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Thiksey Gompa - A view from our expert author
Join monks at their early morning prayers at Thiksey Gompa and admire its beautiful views.
It’s easy to overdose on gompas in Ladakh, but if you only visit one, make sure that it is Thiksey. Not only does it have a striking position and staggering views, but you get the sense that you are visiting a living, working monastery: it is much less commercialised than Hemis and although there are other tourists here, you’ll feel part of the monastic community. Unusually, you’re also permitted to take photos inside.
If you are approaching by road, Thiksey Gompa (tel: 267 005) is best seen from the south: somehow it seems far impressive than when driving the other way. Having left the main road to drive through Thiksey village, the road doubles back on itself and climbs to the foot of the gompa where there is a large and well-ordered parking area. From here you must proceed on foot.
At Thiksey Gompa, you get a combination of staggeringly beautiful views and the feeling that you’re visiting a living, working monastery – if you visit only one gompa, visit this one © Maximum Exposure Productions 2013
You enter the gompa site through a red gateway painted with colourful mandalas. Looking left you have unobstructed views across to Stakna Gompa, then a line of buildings that include public toilets, and the gompa’s restaurant and souvenir shop. Here too is Thiksey’s museum (open: 06.00–18.00, closed 13.00–13.30 & 16.00–16.15; entrance fee Rs30). The museum ticket also gives you entry to the gompa itself. The museum is below ground level and the steps down to it are somewhat precarious, so proceed with caution and keep hold of small children.
The museum initially appears to be a single room but is in fact divided into three areas, the main room, a room of scrolls and books, and a third space containing assorted ceremonial tea vessels. In all areas the choice of exhibits is eclectic, with many of the items relating in some way to worship or spirit invocation. Look out for the trumpet made from a human thigh bone, the sound of which is supposed to drive away evil forces; portable altars; bows, swords and shields seized from Muslim invaders; and some fearsome ritual dance costumes.
From the museum you should continue up the steps to the gompa’s main courtyard around which the most important temples are located. The courtyard is cloistered and the walls are painted with some attractive modern murals. Two small Foo dogs guard the space and a long, thin prayer flag flutters in the wind.