About Dhankar Monastery
Dhankar Monastery is the symbolic salutation to the spiritual beliefs of the Buddhist community. It is located in Lahaul and Spiti valley, and has been listed as one of the hundred most endangered monuments in the entire world. Situated at an altitude of 3,894 meters, it offers a spellbinding view of the Spiti valley and is a melting pot for diverse cultures and religions.
Dhankar Monastery is also known as Dhangkar Gompa or Dhankhar and was built around 1000 years ago. It was also known as Lha-od Gompa after it’s founder and renovator, Lha-od, who was a popular lama. This monastery is the main center of Buddhist culture and houses the collection of centuries-old thanksas.
One of the prime attractions of this monastery is the statue of Vairochana that consists of four figures of Buddha in the state of meditation. You will also find here Buddhist scriptures, Medicine Buddha murals, and protector deities. It also consists of a small museum where murals and scriptures have been stored.
You can also spot many beautiful Thangka paintings on the wall of this monastery. Presently, some of the sections of this gompa have been totally abandoned due to the deterioration of the building, and a new gompa has been built in place of it to lure the visitors.
The monastery is still standing in a fragile condition, and more than twenty people are not allowed to enter this monastery at one time. From the Dhankar monastery, you can indulge in a thrilling trekking experience to Dhankar Lake.
How to Reach Dhankar Monastery
You can start your journey to Dhankar Monastery from either Shimla or Manali. Manali is the shortest route but sadly it is not open throughout the year. So Shimla is always the recommended route. Although you can only take roads to the monastery but flights and trains from your original destination till Shimla and Manali could do a little help. From any of the two destinations, you have following options except driving on your own:
You can take a taxi from Manali to Kaza and then another taxi from Kaza to Dhankar Monastery which is just 34 KM from there. If you are starting your journey from Shimla, then you must take a taxi to Kaza and descend in between Tabo and Kaza at Dhankar to reach the Dhankar Monastery.
Buses from Manali drop you off at Kaza by the evening of the same day you started and from there you can take a taxi to reach the monastery. You can take a bus from Shimla to Reckong Peo and then from Reckong Peo to Kaza. You have to keep in mind to drop off between Tabo and Kaza to reach the Dhankar Monastery.
It is easy to drive your own way to the monastery while enjoying the surrounding beauty of the routes. You can drive via Manali through the Rohtang Pass and then reach Kaza. From there it would take less than an hour to drive to the monastery. Just make sure to have a permit to drive on the Rohtang Pass in case using a personal vehicle.
Whereas, the route from Shimla is easy and adventurous. You start driving from Shimla towards Kaza and take a pit stop after Tabo and before Kaza at Dhankar where you will find the Dhankar Monastery.
Best Time to Visit Dhankar Monastery
Dhankar boasts of an ideal climate and thus tourists plan a trip to this place throughout the year. However, the winters are very cold in the region and hence it is recommended to avoid going here during those cold winter months. If you want to visit this place, the best time is the months between May to September. The temperature during summer ranges between 5-20 degrees Celsius and the weather remains cool during the time.
What Not to Miss at Dhankar Monastery
Dhankar Monastery is a great landmark for people, who are interested in Tibetan Buddhism. If you want to explore the areas near Dhankar monastery, you can visit the below-mentioned places:
1. Tabo Monastery -
The oldest monastery of Spiti Valley, Tabo monastery is situated in the village of Tabo. It is also known as the ‘Ajanta’ of Himalayas which boasts about its collection of different ancient paintings of various eras. Moreover, the beauty of this place lies amidst its decorated walls, beautiful stuccos, elegant paintings, artistic murals, and beautiful frescoes.
2. Manali -
Popular as the backpacking centre and honeymoon destination, Manali is the gateway to fun, adventure and peace. It is set on the banks of river Beas and houses a plethora of rock cliffs and dense forests. All this gives rise to all the adventure activities like river rafting, trekking, camping, bungee jumping, paragliding and much more the Manali is known for.
3. Dhankar Lake -
The enchanting view, created by the beautiful reflections of the mountainscape makes the tourists fall in love with the place time and again. This small lake is located at a height above the Dhankar. You can trek to cover the distance of 2 KM from the monastery within an hour.
4. Kungri Monastery -
It is regarded as the second oldest monastery in Spiti Valley which is placed in proximity to Dhankar Monastery. Buddhist scholars, tourists, and pilgrims visit this place frequently. It features the views of the gorgeous silk paintings of several Buddhist deities on the inner walls. If you plan a visit to the place during June or July, you are going to be amazed by the performance of Devil Dance or Chham.
Other Essential Information About Dhankar Monastery
- The village is present between the towns of Kaza and Tabo.
- Dhankar monastery is nestled at 3,894 meters height.
- The complex of the monastery is open on all days of the week.
- The place opens at 6:30 in the morning and closes at 5 in the evening.
- It is recognized to be one of the hundred most endangered architectures in the World.
- The distance between Dhankar Monastery and Spiti is 39.3 km and you can reach the site within an hour if you take a cab.
- The calculated distance between Dhankar Monastery and Manali is 235.6 km and if you start driving from Manali, you will reach the destination in 5 and half hours approximately.
History of Dhankar Monastery
Known to be almost a thousand years old, Dhankar Monastery has traveled a long passage of time. It is believed to be constructed in the 12th century as one can witness the features of the Buddhist style of architecture in use at that time. Later its construction, it was prominent as the house of the four major schools of the Tibetan history namely Sakyapa, Nyingmapa, Kagyu-pa and Gelugpa in 1450s.
It also served the honour of being the traditional capital of Spiti Valley during the 17th century which specifically means that it was once the seat of the rulers of Spiti, the Nonos. They secured the rights of cultivating in the nearby government land as well as provided justice to its people as long as they served. They were well known for providing harsh penalties to the criminals but were replaced by the British government.
It is then when the place turned into a gompa and people started approaching the place to seek peace and tranquility in the Dhankar Monastery. Although now British rule has been demolished, the place still serves as a monastery which is also listed among the endangered architectures in the world. This age old place suffered a major earthquake in the year 1975 which provoked a lot of areas of the premises to go under renovation.
Structure of Monastery
This gravity-defying Gompa is hanging on a cliff and is overlooking the Pin River. It offers a jaw-dropping experience as you enjoy the very first glimpse of this complex. It has been standing like a rock for almost 1000 years. It lies on the cliff, at a specific height of 3894 meters between Kaza and Tabo Town in the Spiti valley.
The word "Dhange" indicates a cliff whereas "kar" means fort. The complex is constructed with the aid of traditional materials such as stones, timber, and mud. Small windows are present in the walls of this monastery through which sunlight can enter the monastery, thereby brightening the corners. The old monastery that was used primarily as a prison is deteriorating. Thus, a new monastery, housing 100 lamas has been constructed in Shichilling village.
Tips for Visiting Dhankar Monastery
- Make sure to plan your trip to the monastery in the summer months.
- Have an abundance of time to explore the premises of the monastery.
- If possible, then do spend some days in the monastery.
- Do relish on the Tibetan food served in the monastery.
- Trek to Dhankar Lake which is just 2 KM away from the monastery.