Sani Monastery is among the oldest religious centres of Tibetan Buddhism in Ladakh and Zanskar regions. On the road to Kargil, six km west from Padum, Sani village is located at the intersection of Stod Valley and Zanskar in Jammu and Kashmir in northern India. Like Dzongkhul Monastery, it belongs to the Drukpa Kargyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, and is the only one of this order in Zanskar which has nuns. Sani Monastery was built in parts with each part dating to a different century. The chorten or the reliquary is the oldest past of the monastery which is believed to have been erected in the 2nd century. The Dukhang or the assembly hall was built in the early 17th century.
The monastery is built in the form of a castle and has the Kanika Stupa at the back of its walled complex. It is believed that due to this Stupa, the monastery was linked to Kanishka (Kushan ruler of the 2nd century). The central praying hall is in the main building of the monastery. It is decorated with a vibrant collection of statues of Buddhist deities and Kargud-pa’s Lamas. The walls of the prayer hall have frescoes and thangkas (Tibetan silk paintings). At the rear of the main building there is a small neglected chapel. The chapel is in a dilapidated state but is still worth a watch with its beautiful murals that depict the life of Padmasambhava (The Lotus Born), landscape and many have floral designs. There is a crematorium outside the monastery complex which is considered to be one of the eight most important cremation grounds for Tibetan Buddhists. The crematorium has a ring of ancient rock paintings on its perimeter which has a touch of Indian art as well to it.
There are no accommodation options in Sani Monastery. The nearest place to get decent accomodation is in Kargil. Accommodation options are limited in Kargil too. Luxury hotels are not available. Budget and medium-range hotels are available but the numbers are limited. As Kargil is an important stopover on the way to Ladakh, booking hotels in advance is a good idea. There are no eateries in Sani so it would be advisable to carry your own food while visiting the monastery. The best time to visit Sani Monastery is during the months of July to November. Winter months are best avoided as the temperature dips way past what is comfortable and pleasant.
Photograph courtesy: Sandeep Chetan/Creative Commons
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.