The Enigmatic Cliff Monastery of Phugtal Gompa
The Phugtal Monastery is a Buddhist monastery located in the Ladakh region of the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. This monastery was constructed inside a natural cave, and is considered to be one of the most isolated monasteries in its region.
Ladakh’s landscape offers spectacular sites adorned with Monasteries. It is very likely that you would spot monks in maroon attires ambling around here in Ladakh.
One of the most isolated monastery in Zanskar region in Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir, the 12th century Phugtal Gompa stands at the mouth of lateral gorge of the Lungnak or Lingti-Tsarap River. From a distance, the monastery looks like a honeycomb. The name Phutkal means cave in the local language. The monastery is made up of mud and wood.
The Phugtal Monastery is built around a natural cave, which is believed to have been visited by numerous sages, scholars, translators, and monks around 2,550 years ago.
It was founded by Gangsem Sherap Sampo, a Tibetan Buddhist guru. The monastery is home to about 70 monks and is one of the holiest places of pilgrimage for Tibetan Buddhists. Though it was constructed in 12th century, it was a hidden treasure for many until Hungarian Alexander Cosmo de Koros visited the place and stayed between the periods of 1826-27.
Located at a height of 14000 Ft. above sea level, this beautiful cave monastery has four prayer rooms, a library, teaching facilities, a kitchen, guest rooms and living quarters for approximately 70 monks in residence. Frescoes and ceiling decorate the old chapel and are popular with tourists.
The remote location of the monastery was ideal for monks looking for peace and solitude to meditate.
This spectacular monastery is not only a tourist attraction but also preserves a way of life; guiding student monks through various means of worship including song, craft and religious artwork. As well as witnessing the monks perform a cham dance as part of an annual Gustor celebration, visitors have reported seeing an older chapel room in Phugtal featuring a historical painted ceiling. At the rear of the cave there is also a sacred spring which may be thought to possess healing qualities. Furthermore, Buddhist caves are not an unusual feature of this landscape.
Phugtal Gompa is one of the few Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh that can be reached only on foot. Trekking is the only means to reach the monastery which has ensured it remained isolated and cut off from the rest of the region.