Pilgrimage to Sumdha Chun, Alchi and Mangyu Monastery at Ladakh

Ladakh, India

Tue Sep 17 2019 18:15:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

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The pilgrimage of Rinpoche and his entourage began on 17th September, 2019 and it was auspiciously began with the slight flower rain and all the auspicious sign. Rinpoche told us that Ladakh looked same like Tibet - the monasteries, the house, the sceneries, the feel and the people. It is a very beautiful buddhist state where majorities are buddhist. 

Their trip began to Alchi, a small village outside leh which was beautiful and very holy place where many great practitioners like Kyabje Chatral Rinpoche, Ngari Rinpoche, and others made many visit and even long stay there in Alchi. 

During the tenth century, the Tibetan lama-king Yeshe-Ö of Guge, in order to spread Buddhism in the Trans Himalayan region, took the initiative by allocating 21 scholars to the region. However, due to harsh climatic and topographic conditions, only two survived, one of them the esteemed scholar and translator Rinchen Zangpo who established Buddhist activity in the Ladakh region and other areas of India including Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim. During his sojourn there, he also went to the neighbouring countries of Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo is credited with building 108 monasteries in the trans-Himalayan region in his quest to disseminate Buddhism. He institutionalized Buddhism in the region; these monasteries are considered the mainstay of Vajrayana of Tibetan Buddhism. He engaged Kashmiri artists to create wall paintings and sculptures in the legendary 108 monasteries; only a few of these have survived, with the Sumdha Chun Monastery, Alchi Monastery, Mangyu Monastery complex in Ladakh having pride of place among all monasteries that he built which is why if you visit these monasteries you will see the most unique structure, statues, thangkas and paintings inside the monasteries. In all the three Monasteries, he has kept Vairochana as the main deity to be worshipped and has depicted the most unique mandala of the vairochana that you will not find anywhere else in the world. 

Temple which was originally part of a Gompa that existed at Sumda Chun has been attributed to the period of Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo (957-1055) and is believed to be one of the three temples founded by him in one night along with those at Alchi Monastery and Mangyu. This faith of the Buddhists puts this temple at a very important status thereby placing it in the Sumda-Mangyu-Alchi pilgrimage track that the pilgrims try to do in a single day by foot but now a days, they all do in the car so although it gets little tiring for the foreigners due to altitude but it is still possible. Rinpoche and his disciples did the track auspiciously in one day. 

Alchi Monastery monastery complex has three major shrines: the Dukhang (Assembly hall), the Sumtsek and the Temple of Manjushri, all dating from between the early 12th and early 13th centuries. But the photography inside the monasteries is not allowed which is the reason we couldn't upload any pictures of Rinpoche at Alchi. 

 

Dukhang or the Assembly Hall is at the heart of the monastery complex, where monks perform worship and ceremonies. It is large and ancient, and the original wooden door frame is retained. Many additions were made to the ancient structure during the 12th and 13th centuries. The colonnaded veranda leads to the hall from a front courtyard and frescoes of one thousand Buddhas are depicted in the passageway. The Wheel of Life and Mahakal can be seen at the outer gate. The walls of the Dukhang, dedicated to Panch Tathāgatas, are painted with six different mandalas that surround the Vairochana, the main deity worshipped in the hall. The most precious of all in the Dukhang is the relic stupa of the Buddha Woeser which is kept right at the hall way under which you have to cross to go to the main Dukhang. In earlier days, since there was no monks to any ceremonies when the locals passed away, so all they do is keep the body under the relic stupa of the Buddha Woeser to get blessing and then carry on the cremation of the body. The relic stupa of the Buddha Woeser was even considered as wish fulfilling stupa so it was truly auspicious for everyone to be able to visit the Dukhang and get the blessing of the relic stupa of the Buddha Woeser. Dukhang is where Kyabje Chatral Rinpoche stayed long to do his practise. 

The Alchi Sumtseg in the Alchi complex is one of the most outstanding, but its purpose is not clearly established. It has three storey but the pilgrims are not allowed to go up. When you enter there are three niches, Image of Maitreya, the largest in size (4.63 metres (15.2 ft)), is deified on the back wall and flanked by the images of Avalokiteshwara to its right and Manjushri to its left. An interesting aspect of the elegant drapery (dhotis) worn by the deities is the display of different themes printed in different textile patterns; Maitreya's dhoti depicts the life of Buddha, the Avlokiteshwara's dhoti shows holy places and royal palaces and Manjushri's dhoti has adepts (of 84 Mahasiddhas) printed on it. Iconographically, the deities have a single head with four arms but differently portrayed. Each deity is identified to a different Buddha. Maitreya has a five Buddha crown representing Vairochana. Avalokiteshwara's crown represents Amitabha and Manjushri's crown represents Akshobhya. An inscription in the main niche states that the three images are reliquaries representing body, speech and mind-compared to the three bodies of the Buddha-namely, Maitreya denoting the Buddha body of reality, Avolokiteshwara representing pure rapture and Manjushri representing emanational body. In simple terms, they represent the Buddhist concepts of Compassion, Hope and Wisdom.

Manjushri Temple, also called 'Jampe Lhakhang', is built around the four central images of Manjushri (seated back to back) seen on a common platform that is 5.7 metres (19 ft) square. Lotsawa Rinchen Sangpo has depicted the Manjushri is the most uniques state where one is even seated on the lion throne and in the most unique color as well. 

Main temple complex of Mangyu Monastery is comprises of two early temples (Sakyamuni and Vairocana temples) situated adjacent to each other and two chapels, one each on either side of the temples, that house large images of two armed and four armed Maitreya

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