We were on our downhill journey from the perpetual snow-land of the monumental Chang La. The severe cold inspite of the car heater and the tough road trip through the scary avalanche zones was already beginning to have toll on our near to be fatigued bodies.
A Picture Post Card from Chemrey
We were feeling hungry. Initially we had a plan to call for a break at Chemrey, but decided to cancel it for the much awaited lunch break at Karu.
Driving through Chemrey
The valley view at Chemrey is an absolute visual treat. The dullness of the grey mountains was tinged with colourful shades greenery from numerous trees and vegetation that were barred high above on the way to Chang La and beyond it.
Picture Perfect Chemrey
The leaves of most of the trees had already begun to adore shades of yellow and soft orangeness announcing the advent of the harsh winter. The mountains surrounding us were adoring a dark rugged look, bordered by distant snow-capped ranges far away from our reach.
The Chemrey Monastery
The sky above us was majestically blue with tinges of white autumn clouds touching the distant mountain peaks. We were speeding through the road leaving the Chemrey monastery to our right located above a small hillock.
Route Map from Chemrey to Thiksey (Courtesy: Google Maps, 2017)
Lunch break at Karu
Another 10 minutes ride led us right into the Indus river basin where we were joined by the Leh-Manali Highway from our left. We had reached Karu town. Ever since we have left Leh for Nubra & Pangong this was perhaps the biggest town we had seen after Diskit. The town had a good number of eating joints, few ATMs and a small market having almost everything for day to day needs.
On the way to Thiksey
The Manali-Leh highway is a treat to ride. At an altitude touching more than 12000ft above the sea level it’s a dream to have a smooth highway ride on the Manali-Leh Road. The road was an absolute beauty running beside the magnificent Indus river flowing from the far North-East towards Leh. We were speeding through a valley which hardly had any vegetation anywhere.
On the way to Thiksey from Karu
Another 15 minutes ride took us to Thiksey village. We were suddenly engrossed with Chortens and Stupas on both the sides of the highway. We finally took a right turn into a straight road through the valley leading to a small hillock housing the amazing Thiksey monastery.
Reaching Thiksey Monastery
It was peculiar to see from this point, that the monastery was actually 10-12 storied covering step by step from the foot of the hillock to its apex. Probably the lower floors painted white were residential areas with the red-yellow mansions at the apex being the temple and prayer complexes.
Thiksey Monastery Unplugged
Entering the Monastery
The well maintained road took us to the gigantic main gate of the monastery. It was a treat for our eyes to behold the panoramic view of the monastery in the backdrop of the Indus Basin. It was nice to see discipline and lack of chaos at the parking space.
The widescreen shot of the Thiksey Monastery
View of the Thiksey Monastery from the Car Parking
It was now the time for us to proceed towards the large main gate of the monastery. An inclined uphill road took us to interior of the monastery. There was a restaurant and memento shop to our left.
Entrance to the monastery
This is the point from where the staircase begins
The road ahead ended right here. A long uphill staircase case welcomed us to the prayer halls and the temple complex of the monastery.
Climbing the Tall Chain of Stairs is always a challenge
Thiksey Monastery: Looking Back
The origin of the Thiksey monastery lies long back in the pages of history. It is said that Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug School (known as the Yellow Hats) of Tibetian Buddhism had sent his disciples to the court of the then King of Ladakh and gifted him a small statue Amitayus, the Sambhogakāya form of Amitābha.
In the year 1433, the king decided to establish a small monastery of the Gelug School in Stagmo village located on the Northern banks of the river Indus. The spread of the Gelug School of Tibetian Buddhism was pioneered later by Sherab Zangpo and his disciple Palden Zangpo.
Amazing Landscapes around Thiksey Monastery
It is said that probably influenced by a divine directive Palden Zangpo had decided to lay the foundation stones of a bigger monastery located on a sacred hill in Thiksey village. At present the Thiksey monastery is the largest monastery in Ladakh. Probably its architectural design was inspired by the famous Potala Palace located in Lhasa, Tibet.
Taking the long Staircase
As we took the long uphill staircase, it was getting more and more difficult to breathe. But the exhaustion was well complimented by the unfolding of the magnificent Indus Valley view opening up before our eyes.
The magnificent Indus Valley view opening up before our eyes
The gallery containing a giant red colored rolling drum
For the first time we could now see the sparkling water body of the Indus glittering in the broad daylight. We reached a gallery containing a giant red colored rolling drum inscribed with the holy chant “Om Mani Padme Hum”. On the wall of this gallery a huge mural portrayed the painting of Je Tsongkhapa and his disciples.
The beautiful Chorten
Oh!!…What a view…
We soon came across a beautiful chorten (stupa) with a gilded apex. It snow-white walls were decorated by yellow and blue floral designs and golden colored chains. The valley view beyond the stupa was looking stunning.
The valley view..a memorable moment
It was time for me to shoot a widescreen shot to capture the grey mountains lying to my left ranging to the Indus basin in the middle and the gigantic snow-capped mountains to my extreme right.
A Wow Moment from a roof above the stupa
We had now climbed way up to the yellow-red mansions indicating that we had reached the main temple complex.
We had reached the main temple complex
The Monastery Courtyard
We were standing at the large paved courtyard of the huge three storied yellow-red monastery complex. To our right lay a beautiful long arched gallery made of wood and painted by colorful frescos.
The Monastery Courtyard
The Maitreya Buddha Temple
The first floor lying right above this gallery had a balcony containing a similar wooden gallery painted red. The entry to the courtyard was guarded by two colorful lions. At the centre there was a tall mast holding a gigantic flag tied to it. To our left and immediate front lay a wonderful gallery containing innumerable frescos of Lord Buddha and noted Rimpoches of the Gelug School.
The Maitreya Buddha
The Maitreya Buddha Temple
A paved staircase led us to the most beautifully decorated three storied mansion lying to our right. This was none other than the famous Maitreya Buddha Temple. The entrance of the temple is housed in a wooden gallery exquisitely painted by colorful frescos and floral designs.
The Future Lord Buddha
The temple houses the gigantic 40 ft tall deity of Maitreya Buddha, the future re-incarnation of Lord Buddha. The terracotta statue painted with gold and beautiful colours is so tall that it covers almost three floors of the building from the ground floor. The statue is the largest of its kind in Ladakh. It took almost four years to complete this statue before it was consecrated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on 26th July 1980.
The Divine Idol of the Future Buddha
It is said that the statue of the future Buddha came into vogue as a result of the devotion of Kushok Nawang Chamba Stanzin, the Thiksey Rinpoche and his mentor Kachen Lobzang Zotpa.
The Maitreya Buddha statue is unique of its kind and is different from the traditional meditating statues of Lord Buddha that we are accustomed with. Here the Lord adores an open eyed, smiling avatar. He is wearing a beautifully decorated crown and his body is decorated by a blue angavastram with sparkling golden jewels studded with colorful gems. With folded hands he is seen blessing mankind and the known world.
The Maitreya Buddha
The aura of the Lord is so adorable that you keep on looking at him. The feeling is just out of the world. The eternal peace in the calmness of His eyes and His smile takes you to the other world. You just keep on feeling that “being with Him for the moment is not enough”…. “You feel the urge of being with Him for the end of Time”.
Frescos of the Thiksey Rinpoche lineage
To the right and left as well as the back side of the Maitreya Buddha idol there are innumerable frescos of the Thiksey Rinpoche lineage. The entrance wall houses the frescos of Buddha Sakyamuni, Manjushri, Nagarjuna, Asanga and six great Indian scholars.
Memorable moments at the The Maitreya Buddha Temple
We were among the few lucky ones visiting Ladakh to have got the rare opportunity to witness the deity of the future Buddha. Whether He would get re-incarnated once again on this known world is a different perspective of belief and faith. The teachings of Lord Buddha for ages had shown the path of light and salvation to the humanity protecting us from the evils of civilization and dark thoughts residing in the core of our minds. At this moment I strongly felt that the very thought of the new Buddha would re-ignite a much needed Renaissance and lead us all to a better world.
Guys! I hope that by now, you might have found that I had written way beyond what I write for a day. To be honest with you, it’s hard to write everything about Thiksey in one article. So lets’ meet another day to cover up the rest of the story we had at Thiksey. Till then..Adieu Friends!!! Lets’ meet you all in the next issue of mytravelnama.