Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ladakh - Visiting Lamayuru Monastery

Ladakh – the moonland of Monasteries
(Visiting Lamayuru Monastery)
Panoramic view of valley below from Lamayuru Monastery
By the time we hit the main highway again from Alchi, the rainfall had again intensified.  The road was now running along the Sindhu River through a narrow canyon like hill and we started ascending towards Lamayuru. Lamayuru or Yuru Gompa  is a Buddhist Gompa  (monastery) in Kargil District, Western Ladakh, India, situated on the Srinagar - Kargil - Leh road 15 km east of the Fotu-La, about 127 Kms. from Leh.  Lamayuru Monastery is situated in between Bodhkharbu and Kha-la-che, on a steep rock mountain at a height of 3,510 meters.  The monastery is made up of a number of shrines and also has a very rich collection of thangkas and magnificent wall paintings. At the outset, the Lamayuru Monastery consisted of five buildings, out of which only the central one exists today.  Lamayuru Monastery belongs to the Red-Hat sect of Buddhism and houses approximately 150 Buddhist monks. 
Entering the National Highway to Srinagar on way back from Alchi
The weather deteriorates further as we head towards Lamayuru
Passing by Khalste - we stopped here for lunch on our way back from Lamayuru
As we head higher towards Lamayuru - Sindhu Rivers appears to be only a rivulet
            It was originally the foremost Bonpo monastery in Ladakh and was called gYung-drung Monastery (from Tibetan: gYung-drung - a swastika - a popular symbol in Bon, Buddhism, and other religions); also gYung-drung-bon is the name of the Bon religion.   As per the legends, the Indian scholar Mahasiddhacarya Naropa (956-1041 CE), allegedly caused a lake which filled the valley to dry up and founded Lamayuru Monastery. The detailed legend states that he Lamayuru Valley used to be a clear lake, at the time of Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha) and, nags (holy serpents) used to reside in the lake. Bodhisattva Madhyantaka had once a prediction quite a long time back that the lake would eventually be dried, making way for the construction of a Buddhist monastery. The legend moves further to state that Mahasiddhacharya Naropa, an 11th century Indian Buddhist scholar, sat in meditation for a number of years in one of the caves in Dukhang. He was the one who caused a crack in the hillside surrounding the lake.  Through this crack, the lake started draining. When the lake dried out, the scholar found a dead lion lying inside it. On the same spot, where he found the lion, he constructed the first temple of the area, known as the Singhe Ghang (Lion Mound). Another legend has it that the building of Lamayuru Monastery was constructed, as per the instructions of King of Ladakh, under the direction of Rinchen Zangpo, the Translator. After this, the monastery came under the administration of the Zhwa-mar-pa (Red Hats).  The oldest surviving building at Lamayuru is a temple called Seng-ge-sgang, at the southern end of the Lamayuru rock, which is attributed to the famous builder-monk Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055 CE). 
Mud hills on way to Lamayuru
Entry point to Lamayuru Monastery below - view of Monastery precincts
The Chorten inside the Lamayuru monastery complex
The green valley below Lamayuru Monastery
The monks' residence atop hill in Lamayuru
Typical mud construction - check out the thickness of the walls at Lamayuru Monastery
             The oldest gompas, those dating from Rinchen Zangpo's time —  Alchi and Lamayuru, and the less accessible Wanla, Mang-gyu and Sumda — belonged at the time of their foundation to none of these Tibetan schools, whose establishment they antedate. They were at some stage taken over by the Ka-dam-pa, and when it fell into decline they were taken over again, this time mostly by the Ge-lugs-pa. The exception was Lamayuru, which was for some reason claimed by the Dri-gung-pa.  The gompa consisted originally of five buildings, and some remains of the four corner buildings can still be seen.  Lamayuru is host to two annual masked dance festivals, in the second and fifth months of the Tibetan lunar calendar, when all the monks from these surrounding gompas gather together to pray. 
Tangkhas inside Lamayuru Monastery
Tangkhas inside Lamayuru Monastery-1
Tangkhas inside Lamayuru Monastery - newer versions
The lady monks of Lamayuru monastery entering the prayer hall
The monk's hostel and meditation halls - atop a hillock in Lamayuru
The bird that brings luck - Black billed Magpie a common bird in Ladakh
On the day we visited Lamayuru, preparations were on way for impending arrival of a senior & honoured Lama.  By the time we had gone around the monastery, the rainfall had taken another short breather and on our return journey, we took the opportunity to take a short break for lunch at Khalse or as the road sign read ‘Khaltsi’ at the ‘Samyas Restaurant’, which to my surprise was being run by a gentleman from Agra and served delectable pure vegetarian food.  I found that many foreigners too were having their meals at this food joint.  Due to the inclement weather, our plans to visit the War Memorial during the return leg had to be shelved. 
Intense rain hits us as we return back to Leh

Here is the link to the video the destination - 

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