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MAP OF MONASTERIES IN HIMACHAL PRADESH

in Lahaul Valley in Spiti Valley
Guru Ghantal Tabo
Kardang Dhankar
Shashur Kye
Tayul Tnagyud
Ghemur Kungri
Kibber
KYE MONASTERY

Overlooking Kaza from a height of about 13,500 ft, the Kye monastery is the largest in the valley and holds a powerful sway over the most populous part of the valley around Kaza. The gompa is an irregular heap of low rooms and narrow corridors on a monolithic conical hill. From a distance is resembles the Thiksey monastery near Leh in Ladakh. The irregular prayer chambers are interconnected by dark passages, tortuous staircases and small doors.
Hundreds of lamas receive their religious training in the monastery. It is also known for its beautiful murals, thankas, rare manuscripts, stucco images and peculiar wind instruments that form part of the orchestra whenever Chham is enacted in the gompa in summer. Another interesting aspect of the gompa is its collection of weapons which may have been used to ward off marauders as also to maintain its control over people betraying a church-militant character.


Thousands of devotees from all over the world were attended the Kalachakra ceremony which was performed in August, 2000 by His Holiness Dalai Lama.Kalachakra initiation (Skt. Abhisheka, Tibetan Wang) is not just an elaborate puja or a religious congregation. It is a workshop in a grand scale to make an earnest effort by both the teacher and disciples to awaken their Buddha nature by the combined forces of teaching, prayer, blessing, devotion, mantra, yoga and meditation. It is an effort by every participant to try to discover the true and permanent peace for the sake of all others. The Buddhists believe mere presence during this elaborate initiation ceremony stretching over a few days, liberates the participant from suffering and bestows on him the bliss of Enlightenment.
The ceremony focuses on five main subjects - cosmology, psycho-physiology, initiation, sadhana and Buddhahood. A Kalachakra mandala and Viswatma deitiy in union with his consort are at the centre of this ceremony guiding the disciple through the tedious process of initiation.
The gompa is approached by road from Kaza (only 12 km). However, it is only 8.5 kms trek from Kaza.

TNAGYUD GOMPA
Near Comic village is the renowned Tangyud gompa. Built around the early decades of the 14th c, the gompa belongs to the Sa-kya-pa sect and is of historical importance. It is recorded that a team of Buddhist scholars of the gompa accomplished the task of revision of Tang-rGyud - the Tantra treatises which in 87 volumes form one class of Tibetan scriptures. The lamas of this gompa are supposed to be proficient in tantra. This gompa was earlier near Hilkkim village which was brought down in the earthquake of 1975. The villagers then shifted this gompa to its present site. Some remains of the monastery can still be seen near Hilkkim.
Kaza to Langza by road is about 9 kms. From Langza one has to walk to Hikkim - Tangyut Comic, which is another 8 kms. From Comic to Kaza is a trek of about 6 kms. It is a circular trek which can be adjusted according to one's own convenience.

KUNGRI GOMPA
Spiti's second oldest monastery is located in the Pin valley. The Kungri gompa built around 1330 AD recently acquired public attention after it received large foreign donations for its renovation. Kungri provides unmistakable evidence of tantric cult as practised in Buddhism. Kungri gompa is the main centre of the Nyingma-pa sect in Spiti. The gompa consists of three detatched rectangular blocks facing east.
The curious looking buzhens perform a sword dance and are perhaps the only branch of Buddhism in which use of weapons is practised. Some of the buzhens live in Mud village on the right bank of the Pin river. It is a chance encounter with buzhens as these lamas are wandering friars. Most of the Pin valley has been demarcated as the Pin Valley National Park which is the natural habitat of the snow leopard and Himalayan ibex.
There is a PWD rest house at Sagnam. Some more accommodation is also being added. Must carry own tents and camping gear. Tracks from this valley lead to Kullu over Pin Parbati pass and Kinnaur over Bhaba pass.

DHANKAR

On the left bank of the Spiti river at a distance of 32 kms downstream from Kaza, near Shichling at an altitude of 3870 m, nestles the citadel of Dhankar, the official capital of Spiti. The citadel is built on a spur which projects into the main valley and ends in a precipice. The location of this fort is strategic as Spiti always had to suffer innumerable aggressions by its neighbors. The location allowed the Spitian to keep vigil on the approaches and to submit messages to surrounding inhabitations in case of danger. Whenever the Spitians were attacked, they built huge fires to signal meeting in the safe sanctuary of rocks, i.e., Dhankars. In the meeting all men and women decided the course of action to be taken against the aggressors.
According to the State Gazetteer, "(The fort) became notorious for housing a cavernous dungeon which the Nono used as prison. It contained a cell without doors having only a small opening at the top through which the condemned person was lowered and received his meals."
The fort of Dhankar now lies in ruins, but still is a place worthy of visit. From the remnants of the fort one can see vast expanses of the Spiti valley.

Dhankar is also of art historical importance. Founded between 7th and the 9th centuries, Dhankar's old temple complex occupies the southern part of the steep mountain slope of the village. It is known by the name of Lha-O-pa Gompa (monastery of the followers of Lha-O).
The monastery consists of a number of multi-storeyed buildings perched together, giving a fortress like impression. There are five different halls including Kanjur, Lhakhang, and Dukhang where a life size silver statue of Vajradhara, the Diamond Being, is placed in a glass altar embellished with scarves and flowers.
Most interesting at the Lha-O-pa gompa is the small chapel on the uppermost peak above the main monastery - Lhakhang Gongma. The building is decorated with depictions of Shakyamuni, Tsongkhapa and Lama Chodrag on the central wall Dhankar's main attraction, although least publicised, is a fresh water lake about 2.5 km from the village at a height of 13500 ft. Set amidst lush green pastures, the lake offers a perfect idyllic camping site. Some boating facilities are proposed to be introduced in the near future. Under the Desert Development Project of Spiti the common carp variety of fish has been introduced in this lake. No angling is, however, allowed in the lake.
Dhankar is approachable by a motorable road, good for small vehicles only, that branches off for Dhankar from the main Kaza - Samdu road at a point around 24 kms from Kaza. The branch road is 8 kms in length upto Dhankar.
There is no rest house in the village. If you plan to halt for night, do carry tents, sleeping bags and other provisions.

KIBBER

Kibber is located at a height of about 14,200 ft in a narrow valley on the summit of a limestone rock. It is only 16 kms from Kaza and a bus service plies between these two places in summer. Kibber is a rather pleasant village with plenty of cultivation. The moment you get down from the bus you are greeted by lush green fields which look strikingly refreshing against the arid backdrop of lofty hills.


There are only 80 houses in the village. The remarkable feature about the architecture is the use of stone instead of mud or adobe brick used extensively in the valley. There are a civil dispensary, a high school, a post office, a telegraph office and a community TV set in the village. There is a monastery in Kibber which is named after Serkang Rimpochhe of Tabo. The lama breathed his last in Kibber in 1983 and when he was being cremated a water source erupted from that spot. Even today the source is being used by the villagers. There is a traditional trade route from Kibber to Ladakh over Parang La. The Spitians go to Ladakh to barter their horses for yaks or to sell for cash. The trek to Ladakh takes minimum 3 night halts. Permits are required for this trek.