Visit the Likir Monastery in J&K and enjoy seeing the images of Buddhist deities along with a collection of thankas, domestic costumes and implements.
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Likir Monastery, J&K

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The Likir monastery stand 6 km north of the main Leh -Srinagar highway, a little before the village of Saspol. From Leh itself, the distance is 62 km in the western direction.

It was during the rule of the fifth king of Ladakh, Lhachen Gyalpo, that land was offered to Lama Duwang Chosje, an eminent advocate of meditation, to construct the monastery. The lama graced the land and the monastery came up in 1065 AD.

The monastery was enclosed by the bodies of the two great serpent spirits or the naga- rajas, Nanda and Taksako. Because of this, the name of the monastery became Likir or the Naga encircled. Initially, the monastery was associated with the Kadampa sect, however, the year 1470 saw a conversion by a central Tibetan monk Lawang Lotos. This coversion resulted in the monastery being brought under the Gelukspa Order of the great Lama Tsongkhapa.


The monastery, as it stands today, is not the original structure that was constructed in the 11th century. A fire destroyed the original temple, and in its place, a new structre was erected in the 18th century. Because of this the monastery does not gives an appearance of being very old.

Clay Images of three Buddhas - "Marme Zat" (past), "Sakyamuni" (present) and "Maitreya" (Future) - dominate the Du-khang whereas the Gon-khang houses a statue of "Tse-Ta-Pa", the wrathful protector. Additionally, the impressive murals of "Yamantaka" and "Mahakala" too adorn the Gon-khang.

The monastery is also a repository of various old manuscripts, attractive collection of thankas, old religious and domestic costumes and implements. A huge Jupiter tree, amongst the few remaining ones of its species stands majestically in the courtyard.

Likir Monastery

Likir Monastery is not only large, it is pretty wealthy too. Around 100 monks reside in Likir and it also has another significant monastery, Alchi, as its branch.


Inside
The Du-khang, situated immediately to the right in courtyard, is reached after passing the entrance verandah. The verandah has paintings of the Guardians of the Four Directions and wheel of life mandala held by Yama. Inside the Du-khang are six rows of seats for the lamas and a throne reserved for Likir's head lama and visiting head lamas from other gompas.

Two large chortens with statues of Avalokitesvara and Amitabha are at the front. Also, in the front of the hall are three large statue of Sakyamuni (in the left and central position) and Maitreya (to the right).

Arranged on the shelves of glass-fronted bookcases in the Du-khang are the Kandshur and the Thandshur. Two large but rolled-up thankas hang from the beams close to entrance. The thankas, containing pictures of Sakyamuni and Likir's guardian divinity, are exhibited once every year, during the winter festival.

The "New" Dukhang, constructed around 200 years back, stands diagonally across from the courtyard's entrance. Prime image in this Du-khang is of Avalokitesvara with 1000 arms and 11 heads. On both sides of this statue are bookcases, stocked majorly with volumes of the Sumbum, which describes the life of Tsong-kha-pa. The left wall of the New Du-khang displays paintings of the 35 Confessional Buddhas while the right wall has central image of Sakyamuni flanked by his two chief followers. On both sides of the central image are the 16 Arhats, deserving ones who have attained Nirvana.

Out of the New Du-khang, a ladder to the left followed by a doorway leads to a courtyard which in turn leads to the Zinchun, the head lama's room. This is the place where the Dalai Lama puts up when he visits Likir. Within the room, numerous thankas and images of various lamas as well as the 21 Manifestations of the White Tara (the Saviouress and consort of Avalokitesvara) are seen.

The Gonkhang, dedicated to the guardian divinities, can be reached by climbing down the stairs outside the courtyard of the head lama's room. The walls inside depicts images of guardian divinities, Sakyamuni, his disciples and various lamas. A glass-fronted room in front of the Gonkhang houses images of the gompa's guardian divinities, however, they are wrapped by a cloth round the year and are shown only during the gompa's annual festival.


Festivals
The Likir Monastery celebrates its annual festival from the 27th to 29th of 12th Tibetan month. The festival sees votive offerings known as Dosmochey apart from the performance of the sacred dances. The festival will next be celebrated on February 15-16 2007.


Leh
With the mighty Himalayas, the Karokoram and the Ladakh and Zanskar range towering over it all around, the high altitude desert of Ladakh has Leh as its capital. Leh is situated at an altitude of 11,000 feet above the sea level and for a first time visitor it is important to give himself atleast 24 hours to acclimatise to the altitude. Leh along with Kargil is the only place in Ladakh where taxis are available.


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How to Reach
By Air - The airport at Leh which is situated around 7 km from the city itself is the nearest one. Jet Airways link Leh to Delhi on daily basis while Alliance Air has flights connecting Leh to Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar.

By Road - Leh is connected by two important road routes - the Srinagar-Leh route (434 km) and Manali-Leh route (473 km). The first route is open between the months of June to October while the second route is open only during July to September. From Leh itself, its one and a half hour to two hour drive to Likir. A number of buses ply between Leh and Likir between 5.30 am to 3.30 pm.



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