About Hemis Monastery
Hemis Gompa : was built in 1620 by the king-architect Singe Namgyal who was a great patron of Buddhism. He filled Hemis with golden statues, stupas set with precious stones and thankhas brought from many places including Tibet.
The lamas of Hemis were associated with the Ladakhi royal family and became quite prosperous, owning much land and supervising many smaller, scattered monasteries. Hemis is the richest monastery in Ladakh and although only about a dozen lamas actually live here, it has several hundred lamas attached to its various subsidiary monasteries.
The Rimpoche or spiritual head of Hemis is a reincarnation of the monastery’s founder Stagtshang Raspa. The last Rimpoche was a reincarnation who, as a five-year old child, was being taught in Tibet when the Chinese invaded. There has been no communication with the Rimpoche since the 1960s. Since then, the brother of the late King of Ladakh has conducted the business of the gompa. During the 1975 festival, Drugpa Rimpoche, a 12-year old youth, became the new Rimpoche as a new incarnation.
The central courtyard, 60 meters long and 18 meters wide, contains four tall poles stuck in the ground at equal distances, with four different banners flying atop. It is in this courtyard that the monastic dances take place. The dances occur during the Hemis festival (see FESTIVALS chapter).
As one enters the courtyard, to the right are two large temples up small flights of stone steps. The fronts have a wooden verandah of Kashmiri style, rising two storeys. As one faces them, the temple on the left is the Tshogs-khang and on the right is the Dukhang which contains the throne of the Rimpoche and seating areas for the lamas. It is here that religious ceremonies are held. Tall wooden pillars rise in the centre to a square cupola with windows that supply light to the throne. The walls also have paintings of Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha) with blue hair, other Buddha figures and paintings of Tantric deities such as Hevajra and Samvara.
In the Tshogs-khang is a large gilded statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha with blue hair surrounded by several silver chortens decorated with semi-precious stones. In front of the Buddha is a throne made of painted and lacquered wood, a present from the former Maharaja of Kashmir to a former Incarnate Lama of Hemis. On the right is a collection of Buddhist canonical volumes.
Tourist Attractions in Hemis Monastery :
Hemis monastery owns excellent architecture which attracts numerous tourists each year. If you wish you can pay homage to the large structure of Guru Rimpoche and Lord Buddha. Else there is also a museum that possesses a huge collection of Buddhist structure, statues and several ancient items that reflects the existence of rich culture during the ancient period. Apart from that, you can visit the Hemis High Altitude Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary is at the altitude from 3300 m to 6000 m above the sea level. This place is considered as the largest park in the South Asia and also the highest park in the world. At the sanctuary, there is a chance of spotting rare snow leopard, Ibex, and other wild animals.
How to Reach Hemis Monastery :
If you are confused about how to reach Hemis Monastery then you do not need to worry as Hemis is well connected by road with the rest of India. Else there are also active bus services available by the government (especially the Jammu and Kashmir Road Transport Corporation) as well as private authorities. To reach Hemis you would not find any direct flight or rail connectivity. The nearest rail station to connect Hemis is Katra that lies 277 km away from Hemis and nearest airport is Leh Rimpoche Airport that lies 42 km from Hemis Monastery.
Food to Try at Hemis :
There are a number of different platters are found in Hemis. Some of the popular foods at Hemis are Thukpa which is simply a thick soup with vegetables, Khambir which is a local bread, Pava made of Sattu, Skieu made with mutton, flour, andveggies, steamed dumplings stuffed with vegetables meat and chili sauce and sandwiches made with apricot jam.
Best Time to Visit Hemis Monastery in Ladakh :
If you are thinking to visit Hemis monastery then try to book your tickets for the months of June or July. This is because at that time the Hemis Monastery is decorated by the lamas and two-day annual Hemis festival takes place. The popular Cham Dance and the display of age-old Thangkas during the festival is really a spectacular and enjoyable event to experience. Else summer season from April to June is also the pick hours for tourists.
Tradition & Festivals of Hemis Monastery :
you can find many interesting rituals during this celebration. The festival takes place in the courtyard in front of the monastery. You can enjoy traditional music with wind instruments, large pan drums and others. The festival begins early in the morning. After music performance, the portrait of the Guru is displayed to public. Later, the mask dance of monks is conducted. This is the best time to enjoy the culture of the monastery and the religion.