The Lamayuru Monastery of Ladakh is situated at a distance of approximately 127 km to the west of Leh. The legend associated with this monastery goes that at the time of Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha), nags (holy serpents) used to live in a Lake at the present day Lamayuru’s valley. It was the prediction of the Bodhisattva Madhyantaka that the lake would get drained out, making the place for the construction of a monastery. It is further believed that in 11th century, Mahasiddhacharya Naropa, Indian Buddhist scholar, meditated for many years in a cave in Dukhang, still seen today.
Naropa, by causing a split in the surrounding hillside, led to the draining of the lake. In the emptied lake, he found a dead lion and on the same spot, he built the first temple, the Singhe Ghang (Lion Mound). Some other legends have it that in the 10th century, the King of Ladakh instructed that the building of Lamayuru be constructed under the supervision of Rinchen Zangbo. Initially, the Lamayuru Monastery at Ladakh comprised of five buildings. However, today, only the central one exists.
Lamayuru Gompa of Leh Ladakh, belonging to the Red-Hat sect of Buddhism, serves as the residence of approximately 150 monks. Also, it boasts of a number of shrines, thangkas and some superb wall paintings. One of the major attractions of the Gompa consists of the two masked dances that take place every year. The monks from the surrounding areas gather at Lamayuru for these dances in the 2nd and 5th month of Tibetan lunar calendar, to pray as well as take part.
The Spituk Monastery of Ladakh is situated at a distance of approximately 8 km from the town of Leh. Towering over a conical, the 3-chapel monastery dates back to the 11th century, when it was founded century by Od-de, the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub Od. He was the one to introduce a monastic community here. When a translator, Rinchen Zangpo, came to this place, he said that an exemplary religious community would develop there. This statement led to the naming of the monastery as Spituk, meaning Exemplary.
During that time, Spituk Gompa belonged to the Kadampa School. With the progress of time, it came under Dharmaraja Takspa Bum- Lde Lama Lhawang Lotus. After restoring the monastery, he introduced the stainless order of Tsongkhapa there. Till date, the Spitok Monastery of Leh Ladakh is following this order only. Inside the monastery, the main statue is that of Lord Buddha. Then, there is also a sacred image of Amitayus. The image, about a finger high in length, was presented by Tsongkhapa to Takspa Bum-Lde.
It also contains five Thankas and a collection of ancient masks, antique arms, along with a splendid image of Mahakaal. One of the major attractions of the Spituk Monastery is the Gustor Festival. An annual event, the festival takes place from the 27th to 29th day of the 11th Tibetan month. During this festival, the sacred dance is also held. The other monasteries of Stok, Sankar and Saboo in Ladakh, are branches of the Spituk Monastery only. The successive reincarnations of Skyabsje Bakula Rinpoche serve as the incumbents of all these monasteries.