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Top 5 Buddhist Monasteries in India
Buddhism is one of the key religions of the world. It teaches the beautiful way of spirituality, meditation and non-violence. Buddhism flourished during the Maurya dynasty and gradually spread across the world. Siddharth Gautam who became famous as Lord Buddha was the founder of Buddhism. He along with his followers established many Buddhist monasteries throughout India. Buddhism aims at attaining moksha or nirvana by getting away from the repeated cycles of life and death. There are around 250-500 million followers of Buddhism around the world. Buddhist monasteries are considered to be sacred and are full of peace and tranquility. Here are some of the most prominent and beautiful Buddhist monasteries in India which are worth visiting:
1. Namgyal Monastery, Mcleodganj, Dharamshala
Namgyal Monastery located at McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh is world famous as the personal monastery of the 14th Dalai Lama. It houses the Tibetan Government in exile. It also includes the private residence of H.H. Dalai Lama. The attractions at the monastery include the Tibet Museum, Tsuglag Khang temple, Kalachakra temple and Mangyal Gompa. The Tsuglag Khang temple has a beautiful three meter high gilded statue of Sakyamuni Buddha while the Kalachakra temple is famous for its mesmerizing murals. H.H. Dalai Lama holds his public gatherings at the temple. The monastery’s main role is to assist the rituals involving the Dalai Lama of Tibet. Namgyal monastery has almost 200 monks living there. Several religious festivities and dances are organized here throughout the year. Pilgrims come from all over the world throughout the year to seek the blessings of H.H. Dalai Lama. It is a beautiful and serene place decorated with colorful flags.
2. Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh
Tawang Monastery is the largest monastery in India and the second largest in the world after the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Situated at 3500 meters above the sea level, it is located above Tawang town in Arunachal Pradesh near the border of Bhutan. With ravines on both its sides, the monastery seems like a fort. It is triple storied with a large assembly hall and 65 residential quarters for monks & students. The monastery has a school and a centre for Buddhist cultural studies. It also has a printing press where religious books are printed using locally made paper. The masked dances during Torgya festival in January are a major tourist attraction.
3. Hemis Monastery, Laddakh
Hemis Monastery is the largest and the richest monastery in Laddakh. It was re-established in 1652. The Drukpa lineage or the Dragon order of Mahayana Buddhism runs the Hemis Monastery. It’s famous for its rich collection of ancient statues, sacred thangkas and other priceless artefacts. Its spiritual retreat run by monks and masked dance during Hemis Festival is quite famous among tourists. Hemis festival is dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava or Guru Rimpoche.
4. Thiksey Monastery, Laddakh
Thiksey Monastery located at Indus Valley in Laddakh is the second most prominent monastery of the region. It’s located covering one side of a hill and its buildings are arranged in ascending order of importance. The museum situated at the monastery has ancient relics and precious artefacts of the Buddhist period. Lakhang Nyerma, a temple dedicated to Goddess Dorje Chenmo within Thiksey Monastery is worth seeing. Maitreya temple at the monastery is a major tourist attraction which is remarkable for a 49 feet high statue of Maitreya Buddha. It was built to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama in 1970 and took four years for completion.
5. Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim
Rumtek Monastery is the largest and the most visited one of the 200 monasteries in Sikkim. It is located at the peak of Gangtok and is famous for its ancient origin as it dates back to 9th century but was re-established in the early 1960s. This monastery is the seat of Karmapa Lama, the third highest monk in Tibetan Buddhism. The magnificent landscapes, gushing waterfalls and untouched river add to its charm. The beautiful Rumtek monastery enshrines a golden stupa containing relic like statues & paintings belonging to the 16th Karmapa. There is a high security at the monastery owing to the conflicts and violent invasion from some monks who dispute its lineage. Masked dance festival during the Tibetan New Year (Losar) is a major attraction for the visitors.
The Hemis Festival Sacred Mask Dances, Ladakh
© 2017 Shaloo Walia