10 Famous Buddhist Temples of Himachal Pradesh

There is a hidden road in the desolate expanse of Himachal Pradesh that connects a huge region comprising of over 30 Buddhist monasteries. The temples or gompas of these monasteries are scattered in the natural beauty of the snow-capped Himalayas, high altitude deserts, valleys and magnificent forests. Some of the most popular Buddhist temples in the “Land of Gods” are given a brief visit in the following paragraphs.

Brelengi Gompa – Reckong Peo

Surrounded by forests, this Buddhist temple is located in Brelengi, a small village just a few kilometers from Reckong Peo. Interestingly, the temple is almost hidden under the cover of the forests. The region is especially popular for the 10-meter sculpture of Lord Buddha that can be seen across the horizon on the Kinnaur Kilash mountain. If it was not for this statute that acts as a landmark, the Brelengi Gompa would be almost impossible to find.

The Gompa is a newer temple is part of a monastery constructed by the Monastery of Mahabodhi Society for the Dalai Lama for the performance of 1992 Kalachakra ceremony. You can reach the statue after a long hike.

Tabo Monastery

The Tabo Monastery is the oldest monastery in the country, and protected under the Archaeological Survey of India.

Tabo Monastery

Tabo Monastery

Once on the road that passes the complex, you can view the meditation caves along the border of the town. There are 9 temples, 4 stunning stupas, classrooms and a dormitory. Inside the temple, there are elegant paintings that attract most of the tourists to an otherwise tiny farming population. The ideal time to visit is during the spring and autumn season.

Sakya Tenggyu Monastery – Kaza

The place has two Buddhist temples, the new Sakya Tenggyu and the original Kaza Monastery. The new monastery was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in 2009. You can enjoy spectacular views of the horizon decked by the Spiti Valley.

Sakya Tenggyu Monastery, Kaza

Sakya Tenggyu Monastery, Kaza

Take a short climb along the mountainside and you would come across the older Kaza Monastery. Once you enter the main entrance, you would come across a stunning row of chortens and prayer wheel lines.

Dhankar Gompa- Spiti

Once you reach Dhankar, Spiti you would come across a large number of buildings on top of a mountain peak that rises more than 12,000 feet. the gompa was made more than a millennium ago. During its history, it was also used as a prison for some time.

Dhankar Gompa

Dhankar Gompa

If you visit the place, you would come across the Schichling village, where there is a new Gompa below the old one. The Dhankar Gompa is also called the Lha-O-pa Gompa. The temple has a life size silver reflection of Lord Buddha or Vajradhara. You would have to trek through several hairpin bends to reach the main Gompa on top of the peak.

Kye Gompa – Spiti Valley

The Kye Gompa is a magnificent monastery that features multi-storied buildings located atop a hill that is more than 13,600 feet above sea level. shaped more or less in the shape of the hill, the Gompa seems to be carved out of the landscape.

Kye Gompa Spiti

Kye Gompa, Spiti

There is no need to trek all the way up because the road reaches almost the top leaving the final ascent that is a steep climb. The rangoli designs along the pathway enliven the journey even if you are tired. Even though the buildings look whitish from a distance, they come alive with vibrant colors when you find yourself surrounded by them.

Kibber Gompa – Spiti

Located in Spiti, it would be almost impossible to find the Kibber Gompa when all the buildings around it are identical. The temple mysteriously blends into the creamy-white surroundings. From here, it is possible to get panoramic views of the mysteriously desolate Spiti Valley. The Gompa stands at an amazing height of over 14,000 feet above sea level, and a glimpse down the valley can make you shiver out of your feet. From here, you can get a feeling of being able to almost touch the sky.

Palyul Chokhorling Gompa

The Palyul Chokhorling Gompa, also known as the Nyingmapa Buddhist Monastery is located in Bir. A visit to Bir would simply mesmerize you about the number of gompas this place boasts.

Palyul-Chokhorling-Gompa

Palyul Chokhorling Gompa

You would notice that the Buddhist temples of Bir are different from others found in Himachal Pradesh because the expansive construction touches the property lines. The huge buildings still look stunning. Each temple you come across, you would find it to be even bigger, more vibrant and fascinating. If you stay at the Deer Park Institute, it is possible to take classes in Buddhism.

Drikung Kagyud Gompa – Rewalsar, Mandi

The Drikung Kagyud Gompa is built by the Drikung Kagyu Order that originated in the 12th century AD by Kyobpa Jigten Sumg. The Gompa sits calmly close to the mouth of a winding lake. The pathway passes through dormitory rooms culminating in a tiny courtyard. Even though the exterior may seem to be rumpled, it is a not the real picture of what is inside. Spend your time exploring the large number of wall painting on both the interior and exterior walls of the buildings.

Norbulingka Institute – Dharamshala

Founded in 1988, Norbulingka Institute is a monastery and institute dedicated to preserving the Tibetan culture. It is a combination of a gompa, Buddhist teaching school and a luxury treatment for learning about the religion. The grounds are immaculately maintained and feature a wide range of buildings that seem to be natural part of the earth.

Norbulingka-Institute

Norbulingka Institute

The monastery and institute has been named Norbulingka, which is in fact the long-established summer residence of the Dalai Lama in Tibet. The architectural plan of the monastery is based on the Avalokitesvara, which is the god of compassion having one thousand arms.

The Dolma Ling Buddhist nunnery is located close to the institute. The Gyato Gompa is also located nearby and it is the provisional residence of Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa.

 Tsuglagkhang Temple – McLeodganj

Tsuglagkhang Temple

Tsuglagkhang Temple

The Tsuglagkhang Temple is located in the Tsuglagkhang Complex, the residence of the Dalai Lama. From here you can get an amazing view of the Dhauladhar Range. When the Dalai Lama visits, the town gets spellbound by his presence.

These are the top 10 most popular gompas of the Dev-Bhoomi. However, they cannot be organized in any order in terms of their importance. All of them offer you something unique. While many of the temples are located in isolated areas of the state, others dwell in the heart of some larger towns. Once you return from each one of the gompa, you would have an experience that cannot be expressed in words.

Photo Credits:

Tobo Monastery
Photo Credits: east med wanderer (http://www.flickr.com/photos/east_med_wanderer/)
Sakya Tenggyu Monastery - Kaza
Photo Credits: gailthesnakeysnail (http://www.flickr.com/photos/gailthesnakeysnail/)
Dhankar Gompa 
Photo Credits: Bhaskar Mitra (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bhaskarmitra/)
Kye Gompa – Spiti Valley
Photo Credits:  torchmeister (https://www.flickr.com/photos/torchmeister/)
Palyul Chokhorling Gompa
Photo Credits:  imageinnside (http://www.flickr.com/photos/frederic-martin-duchamp/)
Norbulingka Institute – Dharamshala
Photo Credits: Darren and Brad (http://www.flickr.com/photos/brad-darren/)
Tsuglagkhang Temple – McLeodganj
Photo Credits: murlidar (http://www.flickr.com/photos/48801348@N00/)