Thiksey Monastery is a 15th century monument belonging to the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It looks very similar to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet and is located at an altitude of 11,800 feet in the Indus Valley. Thiksey village is only 19 kilometres from Leh. The 12-storey complex is the biggest gompa in central Ladakh and is home several ancient Tibetan wall paintings, statues, and swords.
It was built during Je Tsong Khapa’s, founder of the Gelug School, campaign to spread Buddhism in remote areas of Tibet. He asked on his disciples, Jangsem Sherab Zangpo, to make a statue of Amitayus, meaning celestial Buddha, using a drop of Tsong Khapa’s blood and bone powder and present it to the king, who resided in Nubra Valley at that time. The King of Ladakh loved the gesture and helped Tsong Khapa and his disciples with their campaign.
The monastery is divided into east and west wing and has a total of 12 temples. It offers gorgeous views of the Indus Valley flood plain, Stok Royal Palace, Shey Palace, and Motha Gompa. It is home to 60 Lamas and its exterior is decorated in red, ochre, and white. Three of the most famous temples inside the monastery complex include Lamokhang temple, Tara temple, and Maitreya Buddha temple.
The Lamokhang temple contains huge stupas and decorative walls and is located on the top floor of the monastery. Only men are allowed to enter the temple. It also has a school room, where boys selected by Lamas receive special education. The Tara temple is home to 21 glass-covered images of Goddess Tara. You will also find a small shrine dedicated to Cham-spring, protector deity of Thikse and Yamantaka, god of death next to the temple.
On the other hand, the Maitreya Buddha temple is the most recent construction and was built in 1970 to mark the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama. It has a 15-feet statue of Maitreya Buddha sitting on a high throne and adorned with copper and gold paint.
The monastery is open from 7 am to 7 pm on all days of the week for visitors and charge a nominal entry fee of INR 20 per person. The fastest way to reach there is by car or bus from Leh. It is a big monastery, so expect yourself to spend at least three hours taking in its beauty and visiting all the temples. You can wait until 6.30 pm to grab a dinner of thukpa and butter tea at the monastery.
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