Alchi Choskor is the only monastery in the Ladakh on flat ground, around 69 Kms west of Leh. Largest and most famous of all of the temples and built by the great translator Ringchem Zangpo. The temple was founded in 11th century which accounts for the Indian and particularly Kashmiri influences.
Hemis Monastery is one of the most famous and largest of all monasteries in Ladakh, 45 Kms south of Leh founded in 17th century belongs to the Drukpa order. the monastery was founded by Stagsang Raschegn who was invited to Ladakh by king Singee Namgyal. The king offered him religious estates and attended him as his principal guru. Hemis Tsechu (festival) assemble annually from 9th to 11th day of the 5th Tibetan month. The Gompa has well preserved Thankas and copper gilt statue of the lord Buddha, various stupas made of gold and silver and many auspicious objects. The largest thanka in Ladakh over 12 Mtrs. Long is at Hemis.
The largest monastic establishment of Zanskar, Karsha Gompa is an imposing complex of neatly white-washed adobe blocks comprising several chapels, besides residential rooms for its nearly 150 resident monks. Karsha is 4-6 Km from Padum. Built picturesquely along the steep gradient of the mountainside above the Stod river, the monastery can be seen from far and wide. The Gompa, founded by Phagspa Sherab in the 11th century, has the largest library (Kahgyur Khang) in Zanskar and even beyond, there are eight temples and two assembly halls in the complex, which also houses a famous, large and priceless Thangka and smaller but valuable scrolls and precious idols.
The Thabrang (room of God and religion) has frescoes dating back to around the 15th century. There is a 14th century Chomo Gompa (Nunnery) called the Dorje Dzong at the other end of Karsha. The nuns go over to the main Gompa for all major festivals. Karsha is the biggest and richest monastery in all Zanskar.
The oldest and spectacularly set Lamayuru monastery is about 125 kms. West of Leh, founded in the 10th century in 11th century the Mahasiddha Naropa came to this place. Then Rinchen Zangpo translator came and built many temples and stupas and then teaching of the Kadampa School came to flourish. Later Jamyang Namgyal offered it to Chosje Danma and Digung Kargyut School were introduced and named Yungdrung Therpalling. The Yundrung Kabgyad festival is held on the 28th and 29th days of the 2nd Tibetan month.
Located around 52 Kms from Leh, know as Klu-Kkhjil (water spirits) founded in the 14th century by Lama Dhwang Chosje a great champion of meditation. The site of the monastery was encircled by the bodies of two great spent spirits. Therefore, name became widely renowned as Lekir. In the 15th century the disciple of Khasdubje know a lhawang Lodos Sangphu caused the monastery to flourish. This monastery also belongs to Gaylukpa School. Every year from the 17th to 19th of the 12th month the Lekir festival is held.
Phugthal is the most spectacularly located monastic establishment anywhere in Ladakh. The Phugthal complex spills out of the mouth of a huge cave high up in the sheer mountain face of a lateral gorge through which a major tributary of the Lungnak River flows. Perhaps the most isolated monastery in Zanskar, its foundation dates back to the early 12th century. The monastery has frescos and ceiling decorations reflecting strong Indian artistic and oceanographic influence.
Ringdum: (3,657 meters, 130 km from Kargil town, 65 Km from Panikhar). The Ringdum monastery has tiny "museum" with interesting Tibetan and other artifacts. Around forty monks live in the gompa. It is difficult to agree with accounts that date the Gompa to the 8th century. 18th century is more likely. The villagers who live near the Gompa are basically the agriculture shrifts of the monastery, a guidebook informs us.
Shargole is another 10 Kms ahead of Mulbekh, or 35 km, before Kargil, it's small but old Ge-Lugs Pa Buddhist monastery has fellow but interesting frescoes. Inside the Gompa is an icon of an Avalokiteswar. There in the Gompa are also three images of Tara, caved in wood by Tibetan artists. It just out of a brown, granite cliff and appears as if it is suspended in the middle of the mountain. This architectural quirk makes it an object of curiosity among local people, too. The panoramic view from the verandah of the "cantilever monastery" is stunning and helps the worshipper concentrate better.
Gompa is on the hill top near Indus, around 18 Kms from Leh. Which was founded in 11th century by Od-De the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub-od, the Gompa named Spituk (exemplary) when Rinchen Zangpo translator came to that place and said that exemplary religious community would rise. Initially it belonged to the Kadampa school then during the life time of king Gragspa Bumide made it Gayluk Pa order. the Spituk festival held every year from 17th to 19th days of the 11th month.
Built some 600 years ago, Thiksey monastery consists of 12 levels ascending a hillside, culminating in an incarnate lama's private abode at the summit. The Gonpa contains 10 temples; below the monastery itself is chapels and houses of monks stretching down the hillside. There are about 100 monks of the yellow- hat sect of Buddhism. After entering the main courtyard to the immediate right and up several steps is a new temple containing a large Buddha statue. The H.H. Dalai Lama constructed this Buddha, 15 meters tall, in 1980 to commemorate a visit to Thiksey.The statue was made under the guidance, supervision and direction of Kushok Nawang Chamba Stanzin, the present head Lama of Thiksey monastery.
The statue is the largest Buddha figure in Ladakh which took four years to construct and is made of clay and covered with gold paint. The statue houses the sacred Kangyur and Stangyur texts. The statue was made entirely by the local craftsmen and represents Maitreya (compassion in Sanskrit) - the Buddha of future. The prophecy made of the future Buddha is that the world will be undergoing such chaos that the future Buddha will teach compassion to the people. Located directly above this temple is a small narrow room used as school room for the local boys. Here the Lamas instruct the children and some are later selected to become lamas.
Traditionally, Ladakhi families donated one son to become lamas, although this practise is gradually disappearing. Returning to the main courtyard and going up the steep steps directly across from the new temple, on the far wall will be murals of two Tibetan calendars, with wheel of life. To the right of these murals is man prayer rooms, which contain racks of books along the left wall. Many of these books are handwritten or painted. Recent addition is done in block printing. In a small room behind the main prayers room is large image of Sakyamuni (the historical Buddha) flanked by two smaller Bodhisattava images. On the left is the eleven- headed Avalokitashwara, a form of the Buddha. On the rooftop is Lamokhang temple where only men may enter. Also on top is Thiksey library, containing numerous volumes, including Kangyur and Stangyur.
This monastery is built in a spectacular cave, lies on the Padum-Kishtwar trekking route, just before the ascent to the Omasi-La Pass begins. Situated like a swallow's nest on the rock face of the Ating Gorge, the monastery is associated with Naropa, a famous India Yogi. The two caves around which the present monastery has developed are said to have been used by Naropa for solitary mediation. The frescos on the cave walls are very old and reflect a high degree of artistic achievement.