Phugtal monastery: Ladakh’s 2500-year-old cave of liberation

Phugtal monastery: Ladakh’s 2500-year-old cave of liberation

Phugtal monastery: Ladakh’s 2500-year-old cave of liberation Buddhist tourism 30stades

Phugtal Gompa or monastery is one of the world’s oldest monasteries. It is situated in the rugged mountainous terrain of Lungnak Valley in Zanskar, Ladakh.

Built around a cave in the mountains, the Phugtal monastery dates back 2500 years. It is believed that monks, scholars and those seeking enlightenment would come to meditate in the cave and reside there for years in isolation.

Kosh

Over thousands of years, many followers of the Buddha, like Arhats and Guru Padmasambhava, are believed to have meditated in the cave.

Also Read: Udaigiri caves: A repository of ancient shrines and mythological tales

The monastery came up around the cave only in the early 15th century.

It was built by Jangsem Sherap Zangpo, a disciple of Je Tsongkhapa who was the founder of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery was built under the guidance of Zangpo on the side of the cliff, like a honeycomb.

The monastery around the cave was built in the 15th century. Pic: Flickr 30stades
The monastery around the cave was built in the 15th century. Pic: Flickr

According to legend, Zangpo used his supernatural powers to make a spring appear in the cave and also made the cave larger in size.

Today, the remote Phugtal Monastery, situated high up in the mountains above the Zanskar valley, has about 100 Lamas or monks residing there. The Tsarap River flows below the Phugtal gompa into the valley below.

Also Read: Gagron: Rajasthan’s unique hill & water fort that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The monastery can only be reached on foot by crossing a hanging wooden bridge. Other bridges were washed away during floods in 2015. Food supplies to the gompa are delivered via the Phugtal Bridge.

The monastery has many rooms for monks. Pic: Flickr 30stades
The monastery has small residences for monks. Pic: Flickr

The supplies are brought on horses, donkeys and mules in summer and by foot in winter across the frozen river.

The monastery has the main temple, four prayer rooms, a library, a small clinic, small residences, a kitchen and the original cave with a protected sacred spring that is believed to have healing powers.

The prayer rooms are decorated with frescoes. It is believed that relics of the founder, Sherap Zangpo are kept in the chorten (a Buddhist shrine).

Also See: Maluti: Jharkhand’s 17th-century terracotta temples built by royal women to outdo each other

Food supplies are delivered to the Phugtal Monastery through this hanging bridge. Pic: Flickr 30stades
Food supplies are delivered to the Phugtal Monastery through this hanging bridge. Pic: Flickr

The monks in the gompa have built ties with the locals and villagers living nearby seek help from the monks in times of need.

There is an amchi or traditional Tibetan physician who provides medicines to the villagers.

The monks also perform prayers in the villages during functions such as weddings, births and deaths. The monastery celebrates Tibetan festivals which are eagerly looked forward to by the villagers who have little in the name of entertainment in the remote, harsh location. They help in planning for the festivals and celebrate with zest.

Also Read: Bhatner Fort: India’s oldest & strongest fort built 1800 years ago in Rajasthan

Young monks at the monastery. Pic: Flickr 30stades
Young monks at the monastery. Pic: Flickr

The monks also started a school in 1993 to provide education for the children living in villages as they had no access to school in other parts of Ladakh. The school also provided boarding facilities for children coming from far off villages. However, the flood in 2015 washed away the school campus which is now being rebuilt slowly. More pictures of the monastery here:

The Tsarap River flows below the Phugtal gompa into the valley below. Pic: Flickr 30stades
The Tsarap River flows below the Phugtal gompa into the valley below. Pic: Flickr

Monks at Phugtal Monastery during lunchtime. Pic: Flickr 30stades
Monks at Phugtal Monastery during lunchtime. Pic: Flickr

Also See: In pictures: Morena’s Chausath Yogini temple that inspired the Indian Parliament’s design

The Tsarap River freezes during winters. Pic: Flickr
The Tsarap River freezes during winters. Pic: Flickr
The monastery is built into the mountains. Pic: Flickr
The monastery is built into the mountains. Pic: Flickr

Also Read: Poetry in stone: 1000-year-old magnificent Modhera Sun temple in Gujarat

The Phugtal Monastery merges beautifully into the Himalayan terrains. Pic: Flickr 30stades
The Phugtal Monastery merges beautifully into the Himalayan terrains. Pic: Flickr

Also Read: Masroor: Himachal’s exquisite rock-cut temples known as the Himalayan pyramid

Look Up our YouTube Channel

Support 30 Stades


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.