Phyang Gompa in Ladakh

Phyang Gompa

Phyang Gompa : is also known in Ladakhi as the Gouon gompa, meaning "blue peak", for it is beautifully situated on a hilltop above the small village of Chhiwang, about 22 km west of Leh.

The monastery was built by King Lkra-Shis-Namgyal, founder of the Namgyal dynasty, in 1500 AD after defeating the last of the Lha-Chen kings. He ruled from 1500 to 1532 AD and during his reign, filled the monastery with beautiful statues, thankhas and copies of the Kandshur (the translated word of the Buddha) and the Tandshur (the 225-volume commentary on the Kandshur, compiled by the religious teacher Bu-Ston, 1290 to 1364 AD). These extremely valuable texts are still at Phyang. Phyang is a monastery of the red-hat sect of Buddhism with over 100 lamas. The head lama studied Buddhist philosophy at a university near Lhasa for eight years and had much of the gompa renovated in 1975.

After ascending several small flights of stairs, one reaches the rather small main courtyard with its tall flag pole in the centre. The Dukhang or main assembly hall is off this courtyard up another small flight of steps. The Dukhang verandah has been recently painted with beautiful and colourful murals of the Guardians of the Four Directions. Entering the Dukhang one immediately notices the glassed-in sanctuary opposite the entrance. The central statue is Amitabha (the Boundless Light Buddha or Buddha of the West) and to the left are statues of a large Avalokitesvara with 1,000 arms, which symbolize his enormous strength, and various lamas of the red-hat sect. Avalokitesvara is a Buddhist deity analogous to the Hindu god Shiva and is believed to be reincarnated in the Dalai Lama.

To the right of the central statue are images of Tilopa (a founder of the red-hat sect) and Maitreya. In the background the statues portray (from the left) Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha), VairocanaPhyang Gompa(the teaching Buddha) and Maitreya. The walls of the Dukhang are decorated with murals of Vajradhara ( Buddha manifestation) the Five Buddhas (Vairocana and the Supreme Buddhas of the Four Directions) and small paintings of the Thousand Buddhas in the background. Hanging on the columns on the right side of the Dukhang is an enormous rolled-up thankha, embroidered with depiction of all the guardian divinities. It is unfurled during the Phyang festival, usually in August, and is 4 stories high when completely unrolled.

After exiting the Dukhang turn left and walk along the pathway until you reach the next left turn, to the Gonkhang. This temple is dedicated to Mahakala the "Great and Black One", the fiercest guardian divinity in the Buddhist pantheon of gods. The statues at the front of the temple are of Mahakala flanked by four statues of his various manifestations. The faces of these statues are covered with cloth and only displayed to the public once a year at the Phyang festival. Behind the Mahakala statues are wall murals of Mila Ras-pa, Sakyamuni, Tilopa, Marpa and Naropa. With the exception of Sakyamuni, these are all historical personages associated with the founding of the red-hat sect. The wall murals in the Gonkhang depict Mahakala's various and numerous manifestations. The pillars in this temple are partially covered with tiger hides that were presented by an official of King Jamying Namgyal to Phyang gompa in 1595. Also hanging from the pillars in this temple are Mongolian armaments, including armour, shields and helmets.

These objects were taken from Mongolian soldiers who were killed in a battle on the site the gompaPhyang Gompanow occupies. For no discernible reason, on the right side of the temple is a poorly stuffed Siberian crane, taken near the Chinese border and over the entry door are two stuffed ibex heads. The "New" Dukhang was built by Dam-chos Gyur-med, the 31st and previous incarnation of the present head lama. The verandah to this Dukhang also has wall murals of the Guardians of the Four Directions. Inside the Dukhang and directly opposite the entrance is a throne seat reserved for the head lama. To the right of the throne are stucco images of Avalokitesvara with four arms and various lamas of the red-hat sect. To the left of the throne are images of three lamas, the middle one being Kun-dga Grags-pa, the founding lama of Phyang gompa.

There is also a small group of Kashmiri Buddhist bronze statues flanking the throne. These date from the 14th century at the latest. The side walls of the Dukhang contain murals of Sakyamuni flanked by his two chief disciples and images of various Buddhas with the eight different hand gestures: that of blessing, teaching, etc. The entrance walls are decorated with murals of the various guardian divinities. On the right side of the Dukhang are also two chortens decorated with semi precious stones. The larger one contains the relics of Dam-chos Gyur-med, the previous Rimpoche or head lama of Phyang and the builder of this temple. Along the top sides of the Dukhang is a narrow walkway with mural paintings on three sides.

The two side walls depict guardian divinities. The wall opposite the entrance shows Jig-sten Gon-po, a holy teacher associated with the red-hat sect, in the centre. He is flanked by various other lamas of the red-hat sect.


Changspa, Opp. Eagle Guest House, Leh - Ladakh - 194101 (J & K) India


B-1242, GD Colony, 1st Floor, Mayur Vihar Phase-3, New Delhi - 110096


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