Buddhist monasteries, or gompas, are havens of peace and tranquillity, no matter which faith you belong to. From those shaped as a honey-comb, to those with 108-ft tall statues, explore some of the most amazing Buddhist monasteries in India that can put you at ease even as they take your breath away.
Located in the beautiful Nubra Valley of Ladakh, the Diskit (or Deskit) gompa is the oldest and largest monastery in the valley, having being built in the 14th century. It belongs to the Gelugpa sect (yellow hat) of Tibetan Buddhist order. The spectacular gompa has a Maitreya statue and a huge drum in the prayer hall, and many shrines within. It’s hard to miss the 32-metre tall statue of the Jampa Buddha looking out into the Nubra Valley.
2. Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery, Coorg, Karnataka
Home to more than 5,000 monks, this spectacular monastery rises tall amidst the verdant remoteness of Bylakuppe, a region in Mysore, Karnataka. Considered the largest teaching centre of the Nyingmapa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism in the world, it is one among the six great Tibetan Mother monasteries in India. Take in the beautiful Tibetan mythological paintings adorning the walls and the large, 18 metre-tall idols of Buddha in the temple. Another breath-taking sight is the roof of the main temple, with a golden bell and two golden deer on either side of it.
3. Phuktal Monastery, Zanskar, Ladakh
Almost blending into the rocky mountain around it, the Phuktal Monastery in Zanskar is an amazing sight. “Phuktal” in Tibetan means “through caves”, and the monastery is made up of mud and wood at the mouth of a cave. Built in the shape of a honey comb, this monastery is accessible by a suspension bridge over a river, making it all the more intriguing for the trekker-at-heart visitor. Even though the monastery was built in the 12th century, Phuktal remained undiscovered to the world until the early 19th century!
4. Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh
Located in Bomdila, Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang Monastery is the largest in India. Also the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama, this monastery is situated 35,000 m above sea level and is surrounded by snow-covered mountains. The interior of the monastery is very rich, with beautiful statues of Buddha and his teachings all around. Tawang Monastery is also home to one of the finest craft centres in the state where you can find some of the finest woollen carpets in the world made right here.
5. Tsuglagkhang Complex, Dharamshala
Tsuglagkhang Complex may not be on the top of the list of spectacular Buddhist monasteries, but one you should visit anyway because it is the official residence of the spiritual leader, Dalai Lama. Located in McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, the complex rises amidst pine trees on the slope of the Dhauladar Range. The monastery is almost like a wholesome tour of the Tibetan culture before and after it took roots in India. Tourists are allowed everywhere in the monastery except for the quarters of the Dalai Lama.
6. Kye Monastery, Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Pronounced as ‘kee’, the Kye Monastery is one of the oldest in the Spiti Valley. It turned 1,000 years old in the year 2000. Located 4,166 m above sea level, on the side of the Spiti River, the monastery is unlike most other Buddhist monasteries around the world, for its structure looks like that of a fort, with temples built over one another. But that has a lot to do with the number of times it was reconstructed after the many attacks on it by the Mongols. Watch out for the Chinese influence that shows through strikingly across the monastery.
7. Thiksey Monastery, Leh
The monastery, built at 11,840 ft. above sea level, is a sight for sore eyes. The largest in Ladakh, Thiksey Monastery is a magnificent 12-storey complex painted in white, covering an entire side of the hill. The monastery was built in the 15th century, and in addition to the lively collection of Buddhist scriptures, paintings and stupas, this monastery houses a 49-ft. tall statue of Maitreya Buddha, which by itself covers about two storeys of the complex.
8. Hemis Monastery, Ladakh
One of the largest and most famous Buddhist monasteries in India, Hemis Gompa belongs to the red sect Brokpa of Buddhist order, and is located in Hemis, Ladakh. It is most well-known for the Hemis Festival, which is held during June–July, commemorating the birth anniversary of the eighth-century Buddhist Master Padmasambhava. But the history of the monastery dates back to the 11th century, although it is said to have been reconstructed in 1672 by Senge Namgyal, the then king of Ladakh. In addition to the history it is steeped in, one of the most striking features of the monastery, which is also considered the wealthiest in the region, is the tall statue of Buddha looking out at the valley.