Shey monastery and palace is snuggled on the Leh - Manali road and is situated at 15 km from the Leh city. Shey monastery was established in the 16th Century AD. The monastery enshrines the Du-Khang with an almost 10-meter high copper statue of Lord Buddha.
Shey palace was constructed by King Deledan Namgyal and it boasts of the largest stupa in Leh which is the symbol of victory. The top of the stupa is made of pure gold. The Shey Palace was the residence of the royal family till 1834 AD and then they relocated to the Stok Palace. The Shey Palace has been taken over by the Archeological Society of India for protection and maintenance.
Shey Monastery is nestled inside the Shey Palace and it is one of the popular monasteries in Ladakh which is being thrived by the pilgrimages from all over the world. The Shey Palace has situated some 16 km from the Leh City and is en route Thiksey and Hemis monastery. The palace in which the monastery is located used to be the summer retreat of the royal family of Ladakh. Shey Monastery is believed to have been built in 1655 by Deldon Namgyal, in the memory of his father, Singay Namgyal. The gompa is known for its colossal copper-gold gilded statue of a seated Shakyamuni Buddha. This statue is reckoned to be the second-largest Buddha statue in Ladakh.
The architecture of Shey Monastery
Sakyamuni Buddha statue is situated inside Shey Monastery which is 12 meters (39 ft) in height. This statue is an icon that covers a whopping area of three floors of the monastery. Both sides of the walls of the Buddha statue display the 16 Arhats (saints who achieved Nirvana), 8 on each side. The wall of the monastery also has a drawing of the two chiefs disciples of Buddha namely Sariputra and Maudgalyayana. Almost every wall of the monastery is adorned with numerous paintings and sketches. The Buddha statues in the monastery can be seen on three levels. From the lowest level of the monastery, tourists can get a view of his huge feet and "soles pointing upwards". They can also glare at the murals of Shambunath. From the middle floor, people can see the murals of the Buddha which are in different postures and the upper floor is shadowed by the smoke of the butter lamps that burn endlessly at the altar.
The statue was the first cast in parts, in Leh, at a place known as Zanstin. ‘Zans’ means "copper" and ‘til’ means "hammer". The copper is gathered from Lingshet mines and from the other villages of the Zanskar area with which the copper plates of the statue have been constructed. The plates from the copper ingots were made by hammering them on a nearby rock and then moved to the palace for establishment. The 5 kilograms of gold were used for electroplating the copper plates of the statue in the main monastery.
On the upper floor of the monastery, several beautiful wall paintings are displayed. The lower floor of the monastery accommodates a library that comprises many neatly preserved manuscripts and this place is also enriched with paintings of Buddha in different mudras (hand gestures).
There is another small shrine located at a distance of 400 meters from the Shey Palace which was built by Sengge Namgyal. This shrine also accommodated another comprehensive figure of Sakyamuni Buddha in a sitting posture. In this shrine also, the murals and images are the same as the inside the palace. The Sakyamuni Buddha statue of this shrine and main monastery were crafted by a Nepalese sculptor named Sanga Zargar Wanduk. Gyal Khatun, the mother of Sengge bring him here to build the main statue of the palace as well as this statue. Paldana Shering Gyaso, Gamani Jal Shring, and Nakbiri were other artists who helped him. The descendants of these craftsmen live in an isolated village of Chilling the descendants and they are now known for their craftsmanship in traditional silverware.
The small shrine also comprises the murals, 16 Arhats on the walls, the paintings of the two disciples of the Buddha and it also houses some of the famous instructors like Padmasambhava, Atisa and Tson-Ka-Pa. One can also see the carvings on rock spurs nearby the shrine on the road to the palace.
At the edge of the valley, there is a place which was the official residence of the Lamas of the monastery which is also known as photong. The small palace is, however, old and is much smaller than the Leh palace. It is located below an abandoned fort. It has a golden chorten spire. This place holds special importance due to the Buddha worshiped in the monastery.
Perched on top of the hill, the monastery commands a panoramic view of the surroundings of Thiksey, Stakna, Matho, Stok and also Leh.
How to reach Shey Monastery
Getting to Shey Monastery is easy from Leh. One has to hire a cab or bullet or another bike to reach the Shey Palace, which is on Delhi-Manali Road, some 16 km from Leh City. The nearest airport from the monastery is the Leh Airport from where people can hire a taxi to reach the monastery. From Manali, people can hire a bike to reach there or catch a government bus to reach Leh. The shared taxis also run from Manali to Leh. From Srinagar also people can drive here. During the summer season, the roads become clear and offer a panoramic view.
Best time to visit Shey Monastery
The best has to be during the two festivals of Shey Loo Doo and Shey Rupla. Apart from this, the months between July and September are ideal to visit Shey Monastery, when the weather remains is quite pleasant. During this time the region becomes easily accessible while during the winter season the region experiences heavy snowfall and the very cold weather.
Things to Do and See in and around
Witnessing the gold-copper gilded statue of Sakyamuni Buddha and stupa. One should also see the carvings on the rock-face of five Buddha in meditation.
Shey Monastery Timings: 6:00 A.M to 1:00 P.M & 1:30 P.M to 6:00 P.M
Shey Monastery Entry Fees: INR 30 per person
Some Useful Tourism Information Links of Ladakh:
Leh Ladakh Travel Guide 2. Tourist Attractions in Ladakh 3. Ladakh Weather Information 4. Ladakh Best Time to Visit 5. How to Reach Ladakh