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6/29/08 – cont’d – At our little rest on the journey to Lama Yuru, we stayed in the village of Temisgam. Overlooking this village was a very special monastery (at least to me). On this pilgrimage, there were several places (monasteries) that felt vaguely familiar – Hemis was a definite, Temisgam was another and Lama Yuru as well – as in not my first time visiting them.
Back to the story, Temisgam was an unique gompa in that it had a rich history, but it was no longer in use as a (inhabited by multiple monks) monastery. Rather there was simply one monk running the entire place. He sat with us when we practiced in the Guru Rinpoche shrine, and then when we were in the large, ornate Lhakang (temple or shrine?), he went back to a little semi-private cell and chanted prayers for a while. We could peek in at him, but it felt like an invasion of his privacy (so I did not do so).
So, this was an incredibly beautiful and artistic monastery which was obviously well maintained. From the outside, it looked relatively small – especially for the-only-nearby-town being a small 1300 person village. The monk said that there are two sects which take care of this particular gompa – the Gelugs and the Drukpa Kagyus and that they take turns – every two years they switch. The monk said that the monks have a one year rotation of being there (pretty much alone). There was a Maitreya shrine with a decent sized statue in it (I seem to recall it being at least six feet tall). The oldest section of the monastery housed an ancient Guru Rinpoche shrine – I think there are some statues in there that are over 600 years old. That shrine had dozens of ornate statues, ranging from a couple feet to twelve feet in height. That was where we stopped to do a long group practice – we did the 7 line prayer (Guru Rinpoche’s prayer) along with the full 18 pages of opening prayers. It was nice, the monk from the monastery joined us and chanted along when we did the Tibetan.
The Chenrezig Shrine (pictured here) was extraordinarily ornate. There were two large statues behind glass of 1000 Chenrezig and then in the center, encased behind several layers of plastic / glass, there was a small little whitish-cream colored statue. It was only eight inches tall at most – but it was said to have animated / spoken to a high lama when he stayed at the monastery relatively recently.
The monastery was soaked in history. According to the story I heard, when the Tibetan royalty and their army came in to help the Ladakhis defeat the Baltistan army, this monastery was also a palace. The Tibetans kept power and increased the wealth of Ladakh as they also built the Shey Palace (which we visited earlier), the Palace at Leh, this one and another where the Zangskar and Indus rivers converge. These palaces were pretty much built in the 11th century and then rebuilt in the 15th and 18th centuries. Various ruins are left, but the harsh Ladakhi winter, wind and sun are tough on buildings.
Temisgam had a balcony on the outside of the third floor of the monastery – circumambulating three shrine rooms. Too bad my fear of heights prevented me from enjoying it fully! There were wind catchers (spinning turbines) attached to prayer wheels, so the large wheels would sometimes seem to be turning on their own – because they were! I seem to recall a large Dharma Guardian shrine at this monastery as well – and this building was obviously newer than the first section we visited.
There is a nunnery below the monastery – on the same road. However, I will write more about that in a future post because we visited it on our way back from Lama Yuru.
In my journal I have the name of this place as both Tamisgam and Temisgam – but now that I look around online, it seems Temisgam is more common.