Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Himachal Pradesh



Kee, the largest monastery in Spiti, situated on the left bank of Spiti river has the appearance of a hill fort. The monastery was probably built earlyKee Monastery in the eleventh century.

During the Dogra invasion of 1834, the monastery suffered heavily from fire. The movables were saved by the timely flight of the monks who carried them to the interior hills. The upper buildings, house five gompas and a large kitchen beside other rooms. The gompas are the focal points of the monastery. Each of them is dominated by a statue of the Buddha. On either side of the statue, there are rows of wooden pigeon holes where Tibetan scriptures and commentaries are kept. Walls and books are half covered by Thanka (scroll paintings). These paintings are the oldest and the most beautiful of all Kee's relic. In the central hall, there are 2 stucco idols, one of Yum-Chenmo (goddess Thara) and the other of Shyan rasgzeings (Avalokiteshvara). There are several other statues in the library opposite the temple.

The monasteries in Spiti represent three different sects of Lamaism. Kee belongs to the Go-Ing-Pa sect, the Kaza monastery to the Sa-Skya-Pa sect, while the Pin monastery belongs to the Dr-Ug-Pa sect. These monasteries are extensive buildings on high ground, away from the villages. In the centre are the public rooms, temples, refectories and store rooms. Around them are clustered the separate cells in which the monks live. In the store rooms are kept, besides public property, the dresses, weapons and masks, drums, cymbals, robes and hair dresses used by monks in religious plays, dances and other ceremonies.

Lha-Kun near Dhankas is another important monastery. Of the original 9 temples, eight were destroyed by the Mangols in the seventeenth century. In the centre of the remaining one is a wooden Buddha on a wooden altar. There are 5 panels of exquisite work showing Buddha and other scenes.

Kanam (Kinnaur) monastery
In Kanam (Kinnaur) monastery there are 7 big and small monasteries built by Rin-Chan-Sang-Po. The principle one is situated at the top of the village. There are about 25 rooms in the monastery. They contain copies of Kanjur and Tanjur, the great encyclopaedia of Lamaism. The image of Buddha in the shrine is of gilt Bronze with blue hair.

The Pooh monastery
The Pooh monastery built in the 11th century has a stucco statue of a seated Buddha and two images of his disciples, Sariputra and Maudgallyana. In front of these are two images of Buddharattana Avalokiteshwara, one each in stucco and in wood. There are also various illustrated Tibetan manuscripts.

Guru Ghantal
In Lahaul the largest monastery is that of Guru Ghantal founded by Padma Sambhava in the 8th century. It has a wooden structure with pyramidal roofs. It has very fine wood carvings. It has the idols of the Buddha, laquired Padma Sambhava and Brajeshwari Devi.

The most popular monastery is that of Kardong opposite Keylong founded some 960yrs ago. It was renovated in 1912 by Lama Noibu.

Chorten or Chaitya is derived from the Stupa and was introduced in the high hills when Mahayana was fostering new ideas. The basic structure is a square foundation over which is a dome, then there are steps leading to a parasol which is topped by the twin symbol uniting the sun and the moon. These are found near sacred places. The original function of these buildings was to house relics of the Buddha or great teachers. Now they are used to shelter any great objects.