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Hemis Monastery: Biggest & Wealthiest Gompa in Ladakh

When you are in the land of Lamas; how you can you miss visiting their abodes. Yes! The monasteries; which are monk’s schools, homes and the place where they take religious vows. Imagine, some of the Lama’s spend their whole lives here. Leh Ladakh; apart from being the land of high passes is also dotted with innumerable ancient Buddhist Monasteries. Each monastery here is an architectural marvel either jutting from the mountain face or on the top. They have deep-rooted Buddhist & Tibetan religious associations. So, the monastery hopping circuit in Leh Ladakh has become an important part of Ladakh Tourism. And here in this post, we will be taking a tour of the biggest & wealthiest Gompa i.e. Hemis Monastery of Ladakh.

Hemis Monastery Courtyard

 

The Hemis Monastery Ladakh

The Hemis Gompa, being the biggest and wealthiest is not simply perching on the mountaintop or on the roadside. It is hidden in the deep gorge, 49 km from Leh, completely encircled in between the mountains. The mountaintop around the gorge is believed to be the place, where the Lord Padmasambhava or Rimpoche had once meditated. Being hidden the Hemis monastery, remained unharmed, unscathed during the wars and became wealthiest of all. And today, it owns more than half of the land in Ladakh.

Also Read: 6 must visit Leh Ladakh Palaces before they  disappear

How to reach Hemis Monastery

From Leh, cross Shey and Thiksey Monastery, further keep driving along the river Indus, towards Manali Leh highway for 39 km till Village Karu. Then cross river Indus via cantilever bridge and head in between the mountain trails till Village Chushod, which is almost 10 kilometers. Then cross the green oasis lined with poplar and willow trees and you will see the colorful Hemis Monastery, jutting straight from the mountains.

Way to Hemis Monastery

The colorful stepped Hemis Gompa is surrounded by mustard fields, which adds colors to the surrounding barren mountains. Just near to the monastery is the Hemis high altitude national park which is a home to the endangered snow leopard.

On the way to Hemis Monastery

Timings: 8 am to 1 pm; 2 pm to 6 pm. Lunch timing is between 1-2 pm.

Entry Fee: Rs 50/-

Best Time to visit: June – September. Hemis festival takes place in between June – July month

History

The Hemis Monastery is quite an ancient institution and has its roots dating back to 11th century. However, it was re-established in 1630 by the illustrious King Sengge Namgyal who had also built the famous Leh Palace.

The renovation of the Hemis Gompa was carried by King under the assistance of famous Tibetan Priest Stag-Tsang-Ras-Pa, the disciple of Drukpa / Drugpa School.  So, under the rule of Namgyal dynasty, monastery flourished and till the day it is flourishing and is managed by Drukpa Lineage or Red Hat sect of Buddhism.

Inside Hemis Gompa

After purchasing the ticket, climb few stairs and you will see the vibrant colored typical Tibetan Buddhist entrance welcoming you.

Entrance to one of the biggest and wealthiest gompas of Ladakh: Hemis Monastery
Entrance to Hemis Gompa

Remove your shoes and on your left stands the Hemis museum. In the center, there is a huge courtyard where the world famous Hemis festival or mask festival takes place. The long colorful corridors run along the courtyard and in the center are three sacred poles with the fluttering flags. Just don’t stop here as the interiors inside and views from to are really impressive too.

Corridors around courtyard of Hemis Monastery
Corridors around courtyard of Hemis Gompa

The Hemis Monastery is divided into two – the assembly hall known as Dukhang and the Temple known as Tshogkgang. The main temple where the daily prayers happen houses the huge golden statue of Lord Buddha, sacred Thangkas, and Stupas embedded with precious and semi-precious stones.

Lord Buddha Statue in Hemis Monastery Temple
Lord Buddha Statue in Hemis Monastery

The temple on the first floor houses the large golden statue of Guru Rimpoche. Corridors around the whole complex are decorated with the frescoes or mural paintings depicting the wheel of life, lords of four quarters and the Buddhist prayer wheels.

Lord Padmasambhava Temple in Hemis Monastery
Lord Padmasambhava in Hemis Monastery

The Hemis Museum houses a large collection of historical Buddhist Thangkas, weapons, carriers etc. Inside there is a huge library that has an inspiring collection of Tibetan books, manuscripts, and relics. Just at the ground floor of the museum is a souvenir shop selling various Ladakh magnets, T-shirts, books etc. Photography is completely prohibited inside the museum. Indeed, lockers are provided before entering the museum to keep your valuables safe.

Hemis Museum inside Hemis Monastery

Hemis Monastery Terrace

Before leaving the Monastery complex, climb up to the terrace to get some. mesmerizing views. You will see the stacked Himalayas, enclosing and protecting the monastery from all sides with the green oasis in between.

View from Hemis Monastery Terrace

The temple complex is not only colorful & beautiful from the front end and inside but the top too is artistically crafted with colorful contrasting glass in the window panes.

Hemis Monastery Temple Top from Terrace

And the most striking of all is, another Lord Buddha statue mounted on the front hilltop of Hemis Gompa. We really wonder how they might have carried it to that height and how difficult the mounting would had been.

Lord Buddha Statue on Hilltop
Lord Buddha Statue on Hilltop

Hemis Festival

The Hemis festival also known as Mask or Cham festival takes place in the Hemis Monastery courtyard; to celebrate the birth anniversary of Lord Padmasambhava. It happens on the 10th day of Lunar Tibetan Calendar, usually in between June – July. The celebration lasts for complete 3 days.

Mask Dance at Hemis Festival in Hemis Monastery
Source: TripSavvy

Hemis festival stirs the complete courtyard with its pageantry. Monks, Nuns, lamas are dressed to the perfection wearing heavy brocade gowns with masks. They dance with cymbals, drums, and trumpets portraying the win of good over evil. Everything is colorful during the festival and people rejoice with the local traditional food and drinks. The annual markets are set up around the monastery which sells local goods. The sacred 12-meter long Thangka, largest of all Thangkas in Ladakh is unfurled from the top floor after every 12 years.

 

Stupas studded with Precious and semi precious stones in the Hemis Monastery Temple
Stupas studded with Precious and semi-precious stones in the Hemis Monastery

Points to Remember

  • The best season to visit Hemis Gompa is between June – September. If you are planning to be the part of the Hemis festival, then check the exact dates before planning your Leh Ladakh road trip
  • Hemis Monastery provides accommodation to the guests. The alternate is guest houses and homestays in the nearby village
  • Do try lip smacking fried rice, noodles, Thupkas and some local food at the shack outside monastery
  • Buy some local handicrafts as souvenirs to take back home
  • Make sure to respect the monastery culture and avoid photography wherever it is prohibited. Rotate the prayer wheels mounted near the courtyard.Prayer Wheels at Hemis Monastery
  • Talk to locals and be part of the celebrations to know more about the local; traditions and culture
  • Don’t restrict yourself to the courtyard. There are many picturesque locations on the terrace too.
  • Check the huge golden Buddha statue mounted on the front hilltop.
  • Monastery houses more than 500 monks. It is one of the largest spiritual and meditative learning centers. So, enthusiasts from all over the world travel here, to learn the basics of Buddhism and practice a life of the monk.

Hemis Monastery, The Biggest & wealthiest Gompa in Ladakh

If the Hemis Gompa is an epitome, then the trail leading to the Hemis Monastery is no less. It is a complete adventurous zone. The visit to a monastery is not just about the Cham festival, we say it is equally inviting during all the accessible months. It is a marvelous grandeur steeped in rich history, heritage and mythology. Moreover, the entire aura of the place is spellbinding.
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 Have you visited Hemis Monastery in Ladakh? Do you feel the same like us?



27 thoughts on “Hemis Monastery: Biggest & Wealthiest Gompa in Ladakh”

  • Such a wonderful museum. Thanks for sharing this post. I love the photos from this museum, the monastery and the temple was really maintained well. I was amazed seeing the breathtaking Himalayas protecting the temple. Such a meditative place to stay.

  • I love seeing your photos and learning more about the culture. I’ve always wanted to visit the monasteries, and I appreciate the virtual tour here! The architecture and the scenery around it are beautiful!

  • WOW. My husband and I have gotten really into Bollywood movies, many of which feature lovely Ladakh landscapes, but Hemis Monastery hadn’t been on my radar until now. The huge golden Buddha statue on the front hilltop seems particularly striking!

  • I’ve always wanted to visit Ladakh, but haven’t made it there so far.
    Hemis is certainly on the itinerary. Your post is quite informative and eid certainly come in useful.

  • This was a lovely post…I have been there twice but had no idea this was the wealthiest monastery of Ladakh. And going on a bike sounds like a lot of fun, I am yet to do a bike trip there 🙂 Visiting during the Hemis festival would be great…thanks for the tip 🙂

  • It’s the first time in so many years that I have not been to Ladakh. I love Hemis Gompa and have had really in-depth conversations with the monks there. My best memory was visiting it during the Hemis Festival.

  • I can’t believe there is a monastery is hidden in the deep gorge, but understand to avoid being found. I would love to see the Hemis Monastery and the Hemis festival it looks such a colourful event.

  • I don’t know what’s more impressive, the artistry throughout the Hemis Monastery or the gorgeous view of the surrounding Himalayas. I would love to visit during the mask festival, it must be quite the celebration!

  • It is so intricate and spectacular! As much as I absolutely love the Monastery, that view is probably my favorite part. I could spend hours on that terrace admiring the beautiful scenery.

  • Hope I make it to Hemis Monastery in 2018. Monastery hopping sounds so good. Such trails make the visit more worthwhile. Interesting to note that is connected to Leh Palace too.

  • Good thing that the Hemis Gompa was/is so good hidden! Too many beautiful places were destroyed by war already 🙁 RS 50 is such a cheap entrance fee. It’s a bit a shame that photography is forbitten in the museum 🙁 I’d love to visit this place during the Hemis festival 🙂

  • We’ve never been to Ladakh, but definitely want to go there one day, and would consider visiting the Hemis Monastery too. All the buildings and especially the long colorful corridors look stunning, and it would be interesting to analyze all the frescoes and mural paintings. We’d also love to discover the library and the manuscripts inside, and see if we could stay there for one night. Also, it’s good to know that there’s a shack outside of the monastery selling delicious local food!

  • That temple, wow! Fascinating to look at. I’m sure the energy was awesome at the l Hemis Monastery. My favorite part was the colorful bridge that led you into the complex. So photogenic.

  • Love the monastery and especially love the view! Definitely a place I would make sure to visit if I was in the area, but I would definitely want to go and be a part of the Hemis festival. Sounds like a great way to truly experience the culture!

  • The monastery is so beautiful, very colorful and exotic for me! Ladakh is an amazing destination that I hope to visit one day, including to see the snow leopard as you mention it. It’s a beautiful mix of culture and nature that you captured well in your pictures.

  • I’ve found that all monasteries in this region are incredible architectural marvels – it’s truly impressive the structures that have been created in worship of Buddha. Always in truly impressive natural locations too. Hemis Monastery of Ladakh looks beautiful – what an astounding display of color throughout the place! It’s cool that there is a museum and library to look through, even if you can’t take photos, but I guess the best photos anyway are those mesmerizing views from the terrace!

    I would love to visit one year for Hemis festival – thanks for the article!

  • I´d love to visit the Hemis Monastery Terrace. Somehow, the Himalayas evokes something deeply spiritual in me.

  • Wow… you say it owns more than half of the land in Ladakh? The Hemis Festival sounds fascinating, Specially the part about the sacred 12-meter long Thangka being unfurled after every 12 years. The Buddha statue on the front hilltop of Hemis Gompa is really surprising.

  • Another gorgeous monastery, which actually doesn’t look like one. Lovely story as always, and happy New Year!

  • I love monasteries and this one looks pretty awesome too. This is one reason I love visiting places like Northeast of India, Ladakh etc where there is widespread Buddhism. I am not at all a religious person but I am intrigued by the architecture of religious places, not just Buddhist but all. What I love about Monasteries is the colourful and bright interiors and you’re most likely going to find a massive Buddha statue inside. Good to know they also have a museum in the vicinity!

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