The Spituk Monastery was built in the 11th century. The monastery, about eight km from Leh in Jammu and Kashmir, was constructed to help develop an exemplary religious community in Ladakh. Like most monasteries in Ladakh, Spituk is also located on a hill. River Indus flows behind the monastery with snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas in the background. The monastery belongs to Gelugpa sect or Yellow Hat order of Tibetan Buddhsim The monastery was founded by Od-De, elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub Od.
Spituk has three branches – Stok, Sankar and Saboo monastery. The monastery started off as pat of Kadampa order (Red Hat sect) but it later came into the fold of Gelugpa order (Yellow Hat sect). The monastery currently is home to about 100 monks. It has many ancient shrines, idols, frescoes and religious scriptures. There is a temple higher up the hill devoted to Vajrabhairava Deity. One can see the face of the idol only during Gustor festival. The monastery has images and statues of Lord Buddha. Besides that, there is sacred idol of Amitayus that is a finger high in size which was presented by Tsongkhapa to Takspa Bum-Lde.
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The Dukhang or the assembly hall has ancient collection of thangkas, masks and antique arms. There is a big throne in the assembly hall for the Dalai Lama. There is old chapel behind the throne that has images of Tsong-kha-pa, his two chief disciples and the Buddha. The monastery also has a statue of the female Bodhisattva Tara (also called Dolma). The monastery has a room dedicated to images of Tara and it is called Dolma Lhakhang or the Temple of Tara. The monastery celebrates Gustor festival every year. Prayers, music, dance, traditional art and cultural exhibition by locals are the highlight of the festival. Locals make it a point to attend the festival to receive the blessings of Lord Buddha and the monks before entering the New Year. Cham dance or mask dance are the high point of the festival.
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The Cham dance is performed to reinforce the message that good always wins over evil. The color of the dresses, mask and the powerful performance by the Lamas are worth watching. The monastery is located near Leh where the options for accommodation and food are better. The best season to visit the monastery is between June and September as rest of the months, roads are snowbound.
Photograph courtesy: Amit Rawat/Creative Commons
BEST TIME TO VISIT LADAKH
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