The remote valleys of Lahaul, Spiti and Kinnaur have strong Buddhist traditions having splendid Gompas, Buddhist monasteries that are built along bare mountain-sides which seem to be a part of the rugged terrain. These are the repositories of a wealth of Buddhist art and culture. The dim, cool interiors of ancient monasteries glow with the brilliance of painted murals, stuccos and elaborate 'thangkas' framed with rich borders of silk.
In Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama has settled in exile, is a marvellous Tibetan township where an entire cultural tradition is being nurtured. It is a centre that attracts scholars, pilgrims and tourists.
Rewalsar perhaps is the most sacred spot for Buddhists in Himachal Pradesh; Rewalsar is 20 km south west of Mandi. According to legend, Guru Padmasambhava departed for Tibet from this beautiful spot, to spread the 'dharma'. A pagoda-style monastery stands along the edge of the lake.
Guru Ghantal Monastery
Guru Ghantal Monastery lies on the right bank of Chandra River about 4 kms. above Tandi and is believed to be the oldest Gompa of Lahaul having wooden structure with pyramidal roofs, wood carving, preserving the idols of Padmasambhava & Brajeshwari Devi. On the full moon night in mid-June a festival called "Ghantal is celebrated by Lamas and Thakurs together.
Kardang Monastery is about 5 kms From Keylong across Bhaga River. It is believed to be built in 12th century. Monastery has a large library of Kangyur and Tangyur volumes of Budhist scriptures in Bhoti. Kardang village was once the capital of Lahaul.
Shashur Monastery is situated on a hill about 3 kms from Keylong (Lahaul & Spiti) towards north on the same slope. During June and July this monastery attracts a large number of visitors when Lamas perform the devil dance. It was founded in the 17th century A.D. It belongs to red hat sec and is located among the blue pines. The paintings represent the history of 84 Buddhas.
Tayul Gompa is 6 kms. from Keylong (Lahaul & Spiti) and is one of the oldest monasteries of the valley having a huge statue of Guru Padmasamhava about 5m high and houses library of Kangyur having 101 volumes. In Tibetan language Ta-Yul means the chosen place. There is an interesting story anecdote behind this.
Kye Monastery is situated 12 kms. North of Kaza (Lahaul & Spiti) and serves the western population of Kye Monastery Spiti. It is the oldest and biggest monastery of the valley and located at (4116 m) above Kye village. It houses beautiful scriptures and paintings of Buddha and other goddesses. Lamas practice dance, sing and play on pipes and horns. Religious training to Lama's is imparted here. It has murals and books of high value.
Thang Yug Gompa
Thang Yug Gompa is located 13 kms above Kaza (Lahaul & Spiti) serving western part of central Spiti. Situated in a secluded place in the narrow gauge of Kaza Nallah, it generally has a Lama from Tibet. Above this there is a long plateau which leads to Shilla peak.
Kungri Gompa is situated in the Pin valley about 10 kms from Attargo where Spiti River has to be crossed to enter Pin valley. It is serves the population of Pin valley.
Dhankar Monastery is situated about 25 kms east of Kaza and serves eastern part of Dhankar central Spiti. Dhankar is a big village and erstwhile capital of Spiti King. On top of a hill there is a fort which uses to be a prison in olden times. The Monastery has about 100 Lamas and is in position of Buddhist scriptures in Bhoti language. Principal figure is a Statue of "Vairochana" (Dhayan Budha) consisting of four complete figures seated back to back. It has relics in the shape of paintings and sculptures.
Tabo Monastery is another large Gompa serving the population of eastern side. It has its origin in the tenth century old and is located 50 kms from Kaza (Lahaul & Spiti). In fame it is next to Tholing Gompa in Tibet. It has about 60 Lamas and houses a large collection of Scriptures, wall paintings etc. Murals of this Gompa have similarity to that of the Ajanta paintings.
Nako traces the legendary footprints of the Guru Padamsambhava which are enshrined at the Lotsabaage Monastery at that very place. This high altitude village in Kinnaur is located near a limpid lake.
Tashigang Gompa may be visited by taking diversion from Khab to Namgaya and then trekking to the Gompa. Tilasangh Monastery is a 1 km. trek from Ka, which is 12 km. short of Yangthang.