Most dominant religion in Ladakh is Buddhism. The Buddhist temples, called Gonpas or Gompas in local language, are visible most prevalently in Central and Eastern region of Ladakh. From layman’s point of view, the barren hills, interspaced with multi-storied Gompas, break the monotony and give it a spectacular look. A visit to Gompa entails climbing a few hundred steps, to reach the worshipping place, where gigantic Buddha statue, decorated exquisitely, takes one’s breath way. The prayer hall walls have Thankas or paintings on scrolls, giving the visitor an insight to Buddhist religion. The entry to prayer hall, will have more often than not, murals or wall paintings, some of which may be centuries old.
|Prayer Wheel At Leh|
|Chortens At Shey|
Near Gompas, one observes, Chortens also known as stupas, which are built around sacred relics of religious heads of Buddhism. Mani walls are stone structures, found around Gompas, which are carved with Buddhist inscriptions. Mani Stones are stone tablets, inscribed with mantra or devotional designs, found on wayside to monastery.
|Mani Stone At Shey|
The prime attraction is 17.5 meter high Maitreya Buddha, which is made with copper and brass and decorated beautifully with gem stones. Around the Buddha idol, ancient, religious, range of artifacts, paintings and Thankas catch our attention.
|Maitreya Buddha At Shey|
|Buddhist Monk At Shey|
At about 19 km south of Leh, slightly on the eastern side is Thiksey Monatery. Thiksey will remain one of the most picturesque, best maintained monastery in Ladakh. From the base of the hill on which it is located, the multistoried gompa structure, a grand view, impresses one and all. The winding asphalt road along a gentle upward gradient leading to Gompa, give a side view, which is even more impressive as seen in following frame.
|Thiksey Monastery Side View|
|Maitreya Buddha At Thiksey Monastery|
We spent some time in visiting the Gompa Museum containing, Thanka paintings and artifacts, some of which are centuries old. The extensive museum area has to be covered in bare feet and camera has to be deposited at a counter near the entry point. A photo of murals on walls of the courtyard is in the next frame.
|Murals At Hemis|
|Murals At Stok Palace|
The Gompa gate being closed we did not have darshan of Lord Buddha; we spent some time in courtyard, and took our own time to photograph the vista around Stok Palace, from top most spot on Gompa building, which in one word is magnificent.