Leh Ladakh Road Trip to Alchi Monastery
One of the oldest learning centres situated on the banks of Indus river at a distance of 70 km from the west of Leh is this beautiful Buddhist monastery. Alchi Monastery was constructed by a famous translator in ancient times by the name Guru Rinchen Zangpo between 958 and 1055 AD. Located in a small village Alchi is the oldest of the four settlements in the lower region of Ladakh. The preserved monuments in the monastery are distinctively unique and carry a story within themselves. These monuments ascribed to a Tibetan noble called Kal-dan Shes-rab in the 11th century. The highlights of the monastery are the Assembly Hall or Dukhang, the temples – Gtsug-lag-khang (Jokhang) and Jam-dpal lHa-khang (Manjushri) and Chortens. The two major temples within the monastery are Lotsabha Lakhang and Lakhang Soma.
The architecture is absolutely wonderful decorated with intricately carved paintings which are considered as the oldest treasures of Ladakh. The huge statues of Lord Buddha, extraordinary wall paintings reflecting artistic and spiritual aura will entice you beyond imagination. The wood carvings and artwork is something to look forward to here.
Shrines of the Monastery :
The monastery is divided into three shrines – the Sum Tsek, the Dukhang, and the Temple of Manjushri. Let’s look at all of them in detail :
Built in the early 13th century, Sum Tsek literally means ‘three-storied building’. One of the most famous monuments for its architecture, the building material of Sum Tsek consists of loam and natural stone. This monastery is constructed in Tibetan style, and the interiors of the monastery, the clay paintings and vintage wood carvings are all work of Kashmiri artists.
The place is the main assembly hall of the monastery that forms the sacred place of the Alchi Monastery. One of the oldest structures in the shrine, the walls of the halls are adorned with mandala paintings centered around the prime attraction – Idols of Vairocana. There are four Buddha depictions surrounding this Idol, adding to its vintage look and beauty. Outside the Hall, you can find the Mahakal and sacred Wheel of life, which are the landmarks of Dukhang.
Temple of Manjushri
One needs to enter this temple through the assembly hall or Dukhang. Constructed in 1225 AD, You will find classic architecture and beautiful paintings here with original wooden door elaborately decorated. The walls of the temples are painted with images of Manjushri in bright orange colours. The walls and the paintings reflect the ancient India and this temple is also known as Jampe Lhakhang.
How to Reach Alchi Monastery
Alchi is located at a distance of 70km from the west of Leh in the district of Jammu and Kashmir. You can reach here by hiring a local taxi from Leh or board a public bus from the main city too. The travel expense is very cheap and affordable. If you come by flight, You can reach the nearest airport in Ladakh and take a cab to Alchi village from there. You can visit the temples and explore the monastery there from 8 am to 6 pm as the entry is free for all.
Places to look around in Alchi
Alchi is known for many temples around, and some of them are Rinchen Lhakhang and Namnang Lhakhang. These temples are known for their paintings. Namnang Lhakhang also known as Vairocana Temple, has a beautiful painting of Buddha’s five families. Apart from that, you can also pay a visit to other nearby attractions such as Likir Monastery, Spituk Monastery and Phyang Monastery
Best time to visit Alchi Monastery
The most suitable time to visit Alchi is during the Buddhist festival season when there is a celebration of different festivals like Losar, Monlam, Sho Dun, Chotrul Duchen, Dajyur and Galdan Namchot. These festivals are between the months of May to September when the weather is pleasant enough for leh ladakh tours.