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Spituk Monastery

In the 11th century, Od-De established a monastery on a hill near river Indus. This monastery, situated around 18 km from the town of Leh, was originally associated with the Kadampa School. However, during the rule of King Gragspa Bumide, the monastery was dedicated to Gelukpa order. Meanwhile, the monastery was visited by the great translator, Rinchen Zangpo who named it as Spituk meaning exemplary.
The prime as well unique attraction of the Spituk monastery is the chapel of Tara with 21 of her excellent sculpted images. The monastery is also the proud owner of a rich collection of ancient masks, antique arms, icons and numerous Thankas.

A little above the monastery, on the hill, is another shrine with Vajrabhairava as its presiding deity.
The fearsome face of the deity is shown to devotees only once in the year and that also during the annual festival held in January.

Ascending the steep steps from the main courtyard, the Dukhang or the main temple is reached. Pictures of powerful protecting deities occupy the walls, both inside and outside the entrance. Within the Du-khang are five rows of low seats for the lamas. A high throne at the far end reserved specifically for the Dalai Lama with manifestations of Lord Buddha behind is instantly noticeable.

The door near the throne leads to a low dark chapel which is dominated by images of Tsong-kha-pa, founder of the yellow-hat sect of Buddhism. Along with him, images of two of his chief followers as well as of the Buddha also find a place in the central position. The left side is graced by an image of Tara, the Saviouress and consort of Avalokitesvara while the right side has images of erstwhile headlamas of the monastery.

Returning back to the main courtyard, visitors can gain access to another courtyard which is smaller in size. This courtyard leads upto the Chokhang temple, another assembly hall quiet same as the Du-khang but several levels up. The large statue of Shakyamuni draws the first glance of the visitors. To the left of Shakyamuni is the statue of Guru Padmasambhava and to the right is the statue of the goddess Tara.

A small temple, Dolma Lokhang, with Tara, the consort of Avalokitesvara, as its presiding deity stands diagonally opposite the Chokhang. This temple is one of the prime attractions of the monastery housing

21 exquisite statues of Tara, all representing her different manifestations.

The Gonkhang is the largest temple of the monastery and is dedicated to Kali Mata or Mahakala, the fiercest Buddhist guardian divinity. Other images that are seen here in this temple include the Six-Armed form of Mahakala, the White Guardian, the Brother and Sister, Khyitra on his dog and the Goddess on her horse. For visitors to this temple, it is essential to carry a flashlight since there is very little light inside which makes it difficult to see anything.

The annual monastic festival, Spituk Gustor, is celebrated every 11th month of the Buddhist calendar from the 17th to 19th day. The festival concludes with a ceremony known as Argham or killing. This killing is symbolic of destruction of all kinds of evils. The festival will next be celebrated on January 17 and 18, 2007.

The town of Leh, at an altitude of 3505 m, is a wonderful destination for tourists of all kind. Natural beauty, simplicity, cultural richness and opportunity to breakfree of all hesitation and become adventurous - Leh has everything that makes a trip to it exceedingly worthwhile.

Other Attractions

Stok Palace And Museum : Stok Palace is the place where the royal family currently resides. It was constructed in the first half of the 19th century by King Tsespal Tondup Namgyal. There is also a museum in the palace that showcases items like the crown, ceremonial dress and jewellery of the king of Ladakh. The palace is situated around 14 km in the southeast direction from Leh.

Shey Palace And Gompa : Around 15 km south of Leh, the Shey palace was erected by King Deldan Namgyal in the beginning of the 17th century AD. Of major attraction in the monastery is the copper guilt statue of Buddha Shakyamuni that rises as high as three storey. Another rock-carved statue of five Buddha is distinctly noticeable on the roadside below the palace. The statue, it is believed, was probably carved during the reign of Sengye Namgyal.

Thiksey Monastery : This one enjoys the status of being the most beautiful monastery of the Ladakh region. At a distance of 17 km south of Leh, the monastery is perched at a hilltop north of river indus. The monastery has images of Shakyamuni Buddha, Maitriya Buddha, Vajra Bhairava, Mahakala and Dharmakaya. Initially, the monastery belonged to the Kadampa order, however, later on it was rededicated to the Geluk-pa order.

How to get there
By Air - Flights from Leh airport connect the town to quiet a few destinations like Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar.
By Road - Leh can be reached by road from Srinagar and Manali. Buses to Spituk ply between 7.30 am to 9 pm. Taxis are also available to take you to Spituk.


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