One of the largest and most popular monasteries of Ladakh, the 17th century Hanle Monastery belongs to the Red Hat (Tibetan Drukpa Kagyu) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Located in Hanle Valley of Leh district in Ladakh, the monastery straddles on the ancient trade route between Ladakh and Tibet. Also known as Hanle or Analy Gompa, the monastery is home to 10 monks. Over 33 more monks visit the monastery regularly for prayers. The monastery is less than 20 km away from the Line of Actual Control between India and Tibet. Built with the help and support of Ladakhi King Sengge Namgyal and Stag-tsang-ras-pa (a famous Tibet priest), Hanle was the first monastery to be associated with the Drukpa School that Stag-tsang-ras-pa belonged to.
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Built in Tibetan architectural style, Hanle Monastery also shows influence of Indian and Chinese styles of architecture. With continual support from the Namgyal family, the monastery gained a lot of importance in Ladakh and nearby regions. Hanle Monastery gave serious competition to the Yellow Hat sect, also known as Gelug. Hanle, Hemis, Stakna and ChemreyMonasteries belong to the Red Hat sect. The Hanle Monastery is home to the Indian Astronomical Observatory, one of the world’s highest sites for optical, gamma-ray and infrared telescopes. At an elevation of 14,674 ft, the Indian Astronomical Observatory at Hanle is the second highest optical telescope in the world.
Due to close proximity of the monastery to the Tibetan border, the region is highly sensitive. For this reason, prior permission has to be acquired from the Indian Government office in Leh to visit the monastery. There are budget accommodations available on the Tsaka La Road, south of Rhongo. Camp site accommodation is available on the shores of the Pangong Tso. It is advisable to carry own food and water. There are a few eateries near the monastery but they are quite expensive and food served and may not suit your expectations. A few locals provide home cooked food which is generally Ladakhi cuisine. The best time to visit Hanle Monastery is between June and September.
Photograph courtesy: Deepak Bhatia/Creative Commons
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