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Report 1932: Ladakh Takes Your Breath Away

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2011

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Page 21 of 25: Likir Gompa

photo by Michael

Representation of the monastic code

Likir is reached by a short, unpaved road off the main Leh to Srinagar road. It is a long village which straggles up the valley. The valley was badly affected by last year's floods. The river bed was full of large stones and boulders brought down by the floods and many fields had been lost.

Likir Gompa is built on top of a hill overlooking the valley with a huge golden statue of the Future Buddha behind. Likir is a rich and influential gompa controlling Alchi and the head monk is a cousin of the Dalai Lama. The original building was 11thC when the King of Ladakh invited Lawang Chosje to build a monastery on a sacred hill near Likir, which was thought to be the resting place of the snake gods. The present buildings are 18thC and replace earlier buildings which were destroyed by fire.

It is a steep climb up steps into the courtyard which is surrounded by covered walkways with the Dukhang on the right and Bakkang on the left.

Steps lead up to the Dukhang which has wall paintings and cupboards containing the sacred books. The throne of the Dalai Lama and the Head Monk with their photographs, face the entrance. The benches the monks sit on are at right angles and monks had left their top robe in a pile to mark their place. There are several chortens set with precious stones and statues of the different Buddhas on the back wall. Every available space is covered by wall hangings, Tankas and paintings. There are large drums which are beaten during prayers. There are two large tankas rolled up above the doorway which are only displayed during festivals.

The Bakkhang has paintings on the walls of the outside porch showing the rules and regulations governing life of a monk. Inside there is a gilded statue of the thousand armed and 11 headed Avalokiteswara. The walls are decorated with paintings of the 35 confessional Buddhas on the left and the 16 Arhats on the right. On an alcove by a widow there is a lovely painting of the Stairway to Heaven. This is a long winding road with a man, grey elephant and grey monkey at the bottom. As they ascend and lose their hatred the grey gradually changes to white so they are all white by the time they achieve Heaven.

Above the Bakkhang is a smaller Gonkhang which had paintings of all the protector gods.

Above the Gonkhang is a small museum. It is a small rather dusty room with display cases. There are small Tanka paintings hanging from the walls and festival masks. The display cases contain religious artifacts, old armour including a 400 year old jacket (Thaap), 800year old skull drinking cup (Thodpa) used by lamas at the time of Tantric prayer (pooja) when they drank either blood or alcohol, and 800 year old wall hangings (Fango) which was a pole framework covered with beautiful blue cloth and used to decorate the hall during functions organised by the king.

The outdoor statue of the Future Buddha stands 23m high and was completed in 1999. It is a gilded statue with blue hair seated on a brightly painted throne. There were good views of the valley.

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