The ample number of Buddhist monasteries in
Himachal allows one to go on an exclusive monastery tour through the state.
The different14 days and include both ancient and recently established monasteries,
some of which are located in major towns like Dharamsala and some are totally
off the beaten track in remote mountains. It is believed that Buddhism appeared
in Himachal Pradesh thanks to the kings of Guge (southwestern Tibet) who embraced
Rinchen Zangpo or the Great Translator (958-1055) is said to have crossed
Himachal Pradesh on his way back to Tibet after spending some time at the
great Buddhist centres along the Gangetic plain. He established several monasteries
all over the region which has the option of starting the trail from Shimla
and ending at McLeodganj or vice versa or formulating oneís own circuit, if
time and budget permits.
Among the important gompas are those at Tabo, Rewalsar, Kaza, Keylong, Manali, Dharamsala and Nako. The Tabo gompa houses rare Buddhist art treasures and was founded by Rinchen Zangpo in 996 AD. The mud and timber structures do not appear to be very impressive at first but walk in and you will be struck by the luminous and exquisite murals and sculptures that adorn the inner walls. It is believed that Rinchen Zangpo brought Kashmiri artisans with him to decorate this monastery. The Dalai Lama inaugurated a new gompa here in 1983 where along with traditional Buddhist studies, training is given in painting techniques. The Rewalsar gompas belong to the Nyingma sect, the original school of Tibetan Buddhism and are built around the Rewalsar lake.
A Buddhist legend states that in the eighth century, when the monk Padmasambhava was teaching the daughter of a local Hindu king the art of meditation, the king tried to burn him. Padmasambhava then appeared as a lotus surrounded by water. The king impressed by his power then allowed him to establish a Buddhist centre here . The Kyi gompa at Kaza is the largest monastery the Spiti Valley and is headed by Rnpocne Lo Chien Tulk who is said to be the current incarnation of Rinchen Zangpo. Built in the Tibetan style.
Keylong has three large gompas and the day-long hike to the sacred Rangcha Mountain includes a visit to the Khardung gompa. Manaliís Gadhan Thekchhokling gompa was built in 1969 and is maintained through the sale of carpets hand-woven in the monastery as well as donations. The Namgyal monastery at Dharamsala is famous for the display by its monk of the traditional Tibetan style of argument and discussion. The monastery at Nako was established in the eleventh century by Rinchen Zangpo and has exquisite Buddhist statues and paintings.
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