of weapons which were probably made use of to defend the monastery from the attackers. The wind instruments are still put to use in summers during Chaam. Around the month of June and July, the Kye Monastery celebrates a festival wherein Chaam dances are followed by a procession that reaches the ritual ground below the monastery. Here, a large butter sculpture of a demon is set on fire.

Locals here also run an old age home for people looking for salvation in their old age.

Dhankar Monastery
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.

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