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In this post – we went to two monasteries on this day, along with crashing a Ladakhi wedding – what a surprise treat! The second monastery and wedding will wait for the next post. So, we went to two additional monasteries today – and while yesterday had the enormous Buddha statues, this day and its monasteries had their own selling points. First we drove to Tak Thog (rock ceiling) monastery and then visited Chemray on the way back.
We were in the car at least 90 minutes to drive out to the far reaches of Ladakh, in fact, Tak Thog monastery is significantly higher in altitude than Leh, I would guess it is at least at 15000 ft. We noticed the difference when we were climbing the monastery’s many steps. The road basically ends at the monastery because beyond, the mountains become too steep. In my journal I wrote that it was “way out in the middle of no where” which is saying a lot for ultra-rural Ladakh. Tak Thog is named appropriately, because some of its shrine rooms are in cozy, butter-lamp-soot stained caves with low rock ceilings (the rock walls and ceiling are black from the butter lamp exhaust). It is famous for having hosted Guru Rinpoche (he meditated there) and he apparently left a foot print in his meditation cave – however, today there is always a retreatant in that particular cave and we were not allowed to see it. Does that sound at all fishy to you? Not that it didn’t happen of course!
In this particular photo, I could not get a completely clear picture of this shrine room, even though I took over a dozen shots (?). However, this is the best pic I have. The ceiling had paper money (rupees) and coins stuck to it as offerings. Notice the black color of the rock.
The guide said that the monastery was “one ridge away from a glacier” (which is where the water for the long valley below originates). There were big round rocks all over this monastery, which was a treat. Unfortunately, the murals and paintings were blackened with soot and could only be viewed as vague outlines. This is one of the only Nyingma (ancient school) monasteries in Ladakh, so there were multiple statues of Guru Rinpoche. They were in the process of filling several – so a monk gave us a detailed explanation of that process (filling a 2 meter statue would take at least two months – so a tedious task to be sure).
I loved how this monastery used the natural rock formations, it was almost as if the mountain and the rock were more important than the building itself. What a great indigenous / Earth-loving concept!