Leh, was the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh, now the Leh district in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Leh district, with an area of 45,110 km2, is the second largest district in the country, after Kutch, Gujarat (in terms of area). The town is dominated by the ruined Leh Palace, the former mansion of the royal family of Ladakh, built in the same style and about the same time as the Potala Palace the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India, during the 1959 Tibetan uprising. Leh is at an altitude of 3524 meters (11,562 ft) and connects via National Highway 1D to Srinagar in the southwest and to Manali in the south via the Leh-Manali Highway. Leh the head quarter of the district is a small town with monasteries and stupas almost at every turn, however, the two one shouldn’t miss during the stay at Leh is the Shanti Stupa and the Chowkang monastery hidden in a large courtyard behind the main ‘bazaar’. The primary tourist attraction in Leh is still the 16 Th century Leh palace the nine-story structure which once used to be the tallest building in the world!
Bearing a passing similarity to the Potala Palace in Lhasa (Tibet), this nine-storey dun-coloured palace is Leh’s dominant structure and architectural icon. It took shape under 17th-century king Sengge Namgyal but has been essentially unoccupied Royals since the LaRoyalswere stripped of power and shuffled off to Stok in 1846. Today the sturdy walls enclose some exhibition spaces and a small prayer room, but the most enjoyable part of a visit is venturing up to the uppermost rooftops for the view. Interesting structures ranged around the palace’s base include the prominent Namgyal Stupa , the colourfully muralled Chandazik Gompa and the 1430 Chamba Lhakhang with medieval mural fragments between the inner and outer walls. Don’t count on any of these being open.
Sankar Monastery, or Sankar Gompa is a Buddhist monastery within an easy half-hour walk from Leh in Ladakh. It is a daughter-establishment of Spituk Monastery and the residence of the Abbot of Spituk, the Venerable Kushok Bakula, who is the senior incarnate lama of Ladakh due to his ancient lineage and personal authority. Only 20 monks at most live here, and only a few permanently, so visiting hours are limited to early morning and evening. The place is well lit, so an evening visit is worthwhile. Climbing the steps one reaches the double doors leading into the dukang (‘du khang) or assembly hall. Three green drums are on the right of the door under which is the place of the Gyeskos. The wall and entry door are richly painted. Upstairs is the Dukar Lhakang (“residence of the deity”) or inner sanctuary. There is an impressive figure here of Avalokiteśvara (Tibetan: Chenrezig) with 1,000 arms (all holding weapons) and 1,000 heads. The walls are painted with a Tibetan calendar, mandalas and rules for the monks. Above the wooden stairs can be seen the rooms of the Abbot, guest rooms and the library.
Shanti Stupa is a Buddhist white-domed stupa (chorten) on a hilltop in Chanspa, Leh district, Ladakh, in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It was built in 1991 by Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu, Gyomyo Nakamura and part of the Peace Pagoda mission. The Shanti Stupa holds the relics of the Buddha at its base, enshrined by the 14th Dalai Lama. The stupa has become a tourist attraction not only due to its religious significance but also due to its location which provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Thiksay Gompa or Thiksay Monastery
Thiksay Gompa or Thiksay Monastery (also transliterated from Ladakhi as Tikse, Tiksey or Thiksey) is a gompa (monastery) affiliated with the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is located on top of a hill in Thiksey village, approximately 19 kilometres (12 mi) east of Leh in Ladakh, India. It is noted for its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet and is the largest gompa in central Ladakh, notably containing a separate set of buildings for female renunciates that has been the source of significant recent building and reorganisation. The monastery is located at an altitude of 3,600 metres (11,800 ft) in the Indus Valley. It is a twelve-story complex and houses many items of Buddhist art such as stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings and swords. One of the main points of interest is the Maitreya Temple installed to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to this monastery in 1970; it contains a 15 metres (49 ft) high statue of Maitreya, the largest such statue in Ladakh, covering two stories of the building.
Founded in the late 14th century as See-Thub (‘Exemplary’) Monastery, impressive Spituk Gompa is incongruously perched overlooking Leh’s airport runway around 5km from town. Multiple mud-brick buildings tumble merrily down a steep hillock towards Spituk village on the Indus riverbank. The courtyard below the gilt-roofed Skudung Lhakhang leads to a colourful dukhang (prayer hall) containing a yellow-hatted statue of Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), who spread Gelukpa Buddhism. A Buddha statue across the same room supposedly incorporates a very odd relic: Tsongkhapa’s nose-bleed. On the very top of the gompa hill is a three-tiered latho (spirit shrine) and the small Palden Lamo temple hiding veiled Hindu-style deities and festival masks in an intimate rear section.