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Hemis Monastery

Situated around 45 km south of Leh, the Hemis Monastery is the most important monastery belonging to the Drupka order. The history of the monastery states that it was founded by Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso in 1630. He was invited by the king of Ladakh, Sengye Namgyal who offered him a religious estate throughout the region. The king also accepted him as his principal guru.

Monks of the Ka-gyu-pa or the Red Hat sect reside in this monastery. The number of monks actually residing in this monastery is only around a dozen, nonetheless, there are hundreds of lamas staying in the monasteries attached to Hemis.

The courtyard is entered from the northeast side. The stone steps in the right of the main courtyard leads upto two huge temples - the Tshogs-khang and the Dukhang. The Du-khang, or the main assembly hall has the throne of the Rimpoche and seats for the lamas. The walls are adorned with paintings of Sakyamuni or the Historical Buddha. Paintings of other Buddha figures and Tantric deities like Hevajra and Samvara are also seen on the walls of the Du-khang.

The Tshogs-khang houses a huge gilded image of the Sakyamuni Buddha with blue hair. The image has numerous silver chortens embellished with semi-precious stones all around. Right in front of this image is a lacquered wood throne whereas on the right side is a stock of Buddhist canonical volumes. The throne was gifted to an earlier Incarnate Lama of Hemis by the Maharaja of Hemis.

Following the stone steps besides the Tshogs-khang, Tsom-khang temple is reached. A huge statue of Stagshang Raspa, the founder of the monastery along with a large gold and silver chorten possessing his relics are found. The private apartments of the head lama and a small chapel are located at the top.

An annual festival to celebrate the victory of Guru Padmasmbhava over the evil forces marks the highlight of the monastery. The festival, known as the Hemis festival, is celebrated on the tenth and eleventh day of fifth Tibetan month as the birthday of Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. During the festival, masked dances are performed with themes that invariably show a fight against evil and infidel and consequent win of good and Buddhism.

Once every twelve year, a special attractions draws Buddhist pilgrims to the monastery - the unfurling of the giant thanka which is decorated with pearls and other precious stones.

The popularity and significance of the festival can be judged by the fact that the two days during which the celebration continues, public holiday is declared in Ladakh. 25 and 26 of June 2007 is the next date for celebration of Hemis Festival.

Leh - The Getaway To Hemis
Ladakh is one of the geo cultural regions of the state of Jammu and Kashmir with two districts - Leh and Kargil. The district of Leh has the Leh town as its largest town. Apart from it, there are 112 inhabited villages Leh district. Buddhism is a prominent religion in Leh along with Islam. Moreover, it is also quiet common to notice Muslims and Buddhist sharing common blood relation. The attractions of Leh include Leh palace, Leh Mosque, Stok Palace Museum, Nubra valley and Pangong Lake.

Other Attractions

Thiksey Monastery : Thiksey Monastery is located at a distance of around 20 km from Leh. Situated atop a hill, the monastery was founded by Paldan Sherab nephew of Sherb Zangpo. The monastery is at once noticed because of its impressive architecture. Within the 12 storey monastery, there are a number of stupas, statues, thankas, wall paintings, swords and a large pillar inscripted with the Buddha's teachings. A huge 15 mt figure of seated Buddha adorns the main prayer hall of the monastery.

Shey Monastery : Shey Monastery is located 15 km south of Leh and was the once the residence of royal family. It was established by first king of Ladakh, Lhachen Palgyigon. The highlight of the monastery is 12 feet tall copper statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. This statue is considered the largest in the region. There is another statue of Buddha which rises upto three storey.

Stakna Monastery : The Stakana Monastery (Tiger's Nose) was constructed in the year 1580 by the well known scholar and saint Chosje Jamyang Palkar during the rule of king Jamyang Namgyal. The most prominent statue in the monastery is that of Arya Avaloketesvara. The monastery has its branches in Zanskar like the Sani Monastery, Bardan Monastery and Stakrimo Monastery.

Matho Monastery : Situated on the opposite banks of river Indus across Thiksey Monastery is the Matho, a monastery constructed in the first half of the 16th century. The monastery priceless collection include old, nonetheless beautiful thankhas. Some of these thankas are in form of Mandalas. The monastery celebrates an important festival of Oracles every year in the month of March.

How to get there
By Air - Leh has an airport. Flights from here connect Leh to important destinations like Delhi, Chandigarh and Srinagar.
By Road - Since, Leh is just 45 km away, it is quiet easy to undertake a day trip to Hemis by a car. Bus services are limited with only one bus leaving at 9 in the morning and returning back at 12.30 in the noon. However, bus services during festival is increased to cater to the demands of tourists and devotees.


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