Thiksey Monastery – Facts, History and Complete Travel Guide

The Thiksey monastery is located in Thiksey, which is 19 kilometers east of Leh, Ladakh. It is the largest monastery in central Ladakh. And is famous for its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa. The monastery is affiliated with the Gelugpa sect or Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It has a separate set of buildings for the female renunciates.

Located at an altitude of 11,800 ft (3,600 m), the Thiksey monastery is a twelve-story building. It has many elements of Buddhist art such as thangkas, stupas, wall paintings, statues, and swords. The Maitreya Temple is one of the most popular attractions in the monastery. The temple houses a 15 meter (49 ft) tall statue of Maitreya Buddha which is one of the largest such statues covering two floors of the building.

The unique location with the surrounding snow-clad mountains attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world. The mixture of different Buddhist sects, the fusion of contemporary architecture and craftsmanship, and the presence of a serene environment add to the overall beauty. For this reason, it is often known to be a place with breathtakingly gorgeous views and a rich cultural heritage.

Thiksey Monastery

Thiksey Monastery Travel Guide

We have compiled a comprehensive travel guide in this blog post for exploring the Thiksey Monastery in the best possible way. It will cover all the vital information, including accommodation, transport, and all the famous attractions to see in the breathtaking monastery.

If you are planning a trip to Thiksey Monastery, our travel guide will help you plan a fantastic and memorable trip. Our team of dedicated specialists from Ladakh offers customized tour packages at discounted prices to all our customers who wish to spend a wonderful holiday in Ladakh. If you have any queries related to Thiksey Monastery, feel free to contact us. Get the best deals to explore Leh in our Ladakh tour packages.

Highlights of the Thiksey Monastery

  1. Maitreya Buddha
  2. Tara Temple
  3. Assembly Hall
  4. Lamokhang Temple
  5. Nunnery
  6. Library
  7. Gustor Festival
  8. Rooftop

Maitreya Buddha

The Maitreya Buddha is one of the main attractions in the monastery. It was installed to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to the monastery in the year 1970. It contains a grand statue of Buddha made up of copper and clay and painted in gold. The statue of Buddha covers 2 stories of the building and is depicted as seated in the lotus position.

The 15 m high statue of Maitreya Buddha is the largest statue in Ladakh and it took four years to complete. It was built by local artists under their master Guru Nawang Tsering of the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies.

Tara Temple

The Tara Temple is dedicated to the goddess Tara and there are also 21 images of Goddess Tara placed in glass-covered wooden shelves. The murals in the courtyard depict the Buddha, Tsong Khapa, Palden Lhamo, Padmasambhava, and Mahakala. Also, the Chi Khang has a portrait of Buddha with his two disciples and the Yamantaka (deity). Several small shrines devoted to guardian deities including the Protector Deity of Thiksey (Cham-Spring) can be seen between the courtyard and the staircase. 

Assembly Hall

The Assembly Hall has a seat for the Dalai Lama in the center, for the Head Lama in its right and a deity is pictured on the left. At the entrance of the main prayer hall, the wall depicts murals of the Tibetan calendar with the Bhavacakra or The Wheel of Life. The wheel has images of a bird, a snake and, a pig inscribed on it that signify attachment, aversion, and ignorance. The objective of this depiction is to remind that the earthly connections should be overcome to prevent the cycle of death and rebirth and get enlightenment in life.

Next to this wall, is the main prayer room which has many painted and handwritten books. There are 225 volumes of Tengyur wrapped in silk kept on the wooden shelves of the hall. The hall also contains murals of deities such as Sitatapatra and Mahakala and Thousand-armed Avalokiteśvara with Padmasambhava. Behind the prayer hall, there is a small shrine of Buddha that contains Bodhisattvas, Maitreya to the left and, Manjusri to the right. 

Lamokhang Temple

On the top of the monastery is the Lamokhng Temple, which is a storehouse of several volumes of Buddhist scriptures including Stangyur and Kangyur. At the entrance, there are big stupas, mani walls and, a large pillar with Buddha’s teachings engraved on it. The top floor is the official residence of the incarnate Lama and only men are allowed to enter this floor.

There is a small room above the temple that is exclusively used as a study room for teaching the local boys of the village and some among them are later chosen as Lamas.

Nunnery

A Nunnery for the community of nuns is located within the boundaries of the monastery. And is administered by the Monastery Administration. Earlier, the nunneries in Ladakh were held in extremely pathetic positions, and the nuns lived in terrible conditions. In the 1990s, Thiksey received a degree of international support and attention when some awareness programs on the stature of nuns were launched in Ladakh.

Also, in 1995, the Sakyadhita Conference of Buddhist Women was held in Leh. It lead to the establishment of the Ladakh Nuns Association. The association helped in raising the status of the Buddhist nuns. And also ensured positive developments in their betterment. 

Thiksey Rinpoche, the chief lama of the Thiksey monastery was an important figure who worked vigorously for the improvement of the nuns in Ladakh. The Thiksey monastery donated land for the nunnery near Thiksey. It is the same place where the first monastery was established by Rinchen Zangpo in the tenth century.   

Nowadays, the nunnery is home to 26 nuns who have taken steps to assert their position in society by changing their usual name of “Ani” (aunt) to “Chomos” (female religious practitioners). The Dutch Foundation for Ladakhi Nuns also functions at Nyerma. It provides monetary and individual support to the Buddhist nuns of Ladakh. 

Monastery Rooftop

The rooftop of the monastery offers an amazing view of the snowcapped mountains and dry landscape.

View from the roof top of Thicksey Monastery

Itinerary Guide – How to plan your Itinerary for Thiksey Monastery

Planning an Itinerary for Thiksey monastery without an expert guide is not an easy task. We have built an Itinerary with our experts and planned a trip to Thiksey monastery to share our awe-inspiring experience with you. You should read it to know all about Thiksey monastery to plan your itinerary easily.

Preparing for Thiksey Monastery Trip

We had our breakfast and booked a taxi and were on our way to Thiksey Monastery. As we were speeding through the road, we could see the clear blue sky above us that was majestically blue with tinges of white clouds touching the snowclad mountain peaks. 

At an altitude of more than 11,000 ft above sea level, it was a treat to ride on the smooth highway. As we reached the Thiksey village, we found ourselves surrounded by stupas and chortens. 

Reaching the Monastery

After driving for half an hour, we took a right turn through the valley and finally reached the monastery. As we stepped out of the car, we could see the 12 storied complexes from the foot of the hill to its apex. The residential areas on the lower floors were painted white while the prayer complexes and temples were painted red and yellow.

Entering the Monastery

Maneys at Ticksey monastery

The straight road took us to the colossal main gate of Thiksey monastery. The panoramic view of the monastery in the backdrop of the Indus plain was a sight to behold. We proceeded on an inclined uphill road towards the gate of the monastery and entered the monastery. There was a souvenir shop and a restaurant to our left. 

Prayer Halls of the Monastery

We climbed the staircase and entered the prayer hall and temple of the monastery. As we climbed further, we felt a bit difficult to breathe while walking. For the first time, we saw the magnificent Indus Valley unfolding before our eyes and the Indus river sparkling in the broad daylight. 

Monastery Gallery

We reached a colorful gallery with a giant rolling drum. The red-colored drum was inscribed with the holy mantra of buddhism. The walls of the gallery portrayed huge paintings of Tsongkhapa and his disciples. While climbing the unending chain of stairs, we came across several chortens and the white walls were adorned with blue and yellow floral designs. We took a stroll around it and captured the stunning valley view beyond the chorten. 

The Courtyard of the Monastery

Courtyard of Thicksey Monastery

We walked our way up to the red-yellow mansions where the main temple complexes were located. While standing in the large courtyard of the monastery we saw a beautiful arched gallery painted by colorful paintings. 

Right above this gallery, there was a similar gallery and the entrance of the courtyard was guarded by two statues of a lion. On the left, lay a remarkable gallery containing extraordinary frescos of Buddha with his disciples and at the center, a gigantic flag was tied to a tall rod.

The Maitreya Buddha Temple

Once again, we climbed the staircase that led us to a three-storied mansion named The Maitreya Buddha Temple. The entrance of the temple was built in a wooden gallery painted with floral designs and unique frescos of Asanga, Nagarjuna, Sakyamuni and, six great Indian scholars.

The 40 ft tall statue of Maitreya Buddha was painted with different colors and covered two floors of the building. The body of the statue is beautifully studded with valuable gems and decorated with golden jewels. There were innumerable frescos of the Thiksey Rinpoche lineage to the left and right sides of the Buddha idol. 

Conclusion

To be honest, it’s hard to write everything about Thiksey Monastery in just one article. The history, culture and, serenity of the monastery is happy memory to all those who visit. The views from various sides of the monastery will take your breath away, and we can assure you this!

Best time to visit Thiksey Monastery

The best time to visit the Thiksey monastery is from May to October. During these months, the weather is pleasant and the roads to Ladakh are also open for travelers. However, you can also visit Thiksey other than these months. If you plan to visit Ladakh in winter or early summer, the things to do and explore might be limited. 

From November to May, the roads to Ladakh remain closed due to heavy rain or snowfall. Hence traveling by air is the only option to reach Ladakh and then visit the Thiksey monastery during winters.

If you want to know about the local culture of the monastery, it would be best to visit during the Gustor Festival held in October or November. But it should be noted that October marks the beginning of winter and the temperatures drop below zero degrees at night. 

To know more, you can read the Best time to visit Ladakh.

How to reach Thiksey Monastery

The easiest way to reach Thiksey monastery is to arrive in Leh on a flight and then hire a cab or taxi to Thiksey monastery. Although the monastery is well connected through buses also, so you can use other forms of public transport to reach the monastery.

  • Flight: You can reach Leh by air and then reach the Thiksey monastery by taking the Leh-Manali Highway. It will take you around 30-35 minutes to reach the monastery.
  • Cabs: You can take a cab from Leh which will take you to the monastery through Karu. It will take you around 40-45 minutes to reach the monastery via cabs.
  • Bus: If you wish to travel by bus, you can board a bus in Choglamsar. Buses are very frequent from Leh and leave for Thiksey at an interval of every 15 minutes. It will take around half an hour to reach the monastery by bus.

If you want to know more, you can take a look at this blog post How to Reach Ladakh.

Timings and Entry fees to the Monastery

Timings: The opening hours of the monastery are from 7 am to 7 pm every day, including national holidays and Sundays. At 4 pm, the monastery remains closed for some 15 minutes for a tea break.

Entrance Fees: The entry fee for Thiksey monastery is Rs 40 per person. The fee is the same for Indians as well as foreign tourists. Free parking is also available for visitors.

Accommodation and Food Options at Thiksey Monastery

If you are interested in the local Buddhist culture, you can spend a few days exploring the monastery. You can either stay at Chamba Hotel or at the monastery, which offers neat rooms and food at a reasonable and budget-friendly price.

There are two cafes in the monastery. One is situated near the parking area and another is situated on the rooftop with fabulous views. The Chamba Hotel near the monastery also has a restaurant that offers local Tibetan food. 

Thiksey Monastery Travel Tips

Here are a few travel tips that you should follow while you visit the Thiksey monastery:

  • Rest on the first day of your arrival to acclimatize yourself.
  • If you plan a trip to Thiksey Monastery and want to attend the early morning monastery rituals, try to reach as early as possible
  • You should wear conservative clothes and the dress should not be too revealing
  • Apply good sunscreen. You will be in high-altitude areas with direct sunlight. So, protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
  • Carry your own water bottle as you might feel dehydrated at such heights.
  • You should be aware of the symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). The lack of oxygen can be dangerous on your body so, be careful.
  • Wear sunglasses during sunny days
  • Prepaid SIM cards of other states won’t work in Ladakh. So, before visiting Ladakh, subscribe for an Airtel, BSNL, or Jio postpaid SIM card.
  • Bring some warm clothes and a jacket if you are planning to visit from October to May. If you want to know essential items for the Ladakh trip, read our blog post Things to Carry for Ladakh Trip
  • Silence should be maintained within the monastery and carrying pets inside the monastery is prohibited.
  • Photography is allowed inside the monastery but the flashlights should be switched off.
  • If you wish to know more about the monastery, you can contact the monks, who would guide you through the monastery and also explain the architecture of the monastery.
  • Book your flight tickets early, as the prices would go higher during the peak season.
  • Google flights have a fantastic feature of the flight price alert system. So, find your flight on google flights and then subscribe for the alert.

Please read the World health organization’s travel advice, before traveling anywhere.

Read Indian Government travel guidelines.

Other Essential Information

  • History
  • Architecture
  • Festivals of Thiksey Monastery

History

The history of Thiksey Monastery is linked to the introduction of the Gelugpa or Yellow Hat order in Ladakh. This introduction was started by Tsongkhapa (a reformer). To propagate the teachings of the Gelugpa order, he sent his six disciples to the secluded regions of Tibet. Tsongkhapa also gave a statue of Amitayus to one of his disciples, Jangsem Sherap Zangpo. And directed him to meet the King of Ladakh and seek his help in the propagation of Buddhism. 

The King had already heard of Tsongkhapa and his reforms. After receiving the gifts, the King gave orders to help Sherab Zangpo establish a monastery of the Gelugpa order in Ladakh. Therefore in 1433, Jangsem Sherab Zangpo founded a small monastery in the north of Indus called Lhakhang Serpo, or ” Yellow Temple.” Initially, there were only a few lamas who embraced the Gelug order but later due to his constant efforts, some of his disciples became renowned figures.

Setting up of the Monastery in Thiksey

Later, in the mid 15th century, Palden Zangpo continued the monastic work initiated by Sherab Zangpo and decided to build a larger monastery. While choosing a site for the monastery, an unusual event occurred that eventually led to the setting up of the monastery at Thiksey. 

According to a popular legend, after performing the sacred rituals at Stagmo Temple, Palden Zangpo and Sherab Zangpo took the torma offerings to dispose of them down the valley. As soon as they reached the spot, two crows appeared suddenly and snatched the ceremonial plate with the torma, and flew away. The disciples searched for the torma and found it placed on the other side of the hill above Thiksey village. Palden Zangpo interpreted this mystical event as a divine directive to build a monastery in Thiksey to propagate the teachings of the Gelugpa order.

The new Thicksey Monastery

The new Thiksey monastery was built a few kilometers away from Stagmo, on a hill above the Thiksey village. It is believed to have been built on the site of a prior Kadam establishment located about 7 kilometers to the north. Rinchen Zangpo or “Mahaguru” is known to have built the Lakhang Nyerma (Temple) at Thiksey that is dedicated to Dorje Chenmo (protector). 

The Thiksey monastery is one of the most prominent monasteries in Ladakh, second only to the Hemis monastery, supervising many other monasteries in the region such as Stok, Diskit, Likir, and Spituk. Subsequently, some 25 villages got linked to the monastery and it came to control 1,327 acres of land. In 1,770, the Lama of Hanle Monastery directed his elder son to inherit the throne of Ladakh while other princes should serve as Lamas at the Thiksey Monastery.

Architecture

The architecture of the Thiksey monastery relatively resembles the Potala Palace in Tibet, the previous official seat of Dalai Lama and hence also known as “Mini Potala.” It is located on a hill slope and starting from the base to the top of the hill, the buildings of different heights are built according to their importance.

At the entrance, there is a statue of the Tibetan Deity, and at the top of the complex, there is a stupa (chorten). The monastery has a courtyard from where the steps lead to the main gompa that is 12 stories in height. It has two main chambers and houses 60 lamas. 

The monastery was constructed as a fort monastery in Tibetan pattern and was painted in ochre, white and red. It offers splendid views across the Indus Valley, the royal palace of Stok (to the south), the gompa at Matho (to the east), and the former royal palace at Shey.

Festivals

The annual festival held in the Thiksey monastery is known as Thiksey Gustor. It is a two-day event and is one of the most popular festivals in Ladakh. It is either held in the month of October or November. Since the festival is based on Tibetan Lunar Calendar, therefore the exact dates of the Gustor festival vary each year. 

In Tibetan, the word Gustor means ” Sacrifice of the 9th day” and this day is celebrated as the victory of good over evil. The Gustor Festival is also held in several other monasteries in Ladakh but the one celebrated in the Thiksey monastery is called Thiksey Gustor. During the festival, sacred dances such as Cham Dance (Mask Dance) are performed by the traditional black hat dancers.

The Thiksey Gustor starts with the preparation of the sacrificial cake known as Torma signifying an evil force or entity. One of the most important ceremonies of the festival is the enactment of the assassination of King Lang Darma, who ruled Tibet from 838 CE to 841 CE. It is said that he was an evil king and was possessed by demons. 

The re-enactment of the assassination is named Argham Ceremony. During the ceremony, an effigy of King Lang Darma is made, and after the completion of rituals, the effigy is burnt to mark the victory of good over evil. 

References

About the author

Sam K. Pandepa is a certified travel agent of Ladakh. He completed his MBA in 2012 and has worked as a tourist guide up to 2015. After that, he is working as a travel agent.