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Kardang Monastery, Spiti Valley Overview

One of the most popular gompas in Lahaul and Spiti Valley, Kardang Monastery is located in Kardang village on the banks of Bhaga river. At an altitude of 3500 metres, it is situated on a ridge below Rangcha Peak, facing the town of Keylong. Since 900 years, the Kardang Monastery has remained an important centre for Buddhist culture and principles. It is famous worldwide for its alluring architecture, religious significance and phenomenal collection of murals, thangkas, paintings and instruments.

There are about thirty monks and nuns at Kardang Monastery who have equal rights and permission to marry. They spend the summer with their families while in the winter they return to the monastery. Every year in the months of June and July, an annual Chaam dance is also organised where monks are dressed in dramatic masks and headgears. For peace seekers and those interested to get an insight into Buddhist culture, Kardang monastery is the place to be.

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Kardang Monastery

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Architecture of Kardang Monastery

The architectural style of Kardang Monastery is typical of the Lahaul and Spiti district. The highlights of the monastery include a large golden Buddha statue, ancient colourful frescoes and murals and a library of Buddhist literature including the Kagyu and Tangyur scriptures in the Bhotia or Sherpa language. There are strips of paper on which the sacred mantra 'Om Mani Padme Hum' is written one million times. 103 volumes of the Kangyur are kept in the library with 64 tantra books on various subjects. There is also a good collection of fine thangkas, musical instruments such as flutes and drums which are played on special occasions.

The monastery also houses a 4-foot high silver chorten or shrine in the first room which has the skull and ashes of Lama Norbu. To the right of it are statues of Padmasambhava and Tara Devi, and in the back, one of Tagden Shakyashree, a guru of Lama Kunga. The second room is the main Prayer Hall with an eleven-headed statue of Avalokitesvara. On a high pedestal at the right are some of Lama Norbu's castoff garments and with a skull in front. In the third room is a six-foot wooden prayer wheel with a brass bell on it.

History

It is believed that the monastery was built in the 12th century but was ruined over time. It was renovated in 1912 CE by Lama Norbu Rinpoche who died in 1952. Lama Norbu and Lama Kunga turned it into a proper education and training establishment.

How to Reach Kardang Monastery

Kardang monastery is located just above the village Kardang, on the banks of Bhaga river in Himachal Pradesh, India. The only option to reach the monastery by road is to travel from Keylong via Leh-Manali Highway and Tandi. The distance between Keylong and the monastery is around 20 km and you will have to hire a taxi or drive your own vehicle since no buses are available on this route.

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