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Dhankar Monastery, Spiti Valley Overview

Dhankar Monastery, also referred to as Dankhar, Drangkhar or Dhangkar Gompa is situated in the district of Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh, India. At an altitude of 12,774 feet, the monastery is perched unbelievably on the edge of a cliff and offers a panoramic view of Spiti valley. Built one thousand years ago on a 1000 feet high mountain and overlooking the heart-stirring sight of the confluence of Spiti and Pin rivers, Dhankar Monastery is listed as one of the world's 100 most endangered monuments.

Being one of the main centres of Buddhist art and culture, the monastery has become a famous tourist destination. Besides enchanting views, the Dhankar Hompa has the statue of Dhayan Buddha and a small museum which stores scriptures and murals. Below the monastery is the village of Shichilling where you will find a new monastery which houses about 150 monks belonging to the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. A 2 km hike from the monastery leads to pristine Dhankar lake.

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Highlights of Dhankar Gompa

The Dhankar monastery, perched on a cliff, overlooks the confluence of Spiti and Pin rivers and thus makes for an awe-inspiring setting for a gompa. The prime attraction at the Dhankar Monastery is the statue of Vairochana or Dhayan Buddha which consists of four figures seated back to back. There is also a wide collection of centuries-old Buddhist thangkas. You will find Buddhist scriptures in Bhoti language, murals of Medicine Buddha and protector deities. After trekking for about 2 km uphill on a steep route, you will come across the scenic Dhankar Lake which offers spectacular views of crystal clear waters and surrounding mountains.

History of Dhankar Monastery

Dhankar was the traditional capital of the Spiti Valley Kingdom during the 17th century and has some features of the 12th century. The monastery is around one thousand years old and belongs to the Gelugpa School of order since the 1450s. Prior to this, Dhankar Monastery has been known as Nyingma-pa, Sakya-pa and Kagyu-pa as per the religious allegiance of the King’s family. The monastery is also known as Lha-od Gompa. Lha-od is the local pronunciation of Zia-od, who was a renowned lama born in 1211 and was believed to be the founder or renovator of the monastery.

Presently, certain parts of the monastery have been replaced due to deterioration and a new gompa has been built. Also, the Dhankar fort lies in ruins because it was destroyed in an earthquake in 1975.

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