The Land of stony mountains and rising snow capped ranges, Spiti is one of India’s top travel destinations. Spiti Valley is famously called the Little Tibet. With its high mountains, rough natural beauty and stony vistas, it won’t be wrong to say that it resembles the beautiful Tibetan topography.
Spiti lies in the north-eastern part of the state of Himachal Pradesh, and is located in the high Himalayas, which are inhospitable and riveting at the same time. Spiti challenges you at every turn, but offers many things in return.
One of them is its astonishing Buddhist landmarks. Another reason why Spiti is popularly known as Little Tibet, are it’s world famous monasteries, boasting both of altitude and architecture.
Here are the three oldest monasteries in Spiti, which will leave you spellbound:
Key Monastery comes with a colourful history and heritage
It is more than 1,000 years old and remains to date the most important center of learning in India. Lamas from all over the subcontinent come to the Key Monastery. The monastery stands at 13,668ft above sea level, making it one of the highest structures in Spiti.
The edifice is built in the orthodox Pasada style, with two stories above the ground and an extensive underground system.
Tourists can enjoy the Tangyur murals, paintings, and many age-old relics while visiting the monastery. Although it has been rebuilt several times, the Key Monastery retains its centuries-old architecture. The monastery overlooks the Spiti valley and it’s dried peaks and offers a formidable view of this beautiful place. It is a hotspot of Buddhist culture.
The Key Monastery should be at the top of any bucket list, it’s ambience, serenity and beauty are supreme, a thing to be cherished forever.
The Tabo Monastery has immense historical and archaeological importance to the people of Spiti. It is the only surviving relic and proof of cultural development before the tenth century in the valley.
The monastery is another example of the dynamic relationship between trade and religious practices of Buddhism in India. Built by the Yeshe Dynasty in the tenth century, the monastery proved indispensable in later years to the development of Mahayana Buddhism in later centuries. All through the passage of history, the Tabo Monastery remained an important center of learning and translation, an axis between Tibetan and Indian cultures.
The monastery still remains a pivotal cultural point between the two regions. Tabo contains the oldest artworks surviving in the Indian subcontinent, and boasts of both a Buddhist and non-Buddhist collection, due to its immense popularity.
Many mandala temples form a part of the monastery. Visitors that come to the doorsteps of the Tabo Monastery never return empty-handed, they take with them the best of history and culture.
Lhalung Monastery is often called Spiti’s mystery monument
It is believed, through beautiful and mesmerizing folk tales and traditions, that the monastery sprung up by itself under a willow tree. The willow tree stands beside the awe-inspiring monastery till this date.
The monastery is the oldest monastery in Spiti, and it is one of the first monasteries to be ever built in the Buddhist culture. Built by the great king Rinchen Zangpo, the monastery was a center of debate and arts in its time.
The original structure of the monastery contained as many as nine shrines. The structure is also called the Golden Temple because of the images and idols of gold-leafed deities in its folds. Many shrines inside the Lhalung Monastery contain more than fifty such idols, all intricately carved.
Visitors heading to the Lhalung Monastery should prepare themselves to see the best of Indian Buddhist culture and religious practices.
Spiti has always been a center of trade and the exchange of culture and knowledge. The state of Himachal Pradesh has had patrons of arts for rulers, and painting, debate, and trade have always flourished in the region. If one wants to witness this beautiful amalgamation of culture, there’s no better place than the Spiti valley.