Thikse Monastery is the largest and one of the best known monasteries in Central Ladakh, located 19 km from Leh along the Leh-Manali road. It is famed for its resemblance to Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The monastery rests on one sloppy face of the hill and this hill protrudes out of the rather flat valley and can be seen even from a distance.
Thikse Monastery is right besides the highway and travellers can’t miss it as it is too loud and huge to go unnoticed. I didn’t get the opportunity to get up close to the monastery. But on our way to the Pangong Lake, we stopped for a few minutes there.
The monastery belongs to the Gelugpa Sect (the Yellow Hat sect) of Tibetan Buddhism. It was built in the mid 15th century by Palden Sangpo. Legend reveal that Sherab Sangpo and his student Palden Sangpo were performing some rituals and offerings known as torma (made of sattu or chickpea flour) around Sangmo Lakhang. Before they could offer the torma, two crows came out suddenly and carried the torma along with the sacrificial plate. Palden Sangpo and his disciples began looking for it, and it was during this that they were led to the place where Thikse stood today. There they found the torma kept like it was meant to be. Palden Sangpo took this as a divine intervention and decided to build a monastery there.
One of the main attractions at Thikse monastery is the two storeyed high statue of Maitreya or the future Buddha. The statue is 15 metres tall and was built in 1970 to commemorate the 14th Dalai Lama’s visit to the monastery. It is the largest such statue and took 4 years for its completion.