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The wondrous of India lies in the fact that along with claiming it to be secular, India also proves that it is secular. India is a land of not just brilliant Hindu temples, but also some thriving and beautiful Buddhist monasteries that dot the hills and mountains of India. Closer to the India-Tibet border, the breathtaking monasteries are not only tourist destinations, but also an abode of peace. These monasteries also a great place to visit if you are looking for some peace along with a spiritual awakening.
You will especially find many monasteries in Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and the picturesque town of Ladakh. These monasteries are not only culturally rich but also historically significant to India. Here is a list of the 10 most amazing and mind-blowing monasteries in India that must be on top of your bucket list.
- James Ormiston
- From Scotland
One of the most challenging, yet unique monasteries in India is the Phutkal Monastery. This magnificent monastery can only be accessed by trekking through the treacherous mountains. However, the challenge is definitely worth it. Once you reach the top, you will find the isolated Phutkal monastery proudly perched at the top which was made out of the mouth of a huge cave. This monastery feels like an ancient monument that has so many anecdotes to share and show. It radiates a kind of rustic charm and looks mesmerizing as it overlooks the intimidating snow covered the Himalayas.
A serene, crystal blue river flows below, and you will have to cross the suspension bridge to reach the monastery. The suspension bridge is adorned with colorful prayer flags which set the mood. You will find several monks just going about their daily lives, and living in the most humble way possible. It is also inspiring to walk alongside pilgrims and monks who come from far and wide and keep chanting Buddhist hymns along the way.
Thiksey monastery is not only an exceptionally beautiful and stunning monastery, but its ambiance is also atmospheric. Nestled in the foothills of the grand Himalayas, Thiksey Monastery is the epitome of peace and serenity.
Visiting the monastery feels more like walking into a white wonderland. All the buildings are colored in white and arranged in ascending order of importance. This monastery is undoubtedly popular among tourists, and many even say that it is the best monastery in the region. You can feel the radiating aura of this monastery from a mile away as it glistens against the beautiful hills. Once you enter this monastery you will be engulfed with an overwhelming feeling of tranquillity. It feels as if all the worries have been lifted away.
One of the defining features of this monastery is the Maitreya Temple, which houses a 15-meter-high statue of Buddha. This statue is truly brilliant, and you will feel as if the great Buddha himself is sitting in front of you.
The wondrous Hemis Monastery, may not be a visual treat, but it is the largest and richest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh. This ancient monastery is filled with artifacts, relics, and anecdotes that echo through the walls. This lovely monastery is located about 50 km from the city of Leh. You will find an enviable collection of ancient statues and sacred thangkas.
Staying at the monastery is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you must experience it at least once. It is liberating to live in the most humble and modest way. The workshops are also insightful, and you will feel calm and tranquil. Food will also be provided during your stay.
You should come here to witness the Hemis Festival. During this time the entire city of Leh comes alive, and wonderful Buddhist chants, masked performances, and other cultural programs fill up the streets. The entire town of Leh metamorphoses during this time, as it awakens from its deep slumber to celebrate the Hemis Festival.
Tawang Monastery, located in Arunachal Pradesh, is the largest monastery in India. It is also a highly revered Buddhist monastery, and you will find many pilgrims and tourists flocking this awe-inspiring temple. If you look at the monastery from a certain distance, it looks as if it is dangling at the side of the cliff. The monastery is located right at the edge, thus, making it look so precarious. You might even feel scared to visit this hanging monastery. But, in reality, it is pretty safe. The Tawang Monastery looks like a fort which rivulets on both sides. The beauty of this monastery lies in its interiors. The main prayer hall is exquisitely decorated making it look fit for a royal.
If you manage to come here early, you can also catch the monks performing their early morning prayers. It is truly a sight to behold, as numerous monks just clad in red and yellow robes flock together and recite the holy chant. The chants emanate through the walls and fill up the room. Everything feels so calm, holy and pious at that time. It will also allow you to dive into the full Buddhist experience and you will gain some lovely insights.
You will need a special permit to reach this monastery in Arunachal Pradesh.
The paradisiacal Spiti Valley is home to five main Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries. Among them, the Tabo monastery is said to be the most popular and frequently visited monastery. The beauty of Tabo Monastery doesn’t lie in its exterior, but the treasures inside the monastery. As you enter the monastery, you will witness dimly lit rooms and ancient treasures will unfold in front of you. There are so many artworks, sculptures and scriptures inside the Tabo Monastery, that it feels more like a museum. There is something so calming about this monastery. You will be able to hear all the melodious and peaceful chants.
This monastery is not only a great place to escape from the daily hustle-bustle of life but is also filled with stories and anecdotes. The statues, sculptures and scriptures found here tell the story about the origin of Buddhism, and gives a wonderful insight into the history of this religion.
What makes the Tsuglagkhang Complex so important is that it is the official residence of the Dalai Lama. While this isn’t a monastery per se, it is an extremely revered and important location for Buddhists. This place can be called the landmark of the Buddhist religion, and it is a place that should be on top of your bucket list. Hordes of devotees and pilgrims gather here every day to catch one glance of the Holy Dalai Lama.
Visit the wonderful Tsuglagkhang temple and witness the marvelous three-meter-high gilded sculpture of Buddha. After visiting the Tsuglagkhang temple, visit the Kalachakra temple to see the intricate murals painted in the walls. If you truly want the full Buddhist experience, then spend an entire day here. In the afternoon you will find monks engaging in some lively debate at the Namgyal Gompa. To experience something different, you can also follow the Buddhist pilgrims on a highly spiritual walk around the complex.
Sikkim can be called the land of Monasteries in India as it houses about 200 monasteries. However, the famous Rumtek Monastery is the largest and most popular monastery in Sikkim. Located in Gangtok, this vibrantly colored monastery was built in the 9th century. Since then it has managed to survive the test of time, and now welcomes pilgrims, devotees, and tourists from all over the world.
The monastery holds many workshops, the art of living lectures, and holy chantings to make you feel comfortable and at peace. These activities are extremely insightful and will give you a much-needed break from the noisy city life. You can also take part in group meditations, that take place during May and June.
The stunning Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat is built on 30 acres of land that is surrounded by a wonderful and aromatic pine forest. The snow-covered mountains provide the perfect background, as the monastery rests peacefully. The location alone makes this monastery worth visiting. There are winding paths that lead you through the forests, and you can embark on several rejuvenating treks and trails.
The monastery itself is flanked by a row of mesmerizing stupas. A large shimmering Buddha statue is kept at the prayer royal, which is also decorated luxuriously. The atmosphere inside the monastery is serene and calming, and you can spend a lot of idyllic hours just sitting here and introspecting.
The serene Mindrolling Monastery is located in the lovely city of Dehradun. This monastery is one of the major monasteries of the Nyingma school, which is located in Tibet. It is not just a religious place, but it also has a huge Buddhist institute, which provides education to many Buddhist children.
The highlight of the monastery is certainly the Great Stupa, which is so beautifully and intricately designed. It is about 56.4-meters-tall and 9.1-square-meter-wide. The designs on the Stupa symbolizes the imbalances in elements and energies. There is so much depth, and you will feel as if the Stupa is trying to weave a story. It is also the largest stupa in the world.
You can walk through the monastery, sit in isolated corners or just meditate in the landscaped gardens. No matter what you do, you will always feel a sense of peace engulfing you and making you feel welcome and warm. You will feel the pace of your mind gradually slowing down, as you start to enjoy your time here. It is a truly refreshing and rejuvenating experience.
If you don’t wish to visit the mountains to see some sprawling Buddhist monasteries, you could always visit Namdroling Nyingmapa Tibetan Monastery also known as the "Golden Temple". Located in Karnataka, this enchanting monastery is true to its name. From the moment you enter Namdrolling Nyingmapa Monastery till the time you bid adieu to it, you will be living in awe of the elegant beauty that lies within.
The prayer hall is splashed with different oculars making the walls pop in joy and it is difficult to turn your eyes away from the brilliance of this prayer hall. The sight of monks deep in their meditation as the blue walls prove to be the perfect background is actually quite beautiful.
In the center of the prayer hall, you will find few gold statues of Buddhas which add so much allure to the monastery. The main three statues that are kept in the ornamentally adorned prayer hall are quite big as well. It adds so much more to the prayer hall. There is no way you can visit this monastery without having your jaws dropped.
These wondrous Buddhist monasteries are the epitome of peace and tranquillity, and will not only make your trip more memorable but also heal your soul from within. After visiting any one of these monasteries, you will feel both elated and calmer, and they are truly the gems of India. So, rather than waiting any longer, pack your bags, and head into the realm of serenity and ataraxy.