Shey Monastery, Ladakh

Shey monastery or Gompa is located near Leh, Ladakh. Shey was the summer capital of the region.

Famous For :God Lovers, Nature Lovers

Visiting Time :6am-1pm & 1.30-6pm

Duration of Visit :Around 2 to 3 hours

Shey Monastery, Ladakh

Shey Palace & Gompa : The palace was built in 1645 by king Deldan Namgyal as a summer residence for the kings of Ladakh. It is the oldest palace in Ladakh and above the palace is an even older ruined fortress. From the palace the view ranges in the south to the Thiksey gompa and in the west to the Zanskar range. Hundreds of chortens of all shapes and sizes stand below the palace and gompa. These chortens demonstrate the interest taken in Shey by the Ladakhi kings and queens who succeeded Shey's builder.

In 1655, in memory of his father, this same king built the two-storey gompa adjacent to the palace. He installed a two-storey high image of the seated Buddha. After entering the central courtyard located on the second storey of the gompa, the 12-meter high image of the Buddha is found in the room to one's right. The Buddha is worked of copper sheets gilded with gold. This is the biggest metal statue in the region and was the largest Buddha statue of any type in Ladakh until Thiksey installed a 15-meter tall Buddha made of clay in 1970.

Shey's Buddha statue was made in 1655 by a Nepalese sculptor who was assisted by three Ladakhi craftsmen. The castings of the statue were made in Leh while the statue's copper was collected in Zanskar and hammered into plates on big rocks. More than five kilos of gold were then used to plate the copper. The statue was built in parts in the Zanstil Palace ("Zans" means copper and "til" means to hammer) in Leh and then transported to Shey where it was assembled and installed. Sacrificial offerings such as grain or jewels, holy signs and mantras are contained inside the figure.

The most important moment in the construction of the Buddha figure is when the eyes are painted on, for this is the moment when the statue can "see". For this reason, the artist or monk will paint in a Buddha's pupils over his shoulder, with his back to the idol, for none would dare to look the Buddha in the eye.

The upper storey contains numerous murals on the walls. When facing the Buddha, the wall on the sheyleft is painted black and decorated with skulls. The walls on both sides depict the 16 Arhats (Worthy Ones who have achieved Nirvana), 8 on each side. The wall behind the Buddha has images of his two chief disciples, Sariputra and Maudgalyayana, of Padme Sambhava, an 8th century Indian translator of Buddhist texts into Tibetan and Tsong-kha-pa, founder of the yellow-hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism. To the right of the Buddha are statues of Padme Sambhava in the centre, Dogzang Guru Limbune on either side and two chortens. Directly in front of the Buddha, to the right, is a statue of a blue horseman, Paldan Lamo and to the left is a statue of the red horseman of Chakmen, representing the king of Ladakh.

Also in front of the Buddha is a large bowl of wax with a central flame that burns for one year before being replaced. This flame represents divinity and purity and is present in front of all Buddha statues in the Ladakh region. The lower storey of the gompa has a large library of old books. The walls are painted with numerous murals of Buddha figures with the various hand gestures: that of preaching, teaching, blessing, "earth witness" etc.

Tourist Attractions in Shey Monastery :

There are two major celebrations take place at Shey Monastery Shey Doo Lhoo and Shey Suey Rupla. Shey Doo Lhoo takes place on the 26thand 27th day of the first Tibetan month (most probably July or August). This festival is to celebrate the beginning of the sowing season. In these two days, monks perform special rituals in the monastery along with other religious rites. Every year a number of tourists across the globe visit this monastery to experience such unique celebration in the lap of mountains.

An oracle reader visits the Shey Monastery during the festival riding a horse. He conducts prayer for three days and goes into a trance. The reader is believed to utter the prophecies for the upcoming year.

The second ceremony is Shey Rupla. This celebration is to welcome the harvesting season. During this festival, the farmers dedicate their first fruit to the Lord Buddha. Famous dance Rhupal Dance is then performed by dancers wearing tiger costumes. Else other types of dance performances are also performed. If you do not want to experience these rituals you can simply pass your time by viewing amazing Buddha statues in the monastery.

How to Reach Shey Monastery ?

Reaching Shey Monastery is nothing hectic. If you want to travel by car or bike you can hire it from Delhi or Leh. Buses from Leh connecting the monasteries are enough in number. But if you have less time and thus tends to visit by air then you can board your flight from Delhi to Leh and can reach to the monastery hiring a bus or personal cab. So think less and book the preferable one.

Best Time to Visit Shey Monastery

If you ask for the right time to visit Ladakh then February to August will the answer. Yes, between these months the area remains open and allows tourists to visit this amazing place. In the other seasons, Ladakh remains closed due to heavy snowfall. So it would be better if you avoid starting your trip to Shey Monastery from November to March and visit in the months from March to October and experience jaw-dropping colour of nature. If you can manage your time schedule try to hit Ladakh during the major festivals at Shey Monastery as experiencing such ceremonies of different religion and culture would be undoubtedly interesting.

Festivals of Shey Monastery :

Shey Palace festival or Shey Doo Loo is celebrated inside the palace. This festival falls on July or August. This festival is celebrated to mark the beginning of sowing season. This festival is celebrated for two days and you can find many interesting rituals during this festival. An oracle reader visits the monastery on a horse to conduct rituals and give prophesies.

Shey Rupla is the harvest festival. During this festival, you can find people offering their first crop to the God. Rhupla dance is performed during this festival. This dance is performed by men in tiger outfits. You ca also find oracles, folk dance, music and others. During this festival, women who wish to beget children perform special rituals.

There is a funeral ground near the palace. The dead will be brought on a sedan chair and rituals will be performed before burning the dead and scattering the ash in the river. If you happen to witness such a ceremony, do not try to photograph or join them to learn about the ritual.