India is, by far, one of the most fascinating countries in the world with an equally rich and fascinating history. It is also one of the biggest civilizations in the world which believed in the values of moksha or Nirvana. Having said that, there is no end to the number of places that can give you the much-needed spiritual getaway every now and then. If you are looking for a place to peace out, monasteries in India should definitely be on your list.
We love monasteries, the delicate artwork on the walls, the sheer tranquility of the place and the prayer flags adorning the walls. The list is never-ending! India has some of the most beautiful monasteries that will truly take your breath away. Located among majestic mountains and perched on hilltops, full of vibrant culture and history, these are some of the most beautiful monasteries in India that you should definitely visit –
1. Rumtek Monastery: Gangtok, Sikkim
One of the most visited tourist attractions in east Sikkim is the Rumtek Monastery. The design and architecture of the Rumtek Monastery were so impressive that it was hailed to be a model for the other monasteries that were later built throughout India. Its interiors are beautifully illustrated with frescos, murals, paintings, and sculptures. While photography is strictly prohibited inside the monastery, we suggest you imbibe all of it for as long as you want. Followers of Buddhism come here to pay respect to the Golden Stupa which is a major attraction here. It carries the relics of the 16th Century Karmapa that is made out of pure gold. In addition to the 4 statues, the monastery also treasures the Black Hat, known as Vajra Mukut, which is a beautiful object that is studded with rubies, diamonds, gold and other precious stones. Know more about other tourist attractions in Sikkim here.
2. Hemis Monastery, Ladakh
Undeniably, Hemis Monastery is one of the wealthiest monasteries in all of Ladakh. Apart from its vibrant colors and beautiful murals, the monastery is also famous for its annual two-day festival known as the Hemmis Festival. The traditional music and masked dance performances are the main highlights of the festival and people from different corners of the country come here to enjoy these for two days. Pay homage to the two large statues of Lord Buddha and Guru Rimpoche. Also, there is a museum that exhibits a large collection of Buddhist relics and several ancient items that showcase the rich cultural heritage of the region. The only way to reach Hemis is by a cab or hired bullet/bike from Leh.
3. Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh
Sitting gracefully on top of a hill about 10,000 feet above sea level, Tawang Monastery is the second largest monastery in Asia after the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The breathtakingly beautiful monastery is enclosed by 925 feet long compound wall. And within the complex, there are about 65 residential buildings with over 700 monks and 450 lamas residing in them. Entering the Tawang Monastery itself is a grand experience; you will come across huge doors about ten to twenty feet high. This kingdom has several edifices within the premises but the most prominent one is the ‘Dukhang’ or the assembly hall. Inside the walls of Dukhang you will find murals of different gods and saints. There is a silver casket in the Dukhang which holds thangkas of the Goddess Sri Devi. The thangkas were painted with the blood drawn from the 5th Dalai Lama’s nose. Most importantly, the giant statue of Lord Buddha sitting peacefully in the middle of the northern side of the Monastery will leave you awestruck for days on end. A massive richly adorned Tawang Monastery is a definite must-visit attraction in Arunachal Pradesh on your next spiritual holiday. For a comfortable journey, book your cab from Guwahati to Tawang here.
4. Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun
A few years after its formation, Mindrolling Monastery started expanding and today it is the largest Buddhist center in the world. Everything about the monastery is simply grand: from breathtaking views of the Himalayan foothills surrounding it to the Japanese style of architecture; from the walls of the first three floors painted in gold to the open terraces offering a spectacular 360-degree view of the Dehradun valley. Inside the monastery, one can see some of the most magnificent examples of Buddhist art. One of the main attractions in Mindrolling is the huge statue of the standing Buddha keeping a watchful eye. There are magnificent gardens around the stupa which is truly a sight to behold! A visit to this Mindrolling Monastery is truly a rejuvenating and enthralling experience.
5. Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery, Mysore
The Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery is the biggest teaching center in Nyingmapa, which is a line of Tibetan Buddhism in the world. It is home to over 5000 monks and nuns. The Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery is adorned by several golden paintings. While today it is a resplendent place of worship and meditation, it started off as nothing more than a bamboo structure spread over only 80 sq ft, and will leave one amazed with its monumental transformation. The best time to visit the monastery is certainly during the Losar Festival, which attracts huge numbers of tourists to this little Tibetan corner.
6. Pemayangtse Monastery, Pelling
Pemayangtse Monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in Pelling, Sikkim. This ancient and traditional monastery is 300 years old where monks belonging to Bhutia family still live. It is a perfect soul seeking destination in Pelling where you can see the traces of Rabdentse from the monastery which is the second capital of the former kingdom of Sikkim. Some other significant monasteries in Pelling to visit are Sanga Choeling Monastery and Dubdi Monastery.
7. Ghoom Monastery, Darjeeling, West Bengal
The old Ghoom Monastery or the Yiga Choeling Monastery was built in 1850. Located just below the Ghoom railway station at an altitude of 7,407 ft, the Ghoom Monastery is only about 7km from the Darjeeling city. The Monastery belongs to Gelupka, the yellow hat sect and has a 15-foot long statue of Lord Buddha. This statue has two unique names – Maitreya Buddha (Buddha of the future) and Gyalwa Shampa (Coming Buddha). In front of the figure, two huge oil lamps are kept burning throughout the year. When in Darjeeling, don’t forget to explore Lepchaghat, one of the best-kept secrets in West Bengal.
8. Diskit Monastery, Ladakh
Amidst the stark and barren Nubra valley stands the beautiful and milky white Diskit monastery. The monastery is beautiful inside out. Within the prayer hall, there are big drums and various images of the guardian deities. The monastery also runs an NGO by the name of the “Tibet Support Group.” An unmissable part of the monastery is the panoramic views of Nubra Valley that one can get to see from the top of the monastery. Dosmoche festival, held during the month of February, is also a good time to plan a visit to the Diskit Monastery.
9. Phuktal Monastery, Ladakh
This monastery is quite popular among trekkers. The incredibly beautiful monastery is located in the Zanskar region of Jammu and Kashmir. Fun fact, Phuktal Monastery is one of the most isolated monasteries in the country with buildings made of wood and mud. Although constructed in the 12th century, Phuktal was hidden from the outside world until Hungarian philologist Alexander Csoma de K’rös discovered it in 1826. It is also one of the only monasteries in Ladakh that can be reached purely on foot. Supplies to the monastery are mainly brought through horses and mules in the summer while transported through the frozen Zanskar river in the winter. There is a river that separates the monastery from the rest of the world. A suspended bridge over the river allows you to reach the monastery. The river flows below the bridge throughout the year. Visit this monastery for the sheer experience of it and get a chance to truly get away from the rest of the world. For a detailed guide to traveling across Ladakh, click here.
10. Phodang Monastery, Sikkim
Phodang Monastery was constructed in 1740 A.D. The monastery sits at an elevation of 4500 ft and is easily accessible via cars, jeeps, taxis, etc. from Magan in Sikkim. Currently, the Phodong Monastery is a major tourist attraction in Sikkim, and houses around 260 monks. The walls of the monastery are adorned with beautiful murals, paintings, and frescos which amaze all the visitors alike.
These captivating monasteries in India are bound to catch your imagination. So, wait no more and head out to explore these precious gems that will leave you high spirited and light-hearted throughout your holy journey.