Ladakh The Shangrila

Ladakh The Shangrila -- Thiksey Monastery

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 room, 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.