Lamayuru monastery

Lamayuru monastery

LAMAYURU or “Eternal Monastery” is a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in India, situated on the Srinagar — Leh highway 15km east of the FOTU LA at a height of 3,510 metres.

According to popular tradition, it was originally the foremost BON Monastery in Ladakh.  Its name means SAUWASTIKA and is a popular symbol in BON for ETERNITY.  YUNGDRUNG I, to dry ups the name of the most popular school of BON.  It is currently affiliated with the DRIKUNG KAGYU school of Buddhism.


The DRIKUNG history states that the Indian Buddhist scholar NAROPA (956-1041) allegedly caused a lake (where holy serpents lived) which filled the valley.  He caused a split in the surrounding hillside and the lake emptied through this opening.  After the lake emptied, Naropa found a dead lion covered by the waters of the lake.  On this spot Naropa built the first Temple —— the SINGHE GHANG —— LION MOUND.

Lamayuru monastery 1

Other historical accounts relate that in the 10th century, the King of Ladakh —— JAMYANG NAMGYAL —— was cured of leprosy by a Lama from Tibet.  In gratitude, the King gave the GOMPA to this Lama and also bestowed other privileges ——- no taxes were collected and the area surrounding the GOMPA was declared a “sanctuary” where none could be arrested.  For this reason the people of Ladakh still refer to Lamayuru as THARPA LING (The Place of Freedom).

The oldest GOMPA, those dating from RINCHEN ZANGPO time —– ALCHI & LAMAYURU, and the less-accessible  WANLA, MANG-GYU & SUMDA belonged at the time of their foundation to none of these Tibetan schools, whose establishment they antedate.  They were at some stage taken over by the KA-DAM-PA, and when it fell into decline, they were taken over again, this time mostly by the GE-LUGS-PA.  The exception was LAMAYURU, which was for some reason claimed by the DRI-GUNG-PA.

Lamayuru monastery inside

The GOMPA consisted originally of 5 buildings and some remains of the 4 corner buildings can still be seen.  LAMAYURU is one of the largest and oldest GOMPAS in Ladakh, with a population of around 150 permanent monks resident.  It has, in the past, housed up to 400 monks, many of whom are now based in GOMPAS in surrounding villages.  Lamayuru is host to 2 annual MASKED DANCE festivals in the 2nd and the 5th months of the Tibetan Lunar calendar, when all the monks from the surrounding GOMPAS gather together to pray.


Walk to the large building next to a tall prayer flag pole.  Go in the doorway, up a flight of steps to the main courtyard.  The DUKHANG is on the right side of the courtyard.  The entrance veranda has been painted with a colourful depiction of the “Guardians of the Four Directions”.  The mural on the left wall depicts the proper way for a Lama to live.  The Dukhang was re-decorated in 1970, with new column paintings.  In the wall, on the right side of the Dukhang, is a small cave known as NAROPA’S CAVE, where he’s supposed to have meditated for several years.  This cave contains a statue of Naropa as well as the statues of MARPA (Naropa’s student who became a translator of religious texts and a famous poet) & MILA RAS-PA (Marpa’s student  and a spiritual head of the red-hat sect of Buddhism, famous for his asceticism).  The right side of the Dukhang has 3 complete sets of the KANDSHUR (the 108 volumes of Buddha’s teachings) in lovely glass-fronted bookcases.

Lamayuru monastery inside 1

These cases were made in 1977 and have elaborate painted decorations above and below the shelves holding the books.  The statue near the middle of the right side wall is SAKYAMUNI, although not with his usual blue hair.  Opposite the Dukhang’s entrance, on the left side, are 5 statues of various red-hat Lamas.  In front of these are statues of AMITABHA (the Boundless Light Buddha), PADME SAMBHAVA ( the 8th century Indian Buddhist translator of Buddhist text into Tibetan) & SAKYAMUNI (the Historical Buddha).

In the centre is a throne seat reserved for Lamayuru’s Head Lama, who is also the Head Lama of PHYANG GOMPA.  To the right of the Head Lama’s seat is a CHORTEN of no particular significance.  In the background are THANKAS depicting Buddha’s reincarnation.  Behind the main Dukhang is a GONKHANG (a Temple devoted to Guardian Divinities).   In the Temple’s glass-fronted cases are various images.  Starting from the left. there is a case of lovely sculptures made of butter mixed with barley flour for Lamayuru’s festivals.

Lamayuru monastery ceremony

There is MAHAKALA, the fiercest guardian divinity, APSHI (a guardian of the GOMPA), RADHA SHREE (a founder of the religious sect to which Lamayuru belongs), 3 guardian divinities and another APSHI (riding a horse).  In front of the cases is TARA, reflecting her 21 manifestations (TARA is the consort of AVALOKITESVARA and known as the SAVIOURESS.


After leaving the main Dukhang, take the steps on the left —- up one flight.  There are 3 CHORTENS in the front, the larger central one being decorated with Turquoise and Coral.  The CHORTEN on the right contains the relics of a previous Head Lama.  In the alcove opposite the entrance, is a very old 8-ft high image of AVALOKITESVARA with 1,000 arms and there are eyes in each hand (symbolizing his enormous strength) and 11 heads ————( 9  Boddhisattva heads, one head angry at the suffering in the world and a Buddha head on top).  AVALOKITESVARA’s name means “Lord of all He Surveys”, and he is believed to be re-incarnated in the Dalai Lama.   ———- Go through a maze of buildings to SINGHE GHANG (Lion’s Mound) Temple.  There is a main image that is a large VAIROCANA (the Teaching Buddha) seated on a lion throne with a GARUDA (Mythical bird) and sea monsters surrounding his head.


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