A Tale of Two Monasteries..Spituk and Likir


In Ladakh you can walk into a monastery after every kilometre or so. The most famous ones are Hemis and Thiksey. Hemis is the richest and most revered of the monasteries around here. Thiksey has been built as a replica as the Potala Palace in Tibet. The there are numerous others such as Spituk, Likir, Basgo, Alchi, Lamayuru, Diskit, etc.

Travellers coming by air to Leh will get their first glimpse of the Spituk monastery as their plane is about to land. The planes line up in what is known here as the “saddle”. there are two hills that form the shape of a saddle and through the gap between these two hills the plane lines towards the runway. Here you can see the teeny tiny runway of Leh. Leh is one of the most difficult places to land in and only highly specialised pilots are given this route.


The Spitul Gompa has about four temples. We were lucky that the day we went there we met a Ladakhi lady who had come to offer prayers. She very sweetly took us around all these temples and explained things to us.

She showed us the picures of the present Dalai Lama, the one previos to him and the small child of about 8 who is destined to be the next Dalai Lama. This young boy was born in Nubra. There are figurines of the older Dalai Lama and the locals worship him in the same manner they worship Buddha.

On the very top of the hill there is a small room. A doorway leads to an inner chapel where you can see Hindu deities in Buddhist style. There is a huge figure of Kali. It is because of this figure that the Spituk gompa is commonly known as Kali Mata Mandir. The faces of the deities are kept covered. They are revealed only once a year during the annual Gustor festival.

The gompa is situated on a hill overlooking the Indus river. As you walk around the perimeter of the gompa you can see up and down the river bed as it flows down the valley.

About 50 mks away is the Likir monastery situated in the Likir village. Likir means the naga encircled. The monastery got its name because it is believed that two nagas, Nanda and Taksako, guard it. There is a 75 feet statue of Buddha.


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