Any trip to Leh is incomplete without a visit to Thiksey Monastery. It is abut 20 kilometers from Leh city on the way to Karu. The monastery is said to be fashioned on the Potala palace in Lhasa. As you approach from the highway you get your first glimpse of the majestic structure. Stark white on the brown hill, it looks really palatial.
Whenever you visit any monastery be ready to climb and climb. First of all they are built atop hills. Nowadays you can take your vehicle right up to the main gate. But then the monasteries are 7-8 stories tall and you have to climb within the structure too. Here also a winding road takes you right up to the beautiful monastery gate. There is ample parking space for a large number of vehicles.
As you climb inside the Thiksey monastery you get a bird’s eye view of the whole valley floor. It is an amazing sight. The valley extends t the far distance till the mountains and you can see the different ranges rising high topped by snow clad peaks. They might all seem within easy reach but we are talking about hundreds of kilometres in distance and thousands of kilometres in altitude.
As you enter the monastery complex you step into an open courtyard. This is where the annual festival takes place.
One side of the court yard wall is covered with beautiful paintings depicting Buddha in his various postures. This is where the head lama sits during the festivals.
The whole monastery is a 12 storey structure. It houses numerous stupas, statues and thangkas. The 12 storeys are arranged in ascending order of importance. It was built as a fort monastery. There are a total of 10 temples here with the main temple being that of Maitreya Buddha. It houses a almost 50 feet statue of Buddha which covers two floors. As you enter the temple you can see a huge bust and it is only when you peek down that you can see the torso sitting on the lower floor.
This huge statue took four years to be completed. Every little detail is worth observing. The head dress is intricately crafted.
In all the monasteries you will be told not to take selfies with the statues. You can click normal pictures without using a flash. The flashlight damages the color of the paint.
The assembly hall is a beautiful place with paintings and thangkas on the walls, polished wooden floors and windows that look out on the valley floor.
Right next to this is the temple for Tara. There are 21 images of the goddess placed inside glass boxes. Tara is the female Bodhisattva and she is worshipped in her own right.
It will take you almost two hours to walk around the monastery looking at all the temples. And as you think you have seen it all you will notice a large complex of chortens a little away form the main complex. Chortens are Buddhist shrines, typically a saint’s tomb or a monument to the Buddha.
The view all around is breathtaking.