Location: Leh, Ladakh Region, J&K
Timing: Daily - 7.00 am - 9.00 am
Nearby Attraction: Maitreya Temple
Once one is acclimatized to the altitude, the stiff early
morning hike up to Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, the monastery perched
precariously on the shaly crag behind Leh palace, is a great way
to start the day.
Two trails lead up to "the Peak of Victory", whose twin peaks
are connected by giant strings of multicoloured prayer flags;
the first and most popular path zigzags across it south side
from the palace road, while a second scales the more gentle
northern slope via the village of Chubi, which is also the route
followed by the Lama from Sankar Gompa who tends to the shrine
each morning and evening. Alternatively, one can drive there
along the dirt track that turns left off the main Khardung-la
highway, 2-km north of the bus stand.
Approaching the Gompa from the south, the first building one
comes to is the red-painted Maitreya temple. Thought to date
from the 14th century, the shrine houses a giant Buddha statue
flanked by Bodhisattvas. However, its wall paintings are modern
and of less interest than those in the "Gon Khang", or the
temple of protector deities, up the hill.
Most famous of these, on the left of the door as one enters, is
the honorary portrait of Tashi Namgyal, the temple's founder and
prolific builder. In the gloomy interior, one can just make out
murals of "Shakyamuni" (the historical Buddha) and Tsongkha-pa,
founder of the Gelug-pa sect. The veiled central deity itself
sports a shiny phallus, believed to cure infertility in women.