Still reeling from the beauty of Shey Palace, we got back on the road towards Thiksey Monastery which was a few kms down the road. After a while on the road, we turned left into the most beautiful road that went uphill. All along the way, we spotted stupas lined up with colorful flags on them. And within minutes we had reached the parking lot of the Monastery.
Once again, this too was situated atop the hill and involved a bit of walking, climbing and marching through flights of stairs. This beautiful Buddhist monastery is the largest monastery in central Ladakh and was set up by the Gelukpa monks.
Within the Thiksey monastery we found Lakhang Nyerma, a temple dedicated to Goddess Dorje Chenmo Apart from Lakhang Nyerma there are a few other shrines inside the monastery complex. Basically, this Monastery consists of two main buildings with steep stairs leading up to the Buddha.
It is a massive twelve storey monastery complex with a number of stupas, statues, thankas and wall paintings. There is also a large pillar engraved with the Buddha’s teachings. There is also a museum many sacred items besides a royal sword among other precious objects are on display.
While making my way up, I kept stopping to click pictures, admire the writings on the wall and also say hi hello to fellow travellers. Met a lady who was here from Orissa, another duo from Europe and the first question they ask is “So how many days were you sick after landing here?”. I would reply”none, i was alright” they would gape and share their story, of how many days they were violently ill before moving on…
Also met the lady I had met earlier at Shey Palace [she was part of a large group of women who had travelled from Mumbai, about 3 of them were very unwell and back in the guest house, while 6-8 of them were out exploring town.. all of them were 60+.. I was quite amazed and impressed with them]
As per tradition of Buddhist monastic orders, the successive Lamas are believed to be reincarnations of the original Lama.. The successive reincarnations of the Skyabje Khampo Ringpoche act as Head Lama of this monastery. The main prayer hall has a 15 meter high seated Maitreya Buddha statue spanning across two stories of the building… The prayers are held early in the morning. The one amazing thing about the Buddha statue here is that he is unusually portrayed as seated in the lotus position rather than his usual representations as standing or in a sitting posture on a high throne..
When inside one of the shrines, we spotted many silver and stainless steel bowls filled with water. Alongside was a box where people had put donation in form of money [ across currencies could be spotted here] and then there were boxes of tropicana juice, parle g biscuits or just individual cookies and chocolates. We assumed these were all offerings to the God by devotees. But i was curious about the bowls of water and so when i spotted a monk walk into the place, I decided to ask him. Oh and he put his feet on the torn piece of clothe and waked using them as a base. [conversation took place in hindi]
Me: Hello, can we have a minute of your time?
He: Are you from India?
Me: Yes, am from Chennai.
He: Then say you are an Indian [Bharatiya] . How can I help you.You all know hindi right?
He: Ok, ask
Me: What is the significance of these bowls of water?
He: Well, Buddha believes all people are equal, no disparity based on money or status and so people are welcome to give whatever they can as offering. if he began differentiating between people, we would stop believing in him.
The silver and stainless bowls are bought by our monks whenever they travel. Water is an offering by the devotees. In case they cant afford anything, they can choose to fill the bowls. Normally these bowls would be in count of 7.
Me: Ah nice.
Another question, why are you walking on cloth and not on the floor?
He: So that I dont step on anything on the ground, the cloth would swish it away.Knowingly wont hurt anything.
Me: Thank you!
Once again, we were mesmerised by the burst of colours across the monastery. Yellow, red, blue, green, you name it, they were all there – on the walls, pillars, and everywhere else as well.
After a good few hours wandering this monastery, we were finally ready to head back down. The steps seemed easy and all we heard was silence around us. There were hoards of people making their way up to the monastery.. Some were taking a break near the first flight of steps in the shade [of the prayer bell]. There was a store near the entrance with some souvenirs, books etc… priced higher than what you find in the local market!