Guru Ghantal Monastery
Perched on a hilltop, overlooking the confluence of the rivers Chandra and Bhaga at Tandi, Guru Ghantal Monastery (also known as Gandhola Monastery) from circa 8th century AD is one of the oldest monasteries of Lahaul. Two legendary gurus who propagated Buddhism into these trans Himalayan lands, Padmasambhava and Rinchensang-po, find an association with this institution.
The monastery, with an eight-storeyed timber and stone tower, has an idol of goddess Vajreshwari Devi (Do-jeLha-mo), a wooden idol of the Buddha and a marble head of Buddha as Avalokitesvara. A story goes that a statue was sighted slowly emerging from the sandbank at Tandi but without waiting for it to emerge fully, someone sliced the head off. Another tale would have us believe that the monastery has the visage of the demon Tsedak, who once ravaged the land. He was captured and lies locked inside a dark airless room of the monastery.
Established 900 years ago, the Kardang monastery is one of the oldest institutions of Drug-pa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism in Lahaul. It is a repository of the sacred Kangyur and Tangyur texts with some fine thangka paintings, rare musical instruments and old weapons. The monastery is of historical importance for being in Kardang village – once the capital of Lahaul.
Lama Norbu Rinpoche, who in 1912 breathed new life into the crumbling walls of the monastery finds mention in its literatures. The monastery is now home to dozens of resident monks, nuns and others who are there for short periods.
‘Tayul’ (Ta – Yul in Tibetan) means “the chosen place,” and so it is. A belief holds that the main prayer wheel of the monastery rotates on its own accord on certain auspicious occasions. The monastery, overlooking the village of Satingri, is in possession of an elaborate library of one hundred and one volumes of the sacred Kangyur texts. Thangkas and murals on the walls depict episodes from the life of Lord Buddha. A 12 feet tall statue of Guru Padmasambhava in manifestations as Singhmukha and Vajravarahi is revered at the monastery. Tayul is a Dugpa sect monastery that started to build a reputation from the 17th Century.
In Pattan valley, 8 km from Keylong, Tandi is where the rivers of Chandra and Bhaga meet. Village folklore has it that Chandra is the daughter of the moon and Bhaga a son of the Sun god. Both fell in love and decided to marry. To sanctify this, they encircled the vast tract of Lahaul to finally meet at Tandi.
A beautiful hamlet with a monastery on the right bank of the river Chandra, Gemur is 18 km from Keylong. In July the gompa hosts a devil dance by red-robed lamas to ward off evil spirits.
Sissu village, on a broad flat ground overlooking Chandra River, with vistas of willow and poplar trees, green terraces and wild flowers make the village an unforgettable feast of colours. At a small monastery, Lord Ghepan is revered as the presiding deity to protect the village from demonic powers. A ‘dance-drama’ sequence enacted every July is a good time to be in Sissu. A little short of the village are the refreshing Sissu falls cascading over a cliff that bridges two adjacent mountains.
Just 4 km ahead of Gemur, near the confluence of two streams merging with Bhaga River is the small village of Jispa. It notably has a very large dry river-bed for an extended courtyard.
Sarchu (Sar-Chu) means ‘gold drop’, is a picturesque stopover on the Manali–Leh highway. The stopover marks the boundary of Himachal Pradesh with Jammu & Kashmir. Between the two Passes of Baralacha La and Lachlung La, Sarchu was a old trading station on the Silk Route. The barren splendour of the place is still a favourite with nomadic tribes and adventurers.
In Pattan valley, by the waters of the Chandrabhaga, Jalma is considered to be the legendary abode of many of Lahaul’s deities.