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Jammu and Kashmir: Ladakh - Hemis Gumpa
Hemis Gompa or Hemis Gumpha:
Travel for 35 kilometers in the Leh Manali road to reach TCP check point at Karu. Take the right hand side road, and travel for 8 kilometers, crossing Indua to reach Drukpa Kagya branch’s Hemis Gompa. It is the biggest Gompa of Ladakh and possibly the richest and most well decorated. There are quite a few temples/monasteries and quite a few deities too, some of them being covered in Gold. The worship temple or Dukhang is the place where the Spiritual leader Rimpoche (or Rinpoche) lives. Climb a bit higher and you will see Lhakhang, or the first temple. The walls are uniquely decorated with paintings. The Buddha here assumes the form of Shakya Muni, and is surrounded by silver chorchens or chortens (reliquary). There is also the unique idol of the main Lama which has a thousand hands and a thousand heads.
Hemis is also home to a great collection of Scroll thonkas, paintings drawn on pieces of cloth or fabric. World’s largest Thonka is also here. It was created by Singe Namgayal in 1630 at Hemis. It is displayed to the public once in 12 years, and the nearest display date is in 2016.
Rimpoch’s birthday is celebrated with great fanfare for two days, when traditional Lamas come from all parts of the state to take part in the celebrations.
Hemis is also home to some of world’s oldest documentation. The Russian traveler Notovich came to Hemis in 1887 and discovered many old documents. He discovered that Jesus Christ had adopted Buddhism in Hemis and then went off to Palestine. He had come to Hemis with the Nath group of hermits.
If you are game to climbing up very steep mountains for anther 3 kilometers, then you can reach Gotsang Gompa. Gotsang Gompha was built before Hmis in the 13th century. It was built on memory of Gotsang Pa, whose hand and feet impression are still there. All the religious scriptures of the Lamas are printed here and then distributed to the rest of Ladakh.
Though Bus services are available from Ladakh, the stoppage time is only one and half hours. Unless you are a superman, it is not possible to visit the gompa in such short time. Hence it is advised that you make to Hemis in a hired car, and also spend a night there. The Parachute rest house at Bus stand of Hemis is well known. There are other hotels too. You can also choose to camp. You can also choose to come back to Leh, just start early. This is possibly the best option.
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