Visiting numerous monasteries for almost 10 days that we spent in Ladakh hadn't brought down our spirit to look at one more on the last day; each and every 'Gompa' beckoned us with something different in its store. Every monastery in Ladakh has various forms of Buddha depicted in them- Maitreya, Avalokiteshwar, Sakyamuni and so on. The shades of red, white and ochre painted on each quarters of the monasteries appealed to us every time we looked at a cliff from which they literally 'hung'. It was like the cliffs wanted to disrobe themselves of their barren cloaks and wanted to be painted in colours so there came up a monastery but with as much simplicity as possible. But Thiksey cannot be termed simple; it is grand. It is grand in scale-it is one of the largest monasteries in Ladakh and it is grand in its beauty- the colourful mural arts with contrasting pillars and paintings are proof of it. The drive to the top of the hill where it is located is an example of it's grandeur. Situated at an altitude of 11,800 feet with 12 storied structures cannot be called 'simple'.
|Thiksey Monastery view|
|Mural paintings on the wall|
|Colourful walls and pillars|
This picture-postcard perfect monastery was founded by the Gelupka sect in 15th century and built under the guidance of Tsongkhapa by his disciple Sherab Sangpo. Overlooking the vast Indus valley, Thikey is called as 'Mini Potala' as it resembles the Potala palace in Tibet. The main attraction of this 'Gompa' is the 49 feet (covers two stories) Maitreya Buddha statue built in 1970 to commemorate the visit of Dalai Lama to this monastery.
According to popular legend, Sherab Sangpo along with his disciple Paden Zangpo was performing a ritual by offering 'torma' (made with flour and butter) when a crow grabbed the torma and flew away. After searching, they found the torma at a hill but in same order and not consumed by the crow. This was considered auspicious and they decided to build the monastery on the exact location. Thiksey means 'perfect order', in accordance with the order in which the crow had placed the torma.
|The huge prayer wheel|
|Smaller prayer wheels on the way|
Ascending the monasteries in Ladakh is a breathtaking experience- in two ways. Breathtaking it is because of the landscape that you get to experience as you go up and breathtaking it is also because you literally have to stop ofttimes to catch your breath! Each time we climbed one flight of stairs, we would stop to take few minutes to enjoy the view and catch up with some air too. There is a new dimension added to the beauty of colourful poplar trees of autumn against the clear blue skies and snow capped mountain ranges at every corner of the monastery.
The main attraction of the monastery is the Maitreya Buddha statue built in 1970. It took four years for the craftsmen to build the statue that stands at a height of 49 feet covering two stories (we get to see only face of the Buddha as entry is denied for the first storey). The statue is made of clay and copper and painted with gold. The interiors of the hall are completely filled with mural paintings depicting life events of Buddha. A quiet peace filled our hearts as we entered the Statue hall and the tiny window in front of the statue filled our eyes with awe-inspiring landscape.
|Maitreya Buddha statue|
|Window of happiness|
No sooner had we come out of the Buddha statue hall than we entered another hall where there was plenty of Ladakhi 'butter tea' offered to all the visitors. The butter tea had failed to impress me all those 10 days and I knew this day would be no different but my husband had acquired the taste for it and wasn't ready to miss a cup or two.
There are two main temples in Thiksey- the Tara temple and Lomakhang temple. Tara (also known as 'Mother of Liberation') is an important figure in Mahayana Buddhism who is appears as a female Bodhisattva. There are 12 images of Tara placed in wooden shelves in this temple.
Lamokhang temple is repository of scriptures where only men are allowed.
|View from the topmost point of the monastery|
|The mountains and the poplar trees|
The more higher we went up the monastery, the beauty of the monastery looked miniscule as the overlooking landscapes took its place. Every corner gives a stunning panoramic view of the mountain ranges with patches of green and yellow poplar trees. And, we had decided to absorb all the beauty in our eyes and hearts leisurely as it was our last day of our trip!