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It is one of the most dramatic sights in Ladakh. Precariously positioned on a high, craggy spur overlooking a barren mountain, Lamayuru Gompa (monastery) draws wide eyed wonder from first time travelers. Even those who do not visit the monastery make the mandatory stop at the base of the valley while travelling on the Srinagar-Leh highway. Such is its eerie appeal of Lamayuru! The surrounding landscape has often been described as 'Moon Land '.
A major landmark on the legendary Silk Route, the 11th century Lamayuru is Ladakh’s oldest surviving monastery. Naropa, a Buddhist scholar from Kashmir is said to have established this monastery. The monastery got its next infusion of life from Rinchen Zangpo. A Tibetan, he came to India to study Buddhism and went on to become a great translator of Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Tibetan. Along with taking Lamayuru to a high, he went on build many significant monasteries in present day Ladakh, Spiti and Kinnaur. The Lamayuru Monastery belongs to the Drikung Kagyu sub-sect, of the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism.
Lamayuru also serves as the starting point of a popular trek between Lamayuru and Alchi.
In the heyday of the legendary Silk Route, Lamayuru was a landmark on the caravan trail to Yarkand and Kashgar. Since those medieval times, the monastery has been a beacon to travelers’ criss-crossing the valley.
Lamayuru is significant for being the oldest surviving monastery of Ladakh. Lamayuru’s legend begins with the tale of Naropa, a Buddhist scholar from Nalanda University who came looking for his guru Tilopa, a master of Tantra. After a twelve year stint with his guru, Naropa established this monastery in the 11th century. He scripted the famous treatise, The Six Yogas of Naropa. Among Naropa’s followers was Marpa. The Naropa University near Denver in Colorado, USA honors his legacy.
The monastery got its next infusion of life from Rinchen Zangpo. A Tibetan, he came to India to study Buddhism and went on to become a great translator of Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Tibetan. Along with taking Lamayuru to a high, he went on build many significant monasteries in present day Ladakh, Spiti and Kinnaur. He expanded and embellished the monastery.
The Lamayuru monastery belongs to the Drikung Kagyu sub-sect of the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism. This school traces its origins to Tibetan guru Marpa, who taught another great monk, Milarepa. This school is known to emphasize on the tantric side of Tibetan Buddhism over the clerical, textual side.
Trekking is the best way of exploring the area around Lamayuru. Motorcycles and vehicles hired from Leh are the other options.
Tourist Traps in the City
Take off your shoes when visiting a local monastery. Try and take prior permission before you click pictures of locals, especially monks and lamas.
There's very little by way of shopping.
Lamayuru has mobile coverage but no landlines.