18 June 2017

Hemis Monastery

Hemis is a little way off from the highway, near Leh. The long winding road up the monastery prepares you for the magnificent sights that one greets at what is the largest monastery in Ladakh. The ticket costs ₹50 and includes the visit to the museum of the Monastery. Photography, inside the monastery is predictably, prohibited. A short climb up the stairs carries one to the roughly rectangular courtyard that faces the main shrines. There are two main shrines, both massive, ancient and brilliantly decorated with tangkha and paintings. The budhha statue inside is nearly two storeys high and is truly an overwhelming spectacle to behold. A long series of prayer wheels are embedded on the left side of the outside wall of the main shrine. Just outside, on the left is a rather small entry to the museum. The small entry belies the huge collection inside. The small door ooens into a shop selling buddhist stuff. Deeper inside the main museum entrace is there. One has to deposit cameras and mobiles in a neat small locker. The entry leads into a massive staircase which moves into a subterranean huge vault like room. Here the precious, rare and ancient collections of various objects of the monastery are displayed. Old paintings, tanghas, reproduction of photographs, masks, statues, utensils, religious objects, decrees of the Namgyal kings of Ladakh, ancient wooden prayer wheels, weapons and what not is neatly displayed in here. Sketches of the Ladakhi dances by early English explorers and their descriptions are particularly interesting. One can easily spend the better part of the days here understanding the various forms of budhhas and other gurus of Tibetan Budhhism. The objects are remarkably well preserved. It reflects the massive collection and heritage of what is not just a monastery but an integral part of the Ladakhi culture and heritage. Once done, the courtyard outside greets one with vantage views all around. A little distance up hill, one can see a recently installed massive golden statue of Buddha. If one has to visit just one monastery in Ladakh, it has to be Hemis, in view of its size, heritage, antiquity and beauty.
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