“You may skip Keylang because there is not much to see around in Keylang.”, commented a guy on an ongoing discussion at the Himalayan Club Page on Facebook.
And this is a prevailing sentiment among the traveler fraternity. Once you have crossed Rohtang, Keylang is just a small-town that must be crossed ASAP so that one reaches Jispa/Leh in time. And for the returning travelers, Keylang is just another stopover before encountering the treacherous Rohtang.
I wanted to write about all these Lahaul Monasteries in my book, which God only knows when I will be able to complete, but the aforementioned discussion forced me to start a new series on this blog.
So, in the next few posts, we will talk about the monasteries of Lahaul, most of which are in close proximity to Keylang. And by the time we wrap up this series, Keylang will no longer be a mere pit-stop.
Tupchiling and Guru Ghantal gompas’ are right above the Chandra-Bhaga confluence at Tandi, in close proximity to the revered Drlibu Ri Mountain.
Guru Ghantal or Guru Ghandal Gompa is the oldest monastery of this entire region. It is believed that this gompa was established by Padamsambhava himself. There are centuries-old Thangka Paintings at this gompa, which have sadly deteriorated with time.
It is also believed that Padamsambhava started his journey to Tibet from this region only, most probably from the monastery itself.
And probably that’s why locals call the Drilbu Ri mountain as Swargarohini Parbat of Lahaul.
However, another story that is told in Lahaul is that of Rinchen Zangpo or Ratnabhadra, the torch bearer of Buddhism resurgence in Tibet. A board has been placed at the entrance of the Guru Ghantal Gompa, which mentions him as the founder of the Guru Ghantal Gompa.
Rinchen Zangpo lived between 958 – 1055 A.D. Therefore, this monastery is certainly not 1300 years old as mentioned in the above photograph.
That brings us to the third story, the story of Guru Drilbupa or Guru Ghantapa. He meditated in Lahaul for decades and some people term him as the founder of this ancient gompa. But the fact remains that this gompa is at least 800 years old and it served as a prominent seat of not only Buddhism but Hindus’ also revered this site, which is why they have placed idols of Goddess Kali and Brajeshwari inside the gompa.
This monastery has idols of Padmasambhava, Dorje Lhamo (Vrajeshwari Devi) and several other lamas. There is one black-stone statue of a goddess Kali in the innermost chamber.
Historical records suggest that this monastery was once had a flat roof and mud walls, somewhat like monasteries in Tibet. However, with time and money, this gompa was modified many times and today all that we see is a gabled roof with concrete walls.
This gompa was extensively repaired in 1959 and since then its condition has only worsened. There are as many as 20 thangkas at this gompa and a beautiful mandala carved at its roof, but sadly all of them in a dilapidated state.
The hike to Guru Ghantal Gompa starts from Tupchiling Gompa, which is just a few minute walk from the Tandi Bridge. A gompa built by stacking small stones in an orderly manner. Tupchilling Gompa is believed to be an
offshoot branch of the Guru Ghantal Gompa.
The day I arrived at the gompa, a ceremony was being organized at Tupchiling and it was great fun being part of the festivities. A huge stack of diyas made of wheat flour was kept in the center and all the monks were reciting their prayers.
If one has to go to the Guru Ghantal Gompa, one has to request for the keys from the Head Lama at Tupchiling. It is a 3-4 hour uphill walk on a well marked trail.
And there is an ancient text placed at Tupchiling Gompa, which I believe has not yet been translated into English or Hindi. If you happen to know someone who is an expert of Bhoti language, please let me know.
And the best part of visiting these two monasteries is that you get to see the majestic Chandra-Bhaga confluence in its absolute glory.
Suggested Reading: Buddhist Monasteries of Himachal Pradesh | Buddhist Art and Antiquities | Temples of Western Tibet and their Artistic Symbolism| Buddhism in Himachal Pradesh