Karma Dupgyud Choeling Monastery at Choglamsar is a hidden gem that does not figure on the itinerary of most tourists. Due to paucity of time most of them visit the more famous ones such as Spituk, Thiksey and Hemis. Few venture out ot Alchi and Basgo.
Despite having stayed in Leh for two years, despite having travelled on the Leh-Karu road a number of times, we never visited this monastery. This time while coming back from Thiksey our attention was drawn to the beautiful gate of the monastery.
Almost all monasteries are a walkathon and a climbathon. You drive up steep hills to reach the monastery gate. Then you put on your walking shoes and start climbing a thousand steps and some more. Sure it is a good exercise but in this oxygen deprived environment and under the extremely harsh sun it seems like quite a task. The only two monasteries I have seen around here that are built on flat ground are Alchi and KDCM (yes the one you are reading about!!)
KDCM is one of the major dharma centresin the Ladakh region. It is run by the Karmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhists. Unaware of the sect I looked up Wikipedia which tells us that the Karmapa is the head of the Karma Kagyu, the largest sub school of the Kagyu, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The historical seat of the Karmapas is the Tsurphu Monastery in the Tolung Valley of Tibet. The Karmapas principal seat in exile is the Dharma Chakra Crntre at Runtek Monastery in Sikkim.
The KDCM was constructed in 1976. However in 2006 following incessant rainfall the old monastery collapsed. A new multi storey building was constructed which housed the monastery. Even now you can find the monastery in two parts. An original mud brick complex houses the assembly hall, classrooms, kitchen library and living quarters. The new complex has a prayer hall, office and guest rooms.
Once you enter the monastery gates you will find the new structure on your left. kind monk decided to be our guide and he first took us to the old complex. the entrance is painted with fantastic pictures in vibrant colors.
As you enter you are greeted by two huge drums.
The ceiling has paintings of Buddha in all his forms.
The hall houses statues of Padmasambhava, Amitabaha, Dorje Chang.
The quietness of the chamber is so soothing. I always make it a point to sit down in the assembly hall of the monasteries I visit. It has a very calming effect.
The new monastery is more elaborate and ornately decorated. Poplar trees and flowers add to the beauty.
As you approach the main door you can make out how rich the carvings are, how vibrant the colors are.
There is a similar assembly hall.
The hall houses a large statue of Gautam Buddha. There are many pictures of the Karmapas and their reincarnations. The “Om Mane” mantra is painted all around.
This is a less visited but beautiful monastery. Do try and make out some time for it.