The Likir Monastery or gompa is one of the oldest and well maintained monasteries in Ladakh district in India’s northernmost state, Jammu and Kashmir. The monastery is located in Likir village is believed to have been in existence since 11th century. The original name of Likir monastery is Klu-kkhyil gompa. Besides being the oldest, the monastery is also known for the 75 feet statue of Buddha. About 62 m from Leh, Likir village located in Indus Valley is believed to be among the oldest villages of India. Likir means the Naga encircled. The monastery got its name as it is believed two serpent spirits –Nanda and Taksako – guard it. The gompa belongs to Gelugpa sect of Buddhism which is also referred as Yellow Hat sect. It was founded by Tsongkhapa in 15th century.
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A monastery founded in 11th century by king Lha-chen-rgyal-po used to exist at the place. The monastery was destroyed due to fire. It was rebuilt in 18th century. The monastery was built like a fort so that it offered a sanctuary to local inhabitants during the war. Fields are located at the base, above which are located the monks’ residences. The temples and the assembly hall are located above the monks’ residence. About 120 monks reside in the monastery.
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Besides being one of the oldest monasteries of Ladakh, Likir also has the distinction of being one of the wealthiest monasteries in Ladakh as well. Precious statues made in gold, silver and copper, besides numerous rare thangkas, murals and art works form the wealth of the monastery. Likir also controls Alchi monastery. The main attractions of the monastery are its architecture, murals, thangkas, 75 feet statue of Buddha and stupas. There are two assembly halls known as Dukhangs. Walls of the Dukhangs are full of paintings. The paintings of Bodhisattva (Lord of All He Surveys), Amitabha (Buddha of the West), Sakyamuni (present Buddha), Maitreya (future Buddha) and Marme Zat (past Buddha) are impressive. Gonkhang is dedicated to guardian deities.
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A trip to Likir is incomplete without attending the annual festival. Dance, music, sports and food are high point of the festival. Cham dance is the major attraction and is performed by Lamas wearing colourful masks. The village is famous for pashmina shawl, woolen clothes and apricots. There are guest houses and hotels for tourists to stay, however, not all of the are located close to the monastery. In fact, most accommodation options are approximately two to three km from the monastery. Most of the caretakers and owners of the homestays and guest houses will offer meals that suitable prices. Also, these guest houses offer food only to their guests. The best time to visit Likir monastery is between June and September, as routes remain closed after November due to heavy snowfall.
Photograph courtesy: Joe Athialy/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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