Alchi is a busy village in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It has an elevation of 3500 meters above sea level. It is famous for its ‘Gompas’. It is located in the valley of River Indus. A road network connects this place to Leh.
The Alchi monastery is a famous one. It was built by Rinchen Zangpo. He was a translator. The monastery dates back to 1000 AD. Thirty two sculptors and wood carvers from Kashmir were employed to build this structure. The existence of the monastery is mentioned in several of his biographies. The central location of monastery makes it a sought after tourist spot. Also, you do not need to have a special persmission to visit this place.
The major part of the Alchi Gompa comprises of three sacred temples. Rinchen Lhakhang at Lotsa Lhakhang is the pioneer one. Alchi monastery is believed to be the oldest and most famous out of the four hamlets found in the Ladakh region. Likir monastery administers it.
Three villages primarily constitute the lower Ladakh region. Mangdu and Sumda Chun are the other two villages. The monuments here boast of state-of-the-art architecture. The wall paintings in the monastery speak highly of Buddhism and Hindu kings of the time. These paintings have survived a large time span. The baroque style can be seen in the elaborate wood carvings on the statues of Buddha or other art work.
TOURIST PLACES IN ALCHI
The Du-Khang: It is believed that Du Khang is Alchi’s oldest structure. It was built in the 11th century by Kaldan Shesrab. He did his graduation from the Nyarma Gompa near Tikse. Rinchen Zangpo founded that institute as well.
It is quite dark inside but once your eyes adjust to it, you can observe the Buddha manifestations in the rear wall. It is called as ‘Vairocana’, the Buddha Resplendent. The different colored manifestations hold specific meaning such as the blue Akshobya means ‘unshakable’, the yellow Ratnasambhava means ‘jewel born’, the red Amitabha means ‘boundless radiance and the green Amoghasiddhi means ‘unfailing success’. Six Mandalas are found on the other walls. Their designs are very intricate and elaborate.
The Sumtsek: This temple is situated on the left side of Du-Khang. The woodcarvings and paintings of this temple are the most striking feature. Although they are 900 years old, they appear as new. Red and blue colors are exquisitely used. The visitors are led to the interior of the shrine by the resident lama. The façade is very dark and is illuminated by butter lamps. Volumes and volumes of literature have been filled in this chamber by the scholars. The temple has 3 floors. Apart from all the Mandalas, Buddhas, Demi Gods and other celestials, there is a huge statue of Maitreya which starts from the ground floor and ends at the second.
There are two other grand Bodhisattvas that stand next to the statue of Maitreya. They are covered with clinging Dhoti. Intricate designs and detailed motifs are found on the dhotis of these statues. The Bodhisattva of compassion is called Avalokitesvara. His piece of clothing is adorned with pilgrimage sites, court vignettes, palaces and pre-Muslim style stupas. Episodes from the life of Gautama Buddha are found on the robe of Maitreya. The 84 masters of Tantra, the Mahasiddhas in various yogic poses are found in a maze of bold square patterns on the robe of Manjushri who is also considered as the destroyer of falsehood.
Beautiful Frescoes of Deities: Sitting next to the giant left leg of Avalokitesvara is the beautiful six-armed green goddess Prajnaparamita. She is also referred to as the “Pefection of Wisdom”. She is placed on a lotus and is adorned with various jewels.
Other Temples: The three other temples of the Chos-Khor were built in the 13th and 14th century but are not as magnificent as their predecessors. One of these temples is at Manjushri La-Khang. It is situated at the remotest end of the enclosure. It has a thousand Buddha paintings and four faced icon of Manjushri.
The other temple is situated at the Lotsawa La-Khang. A central image of Shakyamuni is present. Very few temples are dedicated to Rinchen Zangpo of which this is one. His idol is kept next to the statue of Shakyamuni. There is another small shrine present south of Sumtsek. Three large Mandalas are found inside the shrine along with other figures such as the Yab Yum.
How to Reach Alchi
By Air: Leh is the nearest airport from Alchi, which can be reached by either bus or taxi. Alliance Air flights connect Leh with Delhi, Chandigarh, Jammu, and Srinagar through regular flights.
By Road: Alchi is connected to Leh through regular buses. Taxis are also available on hire to reach Alchi. The Alchi-Manali road is one of the two major road networks that connect this place with the rest of India. This is the world's second highest motorable road, reaching 5328 m at Taglang La. The road is usually open between the months of June and mid-October.