Renowned as Tharpa Ling which means the ‘place of freedom’; Lamayuru monastery is the oldest and one of the largest monasteries in Ladakh region in Jammu and Kashmir. It is located approximately 127 km from Leh on a steep mountain between Bodhkharbu and Kha-la-che. The monastery belongs to Red-Hat Sect of Buddhism. At its peak, the monastery housed 400 monks but nowadays there are only 50 inmates. About 150 monks reside in Lamayuru village. The monastery is famous for its rich wall paintings, collection of thangkas, murals, scriptures and statues of different forms of Buddha and other deities. There are several legends about the monastery.
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According to one of the legends, it was founded by Mahasiddhacharya Naropa in 11th century who came to the place for meditation. However, the foundation of the monastery was predicted in the Bodhisattva Madhyantaka. It was predicted that the lake would be dried and a monastery would be constructed at its place. When the lake dried, Naropa found a dead lion there and chose to construct first temple of Singhe Ghang (Lion Mound). He constructed five buildings but only one exists.
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According to another historical account, the king of Ladakh built the Lamayuru buildings during tenth century. Later the king donated the buildings to Rinchen Zangbo. According to a third account, the King of Ladakh during 16th century, Jamyang Namgyal contracted leprosy which was cured by a Lama. In gratitude, the king gave him the monastery buildings and some other privileges like exemption from taxes. Moreover, he declared the area surrounding the monastery as sanctuary where no one would be arrested. This is the reason that the Lamayuru is still said to be ‘Tharpa Ling’ which means the ‘place of freedom’. The monastery has a Dukhang, the assembly hall, Gonkhang, the temple and residential buildings for monks. Walls of the Dukhang are painted with colourful images of Buddhist deities. The Gonkhang is dedicated to guardians of Buddhism. In front of the temple there are three chortens. In the small temple there are some images of Avalokitesvara (with 1000 arms and 11 heads), Padmasambhava and statues of eight Bodhisattvas.
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Besides the temple there is a cave which is known as Naropa’s cave. It is said that Naropa used to meditate in the cave. The annual festival known as Yuru Kabgyat is the major attraction of the monastery. Mask dance by the lamas are the highlight of the festival. Another important ritual followed during the festival is the burning of effigies. It stands for destruction of the ego in every individual. Besides its monastery, Lamayuru also attracts tourists for its landscape quite similar to the lunar terrain. Though remote, the landscape is a favourite with photographers and trekkers.
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In fact, the adventure fantasy film, The Fall was shot at moonscape at Lamayuru. The movie directed by Tarsem Singh, starred Lee Pace, Catinca Untaru, and Justine Waddell. Some of the scenes of the feature length drama movie Wolf were shot in Lamayuru monastery. The film was released in July, 2012. Basic accommodation is available in the monastery. Mid-range hotels are also available near the Lamayuru monastery. Options to eat are limited at Lamayuru village, but just about enough. Try some of the Tibetan authentic food if you like to explore new cuisines. There are small outlets in the village which provide Indian and Tibetan food. The best time to visit Lamayuru is between May and September, when the weather is pleasant. Most of the trekking routes and roads remain closed after November due to heavy snowfall.
Photograph courtesy: Amol Hatwar/Creative Commons
BEST TIME TO VISIT LADAKH
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Ladakh is as given below. The best time to visit Ladakh is also specified.
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