A Quick Guide To Visiting Shey Monastery Ladakh
For some strange reason, Shey Monastery in Ladakh is not very popular among tourists visiting Ladakh. Most of the visitors in the Leh area also prefer to go to Hemis Monastery, where the mystical Naropa Festival is celebrated. Many others like to visit Thiksey Monastery on the banks to Indus, which is a magnificent 12 Story structure. In my earlier visits, I have been to Hemis a few times but missed visiting Shey & Thiksey. This time I visited Hemis again and also entered Thiksey Monastery but then it started raining and we had to stop our climb.
So on my last day of stay in Leh, we casually asked our wonderful driver Tsering which of the monastery we should visit as we had less time to explore. He suggested that we should visit Shey Monastery as it is relatively a less visited monastery by tourists and is more frequented by the local Buddhist population. You know I was sold when he said, ” Shey Monastery, is visited more by local people”
So Shey Monastery it was on the last day of our visit, which also happens to be the auspicious day of ” Buddha Purnima” or the day Buddha was born. We have seen a procession in the morning at Leh Market where devotees were chanting Buddhist Prayers as they walked towards a small monastery in the Leh Market. But as we reached Shey Monastery in the second half of the day, the processions were over, but we still got to meet a few local people and interact with the Lama jees we met at the Monastery.
A brief history of Shey Monastery Ladakh
Shey is actually a village about 15 KM outside the main city of Leh on the Leh Manali Road, the Shey complex was originally built as a palace for the royal family was first built by King Deldan Namgyal, also known as Lhachen Palgyigon in the year 1655.
Later when Leh was being attacked by the Dogra armies in 1842 the royal family of Leh moved to the Stok palace and the Shey complex became a dedicated monastery.
Shakya Muni Statue At Shey Monastery
In my opinion, the Shakya Muni Statue at Shey Monastery is its major attraction. In case you are wondering one of the many names of Buddha is Shakya Muni as he was a prince of the Shakya Clan before he left in search of true knowledge. This statue made of gilded copper and Gold is in a seated position and is about 12 meters or 3 stories tall and it is believed 5 KG of Gold was used for gilding copper. Due to the height of the Shakya Muni Statue, it is impossible to see it in one go from one floor so you need to climb to the second floor to have a look at the statue. Luckily I had my 8 mm Fisheye lens with me and was able to click an image. Just to put things in perspective a normal Indian Male is about 1.7 meters tall and the statue in sitting position is 12 meters tall.
The Oil Lamp Room
Most of the Buddhist monasteries I have visited have an oil lamp room, where continuously oil lamps are burning. The lamps are a symbol as well as a prayer for peace & prosperity for all. The oil for the lamps is offered by devotees and the lamas at the monastery make sure that the lamps never run out of oil. To see a room full of oil lamps of different size and shape continuously burning is a surreal experience and takes you to a very different kind of plane. Just by looking at those flickering lamps you feel the energy of the universe flowing through your cells. Indeed a very cherished experience, I guess this is how Diwali was originally envisioned by the ancients, minus the noisy and smelly crackers.
The Buddha Wall Engragivngs Near By
Very close to the Shey Monastery, right on the Leh Manali Highway, you will find a huge rock with engravings from the life of Buddha. I am not sure how old these rock engravings are but they sure look very impressive. I would suggest you should visit them as they are something unique and found only very rarely. Though they are not of the same scale as the now destroyed Bamiyan Buddha, I am sure they have similar kind of historical importance. I will update the post once I have gathered more information about them.
Our wonderful driver Tsering, knew all the best points to click the Shey Monastery and he took us to a nearby road from where I clicked this image of the Shey Monastery.
Here is a travel photography tip:
Always trust the local people for best recommendations 🙂 They know more than all the guide books /blogs combined ( including this one 😛 )
Best Time to visit Shey Monastery:
The monastery is open to visitors from morning to sunset. I suggest you try visiting in the morning hours or later in the day to participate in the daily prayers.
Best Way To Reach Shey Monastery:
I suggest you take a cab from Leh City to Shey Monastery, you can also combine the same trip to visit Hemis and Thiksey Monastery, depending on the time you have.
My this trip to Ladakh was on the invitation of the only star luxury hotel of Leh > The Grand Dragon Ladakh. I really enjoyed my stay with The Grand Dragon Ladakh. You can check more about them here > The Grand Dragon Ladakh