Karsha monastery is the largest monastery of Zanskar in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. It is located in the Padum Valley above the Stod River in Zanskar and is also known as Karsha Gompa. The 14th Dalai Lama’s younger brother looks after the monastery.
Karsha monastery was founded by the famous translator, Phagspa Sherab in the 11th century. It was constructed on the steep mountain above Karsha village. The monastery is a complex comprising eight temples, chapels, chortens, residential rooms for 150 monks and assembly halls. These assembly halls are in the central part of the monastery and are surrounded with three chapels that have a number of statues and beautiful art works.
Wall paintings in the monastery by Lama Dzadpa Dorie are a major attraction for the visitors. There is a huge collection of Thangkas (paintings on cotton and silk). The temples which are over 300 years old are larger than other buildings of the monastery and are partially damaged. Chortens or grave of mummified Lamas depict the various stages of spiritual as well as physical attainments. It is believed that in the dome of Chortens, spiritual elements are infused in the mummified body and it is known to be a perfect human body.
There are temples of Khagsar close to the village and a convent known as Dorjezong is located at the top of the valley. Karsha gives the opportunity to see the beautiful landscape of Zanskar that includes the glaciers and the river. It is famous for its festival Gustor. The murals, idols and wall paintings in the monastery depict that the monastery was constructed more than thousand years ago in the Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055) era.
Zanskar is the place to be at if you are interested in shopping. You can buy Ladakhi and Tibetan handicraft objects, jewelry and Thangka paintings and of course good quality woolen-wear.
The monastery is open for visitors round the year, but the best time to visit is between July and September. Winters here are very harsh and snow covers all the roads routes. The pass is cleared of snow till July and remains open till mid-October.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN KARSHA
Dormitory accommodation is available within Karsha Monastery for a modest fee. Since the monastery is located in Padum, private hotels, government-run tourist complexes and homestays are available for tourists here. Offering five furnished rooms at a nominal rate, the tourist complexes are best for those traveling on a budget. Camping facilities are also available for those ready to rough it out in tough weather conditions.
Locals at Stongdey, Zangla and Sani also offer accommodation to tourists that are generally basic and low on comfort but high on care and hospitality.
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN KARSHA
Vegetarian meals are available in the monastery at a minimum rates. While there are several restaurants available to tourists in Padum, restaurants at the tourist complexes serve lip-smacking local meals too.
BEST TIME TO VISIT ZANSKAR
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Zanskar is as given below. The best time to visit Zanskar is also specified.