SHEY, 15 Kms upstream from
Leh. The palace is belived to have been the seat of power of the pre-Tibetan
kings.A 7.5 metre high copper statue of Buddha,plated with gold,and the
largest of its kind,is installed in the palace. Leh and once the
capital of Ladakh, is now all but deserted, the royal family having been
forced to abandon it by the Dogras midway through the nineteenth century.
Only a semi- derelict palace, a small gompa and a profusion of
chortens remain, clustered around a bleached spur of rock that just into
the fertile floor of the Indus Valley. The ruins overlook the main highway,
and can be reached on the frequent minibuses between Leh bus stand and
Tikse.Alternatively; you could walk to Shey from Tikse monastery along a
windy path that passes through one of Ladakh’s biggest chorten fields
with hundreds of whitewashed shrines of varying size scattered across the
surreal desert landscape.
The Palace, a
smaller and more dilapidated version of one in Leh, sits astride the ridge
below an ancient fort. Crowned by a golden chorten spire, its pride
and joy is the colossal metal Shakyamuni Buddha housed in its ruined
; if it’s closed a key-keeper will late you in for Rs20. Installed in 1633,
the twelve-meter icon allegedly contains a hoard of precious stones,
mandalas and powerful charms. Entering from a painted antechamber, you come
face to face with the Buddha’s huge feet, soles pointing upwards. Upstairs,
a balcony surrounding the statue’s torso surveys the massive Buddha in
better light. Preserved for centuries by thick soot from votary butter
lamps, the gold-tinted murals coating the walls are among the finest in the
Five minutes’ walk from
the shikhar restaurant at the base of the palace, and past an area of
walled-in chortens, stands a temple, enshrining anoher
massive Sakyamuni statue. Best viewed from the mezzanine veranda on the
first floor, it is slightly older than its cousin up the hill. The
descendants of the Nepali metalworkers who made it, brought here by Sengge
Namgyal, still live and work in the isolated village of chilling (on
the River Zanskar),famous for its traditional silverware.
Easily missed as you whizz past on the rod is Shey’s most ancient monument. The rock carving
of the five Tathagata or “Thus gone” Buddhas, distinguished by their
respective vehicles and hand position, appears on a smooth slab of stone on
the edge of the highway; it was probably carved soon after the eight
century, before the “Second Spreading”. The large central figure with hands
held in the gesture of preaching(turning the wheel of drama), is the
Buddha Resplendent, Vairocana, whose image is central in many of the Alchi
In July the Metukba festival takes place in the Shey Gompa with one day of
prayers for the well being of all life in the entire world. The upper chapel
of the Shey Gompa is used for everyday functions; it surrounds the Buddha
figure's head as a sort of balcony. The lower, somewhat larger, chapel
houses a large collection of Thankas and a library. All the old Thankas bear
the stamp of the 'Gompa Association, Ladakh '.
The best time to visit the Shey Gompa is between 7.00 and 9.00 am or 5.00
and 6.00pm since the monks perform their prayer devotions at these times.
The Gompa is usually closed to the public at other times. Near Shey there is
a field with an impressive collection of hundreds of small Stupas and Mani
The Temple Of Shakyamini
Fine minutes walk across the fields from the palace, in the centre of a
Chorten strewn plain, stands a temple, enshrining another massive Shakyamuni
statue (Daily 7.00 am - 9.00 am & 5.00 pm - 6.00 pm). Best viewed from the
mezzanine verandah on the first floor, it is slightly older than its cousin
up the hill. The descendants of the Nepali metalworkers who made it, brought
here by Sengge Namgyal, still live and work in the isolated village of
chilling famous for its traditional silver ware. Downstairs, the Gompa's
Du-khang contains dusty old Thangkas and manuscripts.
Shey's Ancient Monument
Easily missed as one whizz past on the road is Shey's most ancient monument.
The rock carving of the five 'Tathagata' or "Thus gone" Buddhas,
distinguished by their respective vehicles and hand positions, appears on a
smooth slab of stone on the edge of the highway; it was probably carved soon
after the 8th century, before the "Second Spreading". The large central
figure with hands held in the gesture of preaching (turning the wheel of
Dharma), is the Buddha Resplendent, Vairocana, whose image is central in
many of the Alchi murals.
As in Mulbekh, Tikse, Matho, Stok and other Ladakh villages, Shey has an
oracle. During the Shey Shublas, the August harvest festival, the Shey
oracle rides on a horse and stops at various places around Shey to
prophesise the future. The oracle, a Shey layman, starts at the Tuba Gompa
where he engages in a two or three day prayer, while in a trance, in order
to be possessed and become an oracle.
The Shey oracle is held in the highest regard and viewed as a God who has
achieved the highest level of existence. Other oracles, especially those in
Tikse and Stok, are not so well regarded, but are at the same time feared
and revered because of their spiritual state. It is said that if one asks a
question of an oracle, but disbelieves the answer and goes to another
oracle, no answer will be given.
HOW TO GET THERE
Road: Regular minibuses ply from Leh and Tikse.