India is a land rich in cultures, deep-rooted history, and diversity in religion. People from across the globe visit India to have a taste of its sacred places. Be it the only Brahma Temple in the world, the famous dargahs, or the key monasteries in India. While the Hindu religion is followed ardently, teachings of Gautam Buddha and Buddhism as a religious practice also resonates in India from the Leh and Ladakh to down south in Tamil Nadu. If you wish to find inner peace or simply want to explore the Buddhist culture, here’s a list of must-visit monasteries in India!
1. Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh
Tawang is the largest monastery in India and the second largest in the world. The beautiful monastery is nestled between the snow-capped Himalayan ranges at a height of about 10,000 feet above sea level. To explore the uniqueness of the monastery, visit during the Losar Festival which marks the beginning of the Buddhist New Year or the Torgya Festival where people dress up in colorful costumes and masks to dance in the monastery.
How to reach: The nearest airport is Salonibari Airport, Tezpur and the nearest railway station is Ranagapara Railway Station, Tezpur. From either of these locations, you need to take a cab to reach Tawang.
2. Key Monastery, Himachal Pradesh
Going to Spiti Valley and coming back without visiting Key Monastery is not done. This monastery dates back to 1,000 AD and is one of the oldest Buddhist Monasteries in India. This postcard-perfect monastery is surrounded by moon-white snow-laden mountains. The interior walls are painted with murals presenting monastic architecture, which is sure to make you feel at peace. A trek up to the monastery is a complete experience in itself.
How to reach: To reach Kaza the nearest airport is Bhuntar Airport, Manali and the nearest railway station is Joginder Nagar Railway station. From the airport or the railway station, one can reach Kaza via road.
3. Hemis Monastery, Ladakh
Built-in the year 1630, Hemis Monastery in Ladakh is the oldest monastery in India. The monastery is home to a collection of Tibetan Books, Thangkas, gold statues and stupas. They have a very famous Hemmis festival. The festival takes place in June, dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava, an 8th century Buddhist master from India. The festival is celebrated to conquest good over evil and is full of ceremonies and performances. Visit the monastery and get lost to the beats of drums and cymbals!
How to reach: The nearest airport is Leh Airport, and the nearest station is Katra Railway station. From here, you can either take a bus or taxi to reach Hemis.
4. Namdroling Monastery Golden Temple, Karnataka
If mountains are not your place to be at, and still you want to feel the essence of monasteries. Namdroling is worth a visit. The monastery is built of bamboo. Currently, it has over 5,000 members of the Sangha community. Spread over an area of 80 square feet, inside they have a high school, religious college, and a hospital. Visitors are always welcome to visit the temple tower and prayer hall decorated in the hues of gold. Do not miss prayer rituals while the monks perform them.
How to reach: The nearest airport is Mangalore airport, and the nearest railway station is Mysore Junction. From there you can either take a bus or cab.
5. Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim
The monastery was in ruins for a long time but was re-built by the 16th Karmapa with the help of locals and the Sikkim royal family. Rumtek Monastery is also famous as Dharmachakra Centre and is a quite popular tourist attraction.
How to reach: By train, stop at Siliguri or New Jalpaiguri station, and by flight reach Bagdogra Airport. From here, you can take a shared cab or private Taxi to reach the monastery.
6. Thikse Monastery, Ladakh
The history behind the building of this monastery is related to two crows. They carried a ceremonial plate from the monks who performed a ritual at the stone steps of Thikse. This monastery has been build by a disciple Palden Sangpo. Thikse Gompa is famous for a 49-feet tall statue of Maitreya Buddha. Apart, from the statue, one can also find Stupas, scripts, and paintings at the monastery.
How to reach: The nearest airport is Leh Airport, and the nearest station is Katra Railway station. From here, you can either take a bus or taxi to reach Thikse monastery.
7. Tsuglagkhang Complex, Dharamshala
Located in Dharamshala, the land of Buddha, Tsuglagkhang Complex is the official residence of His Holiness Dalai Lama. Walk around the complex and see and listen to the flutter of travel flags. They will make you pure and calm. Visit the little cafe and book store inside the complex, and have a cuppa with a book!
How to reach: Reach Dharmshala by bus from Delhi or Chandigarh, or by train or till Kangra Airport. From there, take a bus or cab to Mcleodganj.
8. Diskit Monastery, Leh
Diskit Monastery has the famous Jampa Buddha statue. His Holiness Dalai Lama himself came to inaugurate the statue. The monastery belongs to the ‘Yellow Hat’ sect. Apart from the monastery, to accompany it stands in the backdrop of the Nubra Valley, which will surely make you feel at complete peace. The shrine has taken its inspiration from the Mongol Mythology of an evil monk.
How to reach: The nearest airport is Leh Airport, and the nearest station is Katra Railway station. From here, you can either take a bus or taxi from Sumur or Leh to reach Diskit Monastery.
Amongst a lot of monasteries in India, these are a few that are a must-visit to have a spiritual experience and explore the Buddhist Community. Are you visiting ’em post lockdown?