contrast, the 15th century monastery, which tumbles down the
sides of a steep knoll to a tight cluster of farmhouses and
well-watered fields, is altogether more picturesque.
Approached by road from the north, or from the south along a
footpath that winds through Spitok village, its spacious
rooftops command superb views.
There is the grave of a very high reincarnation at the Gompa
and the Spitok head Lama is also the head Lama of the Sankar
Gompa in Leh. He also represents Ladakh as a member of the
Indian Parliament. Gurphug in Stok and Pashi Gephel in Sabu
are also under monasteries of Spitok.
About Paldan Lumo Chapel/Temple
The Gompa has three chapels of which the highest, the Paldan
Lumo temple (Kali Mater), is the most impressive. The temple
Gonkhang is approximately a thousand years old.
The main complex, a typical mixture of dusty, dimly lit old
prayer halls and vivid modern shrine rooms, is of less
interest than the Paldan Lumo chapel, perched on a ridge
above. Probably aimed at the mostly Hindu members of the
Indian army posted at Leh, a sign outside warns visitors not
to "deliberately mistake" the Gon-khang for a Kali
temple. Offerings made to the black faced and bloodthirsty
Hindu Goddess of death and destruction are, it insists,
A Built In Du-Khang
From Paldan Lumo temple, on the peak of the mountain, a
small path leads past a red Latho to the monastery proper.
The built in Dukhang is well worth seeing.
The area around the wall paintings, with its Thankas, prayer
flags, bookshelves and books, is well illuminated. Near the
Dukhang there are several other chapels of which the new
Chokhang is above some stairs. Here funeral ceremonies can
be witnessed. Many of the small, old prayer rooms, the head
Lama's room, and the rooms of the monk are, unfortunately,
no longer shown to foreigners. They contain some wonderful
wall paintings, Thankas, silver Chortens, Buddha figures,
statues of other deities and hundreds of books but some
thoughtless tourist took objects as souvenirs.
The Spitok Gostor Festival
From the level of the Dukhang 19 steps lead up to the inner
courtyard with a flagpole around which, on the 28th and 29th
days of the 11th month of the Tibetan calendar, the Spitok
Gostor is celebrated with mask dances. At this festival the
'Jelbagh' dance masks, like those hanging on the walls of
the monastery, are no longer used but rather true to life
representations. The monastery has a statue of Kali whose
face is only shown once a year.
Shrine Of Vajra Bhairava
The shrine to Vajra Bhairava, a Tantric guardian deity of
the Gelug-pa order, is distinctly spooky. Lit by flickering
butter lamps, the cluttered and cobwebbed chamber houses a
row of veiled guardian deities whose ferocious faces are
only unveiled once a year. After waving incense smoke before
them and muttering a few mantras, the key keeper lama will
pass around handfuls of sweets newly infused with protective
power. If one has a flashlight, check out the 600 year old
paintings on the rear wall of the chapel, which is spitok's
TO GET THERE
Spitok Gompa, rising incongruously from the end of the
airport runway, makes a good half-day foray from Leh, 10-km
up the north side of the Indus valley. The easiest way to
get there is to stroll down to the crossroads above the GPO
and J&KTDC's tourist reception centre, and then flag
down any of the buses heading west along the main Srinagar