Architecture of Sani Monastery
Apart from the Kanika stupa, the main building consists of a large multi-columned central prayer hall which is also an attraction of Sani Monastery. The prayer hall displays a number of different types of statues of popular Buddhists divinities and saints. The walls of the hall, constructed in the 17th century, are adorned with frescoes and thankas.
A chapel is also attached to the Sani gompa, housing a fascinating collection of frescoes and stucco murals. These depict landscapes as well as floral designs with the life of Padmasambhava as theme.
Another focal attractor is outside the walls of the monastery complex, lays an old cemetery which is considered one amongst the eight most important cremation ground for Tibetan Buddhists. The cemetery is a wonderful example of ancient rock carving. In the cremation ground there is a 2m high boulder with a painting of 'Maitrya' on it which shines from the sacrificial oil poured over it by pilgrims. There is also a nearby mast with prayer flags on it.
Festivals at Sani Monastery
The festival of Naro Nasjal is celebrated every year in the monastery in the month of July. It takes place during the blooming of the 'Guru Naropa Flower'. This is the time when people from all over the Zanskar valley come over to the monastery to be a part of the two day long festival and enjoy a masked dance performance by the lamas of the Bardan Monastery. Sani is associated to a saint named Naropa, who is understood to have meditated here for sometime under the Kanika Stupa. A veiled bronze image of Naropa can be seen here. During this festival, the bronze statue of Naropa is unveiled for the common people to memorialize the occasion.
Another festival is an annual ritual reading of the Tibetan canon, the 'Great Prayer Festival', held at the monastery during winter with the firewood provided by villagers in the region. From time to time the monks boil up goats' heads in a long ceremony in which symbols of fortune and other garnishing is added according to the wealth of the person sponsoring this activity. These goats' heads hang outside the houses of almost every house in Leh and are thought to bring good fortune.
Apart from the Sani Monastery, there are few other monasteries which can be visited in the Zanskar district such as the Stagrimo Monastery and the Karsha Monastery which happens to be the largest monastic complex of the Zanskar region. The highlight of the monastery is large valuable thankas and equally precious scrolls and idols. The Zongkhul Monastery is another monastery which is famous for its frescoes.