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Dhankar Gompa
About Dhankar Gompa

Dhankar Gompa is a Gompa, a Buddhist temple in the district of Lahaul and Spiti in India. It is situated at an altitude of about 3,894 metres in the Spiti Valley between the towns of Tabo and Kaza. The complex is built on a 1000-foot (300-metre) high spur overlooking the convergence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers - one of the world's most amazing settings for a gompa. Dhang or dang means cliff, and kar or khar means fort. Hence Dhangkar means fort on a cliff.

Dhankar, like Key Monastery and Tangyud Monastery in Spiti, and Thiktse, Likir and Rangdum monasteries in Ladakh, was built as a fort monastery on the Central Tibetan pattern. It was reported to have had 90 monks in 1855.

Below the Gompa lies the small village of Shichilling which contains the new Dhankar Monastery which is home to about 150 monks belonging to the Gelugpa School of Tibetan Buddhism. Beyond the surrounding harsh, lunar landscape, prominent sights at Dhankar Gompa include a statue of Vairochana (Dhayan Buddha) consisting of 4 figures seated back to back in addition to various crumbling thangkas.

There is a small museum in the gompa. In 2006, World Monuments Fund selected Dhankar gompa as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. A nonprofit group, Dhangkar Initiative, is attempting to organize its conservation. Dhankar is accessible by a motorable road, good for small vehicles only, that branches off for Dhankar from the main Kaza-Samdu road at a point about 24 km from Kaza. The branch road is 8 km in length up to Dhankar.

History of Dhankar Monastery

Dhankar was the traditional capital of the Spiti Valley Kingdom during the 17th century and has some features that dates back to the 12th century. It was the seat of the early rulers of Spiti, the Nonos, who had the right to cultivate the government lands nearby and were required to keep the fort in repair. They also bestowed justice to the people and were noted for their cruel penalties until the British replaced them.

The monastery is also referred to as Lha-'od-pai-dgon-pa: "Lha-'od seems to be the local pronunciation of Zla-'od, the name of a famous lama who was born in 1121, according to the Reu-mig. Zla-'od-pa would then mean "a follower of Zla-'od." He is actually the founder or renovator of the monastery which now belongs to the Gelugpa order. The monks declared that it was not only of earlier origin than the Tabo monastery, but also earlier than Srong-btsan-sgam-po. They have, however, nothing to show of any really ancient artifacts. They explain this fact by stating that the monastery was stealed many times, lastly during the Dōgrā war,.."

Location of Dhankar Monastery

Centrally located in Spiti region, Dhankar Monastery offers amazing view of the Spiti valley. It is situated in Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh in north India. Even in ancient times, it was chosen by the Nonos to have better control and safety from its enemy. The Dhankar fort was traditional home for the Nonos, the royals of Spiti. Remote and cut off from other parts of the country, modernization has bypassed Dhankar. Dhankar is situated at the convergence of Spiti and Pin Rivers.

The seventh century Buddhist monastery is the second highest in the world after Ki Monastery and an important centre of Buddhist learning since the seventh century. The new monastery has been build at Shichilling Village and houses about 150 Lamas. The monasteries belong to Gelugpa Order of Tibetan Buddhism. The statue of Vairochana or Meditating Buddha’s idol forms the centre of the monastery. Monastery has ancient murals, thankas, Buddhist scriptures that are worth seeing.

Besides the Dhankar Monastery, there are several other tourist places to see. Dhankar is also popular among tourists. Only about 2 kms from the monastery lies the Dhankar lake which is surrounded by glacier mountains. Only trekkers prefer to go to the site due to its remote location.

From Dhankar, one can also go to Tabo Monastery which is about 26 km away and Pin Valley National Park which is home to the rare ibex and snow leopard.

Tips for visiting Dhankar Lake
• If you are planning to camp at Dhankar Lake, do not forget to carry enough foodstcok, firewood, tent and sleeping bag.
• It is best to go camping at the site with a group.

Foundation of Dhankar Monastery

It was founded more than 1000 years ago. This monastery serves the eastern side of Spiti. It is based on a distance of 25 km east of Kaza. Dhankar was the capital of the Spiti kingdom in th 17th century. This monastery shelters about 150 monks. There is an ancient prison on top of the hills.

The monastery was built about one thousand years ago. One of the major attractions of Dhankar Monastery is statue of Vairochana (Dhayan Buddha), consisting of 4 figures seated back to back. It also houses a collection of various crumbling thankas. Strategically built at highest location in Spiti Valley, Dhankar Monastery was once the capital of Spiti in 17th century. It is one of the five main Buddhist centres and tourist destinations in Spiti region.

This Monastery was built using traditional materials like mud, stone and timber. It is dark inside and small steps are leading from one place to another. To prevent complete darkness, there are small windows in the walls, from where sunlight approaches. There are many prayer halls inside the monastery. The monastery also contains a series of fifteenth-century wall paintings.

Dhankar Village

Dhankar village is situated at an elevation of over 3,800 metres in the Spiti Valley. It is connected with the rest of the valley through a motorable road which is good for small vehicle only. Schichling is a small village lying on the main road between Kaza and Tabo about 24 kms away from Kaza and 22 kms before Tabo. From here, there is a well paved branch road upto Dhankar, 8 kms away. No public transport available on this branch road till Dhankar Village. To reach Dhankar, one has to either hire a taxi from Tabo or Kaza or to get a government bus (only two buses in a day from Kaza as well as Tabo) up to Schichling. From Schichilng one can try for a hitchhike or one can trek to this 8 kms distance.

Dhankar is just like another small village in the cold desert of Spiti Valley. Untouched and away from tourists exploitation, the population of this village is not more than 100. There is a broad road which goes to the monastery from the new monastery towards the upper side of the village. From the top of the hill that extends above the village, Dhankar looks like a bowl-shaped structure in the hills. It seems like almost all the old Dhankar houses emerged straight from the mountains with their main wall on the back being merged on the hills. This is a specialty of Dhankar houses and from wide angle or from distance provides amazing views.

Other things to do Around Dhankar Monastery

Trek to Dhankar lake
This lake is situated in the mountain at an altitude of 4517 meters. A 3 kms walk able road from the village goes to the lake and takes about 2 hours. A dangerous straight climb option is also available from the village to the lake and takes about one hour.

Trek to Lahlung Village
This village is home of one of the oldest temple of Spiti Valley,Sherkhang Temple which is famous for its nondescript stucco building, fantastic characters with wall and ceiling paintings. It is believed to be a 1000 years old temple. It requires about 3 hours one way easy trek from Dhankar to Lahlung. From Lahlung you can further trek to Demul, Komik and Langza villages.

Trek into the wilderness
Beyond Dhankar lake and Lahlung village, there are numerous trekking options available. Just prepare yourself, show some courage and lost in the wilderness of this region.



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