Perched on a hillock, the Shey Monastery is reckoned as one of the popular monasteries in Leh Ladakh. Also known as Shey Palace or Shey Gompa, the monastery is famous for housing a 3-storeyed huge copper with gilded gold idol of seated Shakyamuni Buddha. The statue is counted as the second largest idol in Ladakh.
Shey Gompa enjoys a perfect geographical location and offers breathtaking views of the nearby surroundings of Matho, Thiksey, Stok, Stakna and Leh as well. Almost in its ruins now, the palace is also home to several butter-lit lamps with an eternal flame which burns continuously for the entire year. They are replaced annually to continue the flame without any hindrance. This is done in order to signify the purity and divinity of the sanctum sanctorum. 4-km of trekking, makes the way to this must-visit destination an intriguing one. Special permit is required to visit the Shey Monastery as only one Lama dwells here and the inner shrine remains closed usually.
History and Legends
Shey Monastery dates back to the year 1655. The palace was built by Deldan Nangyal, the king of Ladakh in memory of his late father Singay Namgyal. The gompa served as a summer retreat to the kings of Ladakh.
What to see
- The giant statue of seated Shakyamuni Buddha is the important highlight of the Shey Monastery.
- The 16 Arhats (8 on each side) displayed on the walls on both the sides of Buddha.
- The wall in the backdrop is adorned with images of Buddha with two of his chief disciples.
- There is a library on lower floor which consists of meticulously preserved manuscripts and murals of Buddha with various hand postures.
- Innumerable murals are exhibited on the upper floor of the monastery.
Major Events and Festivals
Two major festivals are celebrated every year at the Shey Monastery.
Shey Loo Doo– Celebrated on the 26th and 27th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar, Shey Loo Doo marks the beginning of the sowing season. Special rituals and many other religious rites are performed by the lamas during the two days festival. The center of attraction is an oracle reader who visits on a horse back to conduct three days prayers. Thereafter, he goes into trance.
Shey Rupla – Harvesting season is marked by the Shey Rupla festival. Two men in tiger costumes perform the Rupla Dance. First fruits of the corn are offered by the farmers at the gompa. Women without children usually visit the gompa during this festival to seek the blessings of Buddha and have one.
- A road from Leh to Thiksey Monastery leads to Shey and is adorned with numerous stupas, gompas and rock carvings.
- Another popular attraction is a small shrine nearby which is popular for being the abode of statue of Shakyamuni Buddha in sitting posture.
- In close proximity to the small shrine, two tantric shrines are also present. Adjacent to these shrines, there are rock carvings are of the five Dhyani Buddhas.
Best time to visit
Weather remains pleasant between the months of July and September. Thus, this is the best time to visit Shey Monastery.