India is the sacred land of the birth of Buddhism. In the 5th century BC, India saw the rise of Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is mightily prevalent in India. The divine settings of these spectacular monasteries fill all hearts with amazement and make one lost in divinity.
Himachal Pradesh is the acclaimed home to many of the most beautiful, pious and iconic monasteries that stand proudly spreading their exquisiteness. The tourists look for beauty, solitude, and peace in these artistic and altruistic structures that have been standing for centuries defying the ravages of time and vagaries of nature.
Himachal Pradesh is the supreme seat of His Highness the 14th Dalai Lama or Tenzin Gyatso. This state is also the revered location where Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche also hailed as the Second Buddha had preached Buddhism. He was the champion of the Mahayana sect of Buddhism in Himachal.
Some of the worth mentioning monasteries that have been is existence since centuries and are still frequented by devotees and travelers and tourists alike can be listed as follows.
- Tabo Monastery, Lahual, and Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh
This monastery is astoundingly more than a thousand years old. It is also known as the ‘Ajanta of the Himalayas’. It was established more than a millennium back in 996 A.D. This ancient magnificent religious structure overlooks the barren, cold and rocky desert of the Tabo valley. The stupendous height at which it is built at 3050 meters above sea level lends it a simply majestic beauty staunchly preserving the glorious heritage, traditions, and culture of Buddhism through the decades.
This famous Tabo Monastery is believed to have been established by a great teacher and translator Lotsawa Rinchen Tsang Po, who was the ruler of the western Himalayan Kingdom of Guge. This monastery has a rich historical significance being second in importance only to the Tholing Gompa of Tibet. It has functioned as a center for Buddhist learning and comprises 9 temples, 23 chortens, a monk’s chamber and an extension that contains the nun’s chamber.
- Nyingmapa Monastery, Mandi, Himachal Pradesh
This is a famous Buddhist Monastery built at the southeast corner of the sacred lake of Rewalsar. There is a fascinating mythical story associated with this monastery. According to the myth, the king from Mandi had set out to kill Padmasambhava in the eighth century in order to wean away his daughter who had been under the influence of the great Guru Padmasambhava.
The monastery has a prayer hall containing artful murals. At the waterfront of the monastery there hangs a heavy Trvatni Dharma bell that has been designed to last a thousand years.
- The Dhankar Monastery, Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh
The divinely beautiful Dhankar Monastery is nestled between the surreal rocky cliffs at a height of more than 3,800 meters in the Dhankar Village of Spiti valley. This ancient monastery dates back to the 16th century and has also served as a prison in the early era. The Dhankar Gompa is more than 1000 years old. The monastery is accessible via a motorable road that is suitable for the plying of a smaller vehicle solely.
Dhankar Monastery has been associated with the Great Monk, Rinchen Zanggpo. The monastery complex has a number of multi-story buildings built in a cluster. The old monastery comprises five different halls that include Kanjur, Lhakhang, and Dukhang. It also showcases a brilliant and huge life-size silver image of Vajradhara placed on a glass altar that is decorated with scarves and flowers. The Lhakhang Gompa is located on the uppermost peak above the main monastery. It contains wondrous depictions of Shakyamuni, Tsongkhapa and Lama Chodrang in the central wall.
- Kye Monastery,
Lahual, Himachal Pradesh
The spectacular Kye Monastery of Lahaul is a living testimony of the age-old traditions of Buddhism. It spells the charm of Buddhism as a world religion and one of the greatest in Asia that has its roots in India. This Buddhist monastery is iconic of the age-old traditions that are associated with the religion. This monastery has a divine charm for the beholders. It has got special significance for the pilgrims, the devotees, the uninitiated, the historians and researchers, photographers and also to mere curious travelers.
The Famous Kye Monastery is located at a height of 4,166 meters. This beautiful monastery is perched in a mesmeric setting on the top of a hill near the charming the Spiti River. This fascinating monastery is more than a thousand years old and is the largest monastery in Lahaul and Spiti Valley. It was established way back in the 11th century. One can see the ancient Buddhist scrolls and paintings here. It is also the home to a large number of Buddhist monks, nuns, and lamas who study religion here.
- Namgyal Monastery, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh
Namgyal Monastery is the sacred abode of the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. It is one of the primary institutes for Buddhist teachings. The monastery was founded by the Third Dalai Lama and is regarded as the holiest monastery in India but also in the whole world. It is all the more famous for being the largest Tibetan temple outside Tibet.
This beautiful monastery was founded by the Third Dalai Lama in 1575 in Tibet but was later relocated to Dharamshala on account of the Tibetan uprising in 1959. This monastery was established with the original plan that the Namgyal monks would assist Dalai Lama in all his public religious affairs. The 200 resident Tibetan monks of Namgyal Monastery perform rituals for the welfare of Tibet. Onlookers get fascinated by the serenity of the settings and the grand figures of Buddha.
Thus Himachal Pradesh is dotted with some of the best known and widely acclaimed monasteries that are seats of worship, learning, preaching and also are educational institutes and libraries displaying the famous Tibetan works and archives. Since ages, Himachal Pradesh has fiercely guarded and preserved the charm, greatness, and heritage of Buddhism in India.