Monasteries in India
Karsha Monastery information

Karsha Monastery

Karsha Monastery or Karsha Gompa is a Buddhist monastery in the Padum Valley of the Zanskar region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in northern India. The Doda River flows past the monastery from its source at the Drang Drung glacier of the Pensi La (14,500 feet (4,400 m)). It was founded by the translator, Phagspa Shesrab. The monastery, also known by the name “Karsha Chamspaling’, was founded by Phagspa Shesrab, under the Gelugpa Order or the Yellow Hat Order. Karsha is the largest and most important monastery in Zanskar. It is attributed to Padmasambhava, and there are ancient rock-carvings at the site. The oldest remaining structure, an Avalokiteshvara temple, Chuk-shik-jal, contains wall paintings which seem to associate it with the era of Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055). The monastery is under the control of the younger brother of the Dalai Lama. Behind his seat in the chapel is a statue of Lhaso Cho Rinpoche, which was brought from Lhasa in the 1960s and has a golden crown with carnelian and turquoise decorations. The most important festival, known as the Karsha Gustor, is held with masked cham dances on the 26th to the 29th day of the 11th Tibetan month, which is usually in January. Mons of the Khesa race were dominant in the past in the region of western Himalayas. The Mons have been Buddhist in the region from the time of the Kushan dynasty, established by Emperor Kanishka. Mons are the dominant population in the village in the Zanskar valley and said to belong to an Aryan race linked to Kaniskha’s period as their features do not match with that of the local tribes or with the Mongolians. Mons are credited with building 30 monasteries, chortens and temples, including the Kursha Monastery in the main Zanskar valley; some of the other monasteries built by them are the: Teta, Muni, Phugtal, Pune, Burdal, Togrimo, Padum, Pipting, Tondhe, Zangla, Linshot and Sumda. Gelugpa monastery is another important monastery that is located in Khursha village, which has an excellent display of mural arts. The monastery, the largest monastery of Zanskar, has a number of shrines and has been embellished with exquisite paintings done by the Lama Dzadpa Dorje. It also houses the relics of Dorje Rinchen. 100 monks reside in this monastery. The popular festival held in the monastery precincts is called the Gustor festival, celebrated between the 26th and 29th day of the sixth month of the Tibetan calendar, when events such as the sacred masked cham dance take place. The monastery also has bone relics of Dorje Rinchen and serves as the residence of approximately 100 monks. Other temples built close to the monastery are Thugsjechhenpoi Lhakhang and the Lhakhang Karpo. Other Monasteries in the vicinity are the Khagsar Monastery, Purang Monastery and Phagspa Monastery. A nunnery known as 'Dorjezong', is located at the top of the valley. In the nunnery, a sacred image of 11-headed Avaloketeshvara is deified. A Chorten in the precincts of the Kursha monastery houses the mummified body of an incarnate lama called the Rinchen Zangpo and sealed in a wooden box with silver lining. During the Indo-Pakistan war, the silver sheet covering of the chorten was ransacked, which resulted in exposure of the wooden frame work of the reliquary. It was later refurbished and painted. Chortens represent not only various stages of the spiritual attainments of Sakyamuni Buddha, as a memorial structure but also interns the physical body of (Buddha kapala). In the dome of the chorten, in addition to confining the mortal remains of saints and lamas, it is also said that their spiritual elements are infused in them. Chorten is identified with a perfect human body. Karsha is at the confluence of the Lungtsi river, which raises from the Lingti peak of Doda basin that forms the Zanskar River. Zanskar takes a turn at Karsha and flows in a northwesterly direction to eventually join the Indus River near Nimmu in Ladakh. Below the Khlangpu peak (5,160 metres (16,930 ft)) of the Zanskar hill range, the river flows in deep ravines near Karsha monastery. It is in this stretch of the Zanskar river in the Lungti and the Doda valleys that there is a maximum concentration of villages. It is a highly revered monastery in Khurshan village, which is 14 kilometres (8.7 mi)) from Padum village. The village has a market, school, a dispensary, and post and telegraph offices. Interesting information for visitors to the village is of the facilities available for river rafting in the Zanskar river; it is a five hours ride on a very rough river, in the gorge portion of the Zanskar river called the "Grand Canyon" of Asia, in freezing cold conditions. The rafting starts from Remala and ends in Karsha village near Padum (30 kilometres (19 mi)) rafting in the river in ‘Rapids of Class II category’ considered suitable for beginners); after completing the rafting, a short walk from the camp would lead to the Karsha monastery for an evening prayer. Zanskar valley is closed from November to May due to heavy snow conditions. Leh is the nearest airport; while Srinagar is also another airport that could be used. Kargil (6 kilometres (3.7 mi)) from Pakistan border) is at a distance of a 240 kilometres (150 mi)) from Padum, which is a further 14 kilometres (8.7 mi)) away from the monastery.

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