Window from Dhangkar monastery, Spiti

Window from Dhangkar monastery

Window, light and wall texture at Dhangkar gompa

This window with bright light and a colourful cloth set in textured wall of the ancient monastery at Dhangkar gompa caught my attention. The wall texture, the pattern of the wall colours and the steps going up contributed to this very symbolic visual. (Dhangkar Gompa, Spiti, 2011)

Light through the window and wall texture at the ancient Dhangkar gompa in Spiti, a prominent Buddhist monastery
Light through the window and wall texture at the ancient Dhangkar gompa, a prominent Buddhist monastery

Location of Dhangkar Gompa

Dhankar Gompa (also called Dankhar or Drangkhar) is a village and also a Gompa or monastery. It is an ancient Buddhist temple in the district of Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh, India.  The gompa is situated at a height of 3,894 metres (12,774 feet) in the Spiti Valley above Dhankar village, between the towns of Kaza and Tabo. The complex is built on a 1000-foot (300-metre) high spur overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers – one of the world’s most spectacular settings for a gompa. Dhang or dang means cliff, and kar or khar means fort. Hence Dhangkar means a fort on a cliff.

Dhankar, like Key monastery and Tangyud monastery in Spiti, and Thiksey, Likir and Rangdum monasteries in Ladakh, was built as a fort monastery on the Central Tibetan pattern. It was reported to have had 90 monks in 1855. Below the Gompa lies the small village of Shichilling which houses the new Dhankar monastery, home to about 150 monks belonging to the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Beyond the surrounding harsh, lunar landscape, notable sights at Dhankar Gompa include a statue of Vairocana consisting of four figures seated back-to-back, in addition to various crumbling thangkas. There is a small museum in the gompa. In 2006, World Monuments Fund selected Dhankar gompa as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. A nonprofit group, Dhangkar Initiative, is attempting to organize its conservation.

History of Dhangkar

Dhankar was the traditional capital of the Spiti Valley Kingdom during the 17th century and has some features dating back to the 12th century. It was the seat of the early rulers of Spiti, the Nonos, who had the right to cultivate the government lands nearby and were required to keep the fort in repair. They also dispensed justice to the people and were noted for their harsh penalties until the British replaced them. (source : Wikipedia)

Relevant Links

Prayer wheel at Dhangkar monastery

History & Heritage pictures by Milind Vishwas Sathe

Photo features by Milind Vishwas Sathe

Milind Vishwas Sathe is the founder of Art India Foundation, a non profit organisation, which runs "Khula Aasmaan" as its flagship project. Khula Aasmaan is a platform for creative expression by children. Khula Aasmaan is free. Milind also runs Indiaart Gallery, the art portal and New Media Ventures which is a consulting firm in the area of digital strategy. He is an avid photographer and a blogger. His active interests include travel, photography, cycling, history, media and social transformation projects.

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