Nature and spirituality are inseparable. A great view of the sunrise or a sunset, an infinite ocean with never ending waves, majestic and insurmountable mountains, or even a tiny beautiful flower, when looked at with passion, they ignite spirituality in all of us.
While leh is famous for stunning snow desert visuals, high altitude lakes, bike rides on few of the highest motorable roads, this region is also famous for it’s spiritual splendour.
Buddhist monasteries (Called as Gompas) are another key feature in the ladakh region apart from the above list. These Gompas, are of both religious and historical significance in Leh. Although there are many Monasteries in the Leh region, each having its own beauty, we narrowed it down to a smaller list and visited few places.
The distinct feature of most of these monasteries in the Himalayan region is the fact that they are located at the top of the local hill in the village. In addition, the architecture of these Gompas is mind blowing. Located at an altitude with tall and strong walls, these monasteries are designed to protect the villages from wars, floods or any other extremes, natural or otherwise.
Located in the amazing serenity of the mountains, these monasteries do have a lasting and a calming effect on our minds. They are indeed spiritual powerhouses. In few of the monasteries we visited, we managed to talk to few of the monks and were indeed blessed to witness their way of living. The minimalist living without any desire for material things can be truly witnessed here in practice. The rough terrains and the harsh weather conditions in general make mountain people very mature about life’s priorities, the life in monasteries enhance it further.
If you are worried about not having the latest mobile phone, talk to these monks, whose only mode of communication is walk upto the person even if it means walking or trekking for few miles.
If you are complaining about boredom in life despite so many options of entertainment, look at the lifestyle of these monks, who has no means of so called mainstream entertainment whatsoever, but are full of life.
If you are cribbing about lack of facilities in your cities, what about these monks who had to climb up and down for hundreds of steps just to fetch a can of water? their only facility is the pity shown by harsh nature occasionally.
Key Places of importance in Leh
The first one we visited was the Shey Palace. This beautiful and an old palace, which is in ruins now, still glitters with the enchanting idol of SakyaMuni Buddha (the sage of Local sakya People).
The Palace, located at around 15 Km from Leh, has a captivating view of the glittering patch of greenery with a never ending view of the mountains in the background.
The place is full of the Buddhist prayer wheels with many mantras written on it, each carrying a deep meaning. The famous one being the Om Mani Padme Hum (we were given many interpretations of this single mantra in many different places.)
Next up was Thikse Gompa; Located at around 19 KM from Leh, this monastery is one of the largest in the Ladakh region. The driver explained to us that the architecture of this is very similar to the famous Potala palace Lhasa, Tibet. Here’s we got a chance to stay for longer and interact with the monks and the other staff of the monastery.
The idols of Buddha are slightly different here, although we couldn’t notice much of the differences, our guide explained us some minute differences.
After the noon prayers, the priests departed to their dorms and we didn’t get much chance to interact with them. firstly, they speak very little and secondly they wouldn’t want to be disturbed in between their daily activities.
After wandering around in the monastery for some time, we got a chance to talk to Head Chef, who is in charge of the kitchen for the entire Gompa.The man was old but not weak. He was brimming with energy, though the lunch time was already over, he offered us tea. The local tea was actually tasty and has a distinct ladakhi flavour which can be made out only if we stayed in ladakh for few days at least.
Other than these, we did get a chance to visit few more monasteries, notably, the famous Lamayaru Monastery (More on it later). Although the key monasteries in leh are generally covered in a day’s trip, if you want to understand more about these Gompas, do give it a day more. For these monastery visits, slow and steady fills your hearts.