About Namgyal Monastery
Located in Dharamshala, the spiritual dwelling of a huge number of Tibetan monks have come and carved out the heavenly Namgyal Monastery in Himachal. This place was originally a monastery from the palace of Lhasa, which found its new incarnation in Dharamshala. The monastery is known to perform all important Tibetan ceremonies and host Tibetan monks from around the world.
It accommodates around 200 monks who are involved in preserving the rare skills, rituals, tantric practices, Buddhist scriptures and culture which they brought from Tibet. The new version of this monastery is also known as Namgyal Tantric College. Known as “the Dalai Lama Temple”, the monastery now acts as a personal monastery for the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. This beautiful monastery built in a calm scenic hilltop in McLeod Ganj has grown in reputation as a tourist hotspot of Dharamshala.
Apart from serving as a private place of worship for the Dalai Lama, the serene ambience of the place and the rich history produce a mesmerizing effect on the visitors from around the world. Namgyal had already earned its fame in Lhasa and since its restoration in India, the monastery has spread its wings across the Atlantic. In 1992 the Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies was built in New York, Ithaca, which is directly under the influence of the Namgyal Monastery of Dharamshala.
How to Reach Namgyal Monastery
By Air: You can reach Dharamshala airport from where cabs and cars are plenty to take you to McLeodGanj. You can easily hire a pre-paid cab if you want to pay a visit to this historical monastery while staying in this sleepy Himalayan hill station.
By Bus: If you are planning to go solo, you can take a bus from Pathankot to reach Dharamshala. Local buses are available from Dharamshala that take 15 to 20 minutes to reach McLeodGanj.
By Road: A little trivia for the trek enthusiasts. A small hike from your hotel to the monastery would let you enjoy the serene beauty of the hill station and prepare you well for a calming experience in this monastery. You can also hire a pre-paid taxi or cab to reach the place. For this, you can talk to the hotel where you will stay or there are also taxi stands from where you can book one.
Best Time to Visit Namgyal Monastery
February to June is the time which offers optimum climate to visit Namgyal Monastery keeping in mind that a tour would also involve some hiking across the Himalayan hill station. During spring and summer, the Himalayan town comes to life and a blooming flora on your way up to this monastery would lighten up the mood.
Also, keep in mind that all the year the monastery is open for everyone, but it will be advisable to avoid McLeod Ganj during the monsoons which cause hurdles from July to September.
What Not to Miss at Namgyal Monastery
Places to Visit near Namgyal Monastery:
Due to the influx of Tibetan culture to this region, multiple Tibetan places of worship have emerged in and around Dharamshala with their distinct aura and mysticism, drawing a lot of tourists around the year.
1. Tsuglagkhang complex: This is one of the top tourist attractions of McLeod Ganj and from the monastery, it is just two minutes walk. This complex includes Photang that actually serves as the official residence of the Dalai Lama. One can easily spend a great amount of time meandering through this majestic complex that consists of Tsuglagkhang temple, the Tibet Museum and Namgyal Gompa. Visitors can plan according to the temple timings as it remains open from 5 am to 8 pm.
2. Norbulingka Institute: Norbulingka Institute near McLeod Ganj is one other place that has Lhasa influence written all over it. With streams and rivulets flowing through this architectural marvel, people can quench their thirst for adoring nature’s beauty in this place. This place was set up to preserve Tibetan culture and tradition. With time, it has grown to be one of the main tourist attractions of the region and it is only half an hour ride from the Namgyal Monastery.
3. Tibet Museum: It is adjacent to the Namgyal Monastery. The museum remains open from 9 AM to 5 PM except on Mondays and Saturdays. The admission is free and it showcases Tibet’s rich cultural heritage and highlights the current situation of human right’s violation in Tibet.
4. Dal Lake: Dal Lake of Dharamshala is just 3 km away from this hill station where tourists tend to spend some leisure time. Dal Lake is surrounded by handsome deodar forests.
5. Shanti Stupa of McLeod Ganj: Situated in the McLeod Ganj main square, the stupa of complete victory, also known as Stupa of Blessings, has a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha at the top. The stupa was built in the memory of the Tibetans, who gave their lives to realise their vision of a free Tibet.
Other Essential Information About Namgyal Monastery
Location: This iconic monastery is located in the “Little Lhasa” or McLeod Ganj near Dharamshala in Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh.
Entry Fee: There is no entry fee required to visit this monastery.Important Timings: The monastery keeps its doors open for all from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
History of Namgyal Monastery:
Founded in 1564, this monastery was initially known as Phende Lekshe Ling in Tibet. This monastery, however, got baptized into its new name Namgyal after the Vijaya ritual prayer was held in honour of the Mongol king Altai Khan to the goddess Namgyal Ma in this very monastery in 1576. Namgyal Ma is the Tibetan Goddess of long life.
Although this monastery was inaugurated in 1574 by the Third Dalai Lama Sonam Gyatso, it was actually the brainchild of the second Dalai Lama. Then the fourteenth Dalai Lama fled Tibet with a handful of Monks after the Chinese invasion in Tibet and set up the Namgyal Monastery in its current form in McLeod Ganj in 1959. There were 55 monks from the original Monastery of Lhasa who helped in restoring this new place of worship to its present revered form.
Architecture of Namgyal Monastery:
This unique non-sectarian monastery has an architecture that oozes tranquillity. The appearance of the monastery from the foot of the cliff upon which it is situated gives an outline of a snow-clad peak of a mountain.
The grandeur of this monastery is more pleasing as you enter the broad wide courtyard. Zig zag staircases would help you seek your way into this peaceful place of worship that has abundant wooden floored rooms and Buddha statues. Bronze statues adorning this palatial monastery surround these majestic wooden floor halls.
The monastery has a spacious worship hall that can easily house a huge number of pilgrims at a time. Gompas and the shiny prayer wheels are scattered all across the monastery whose pleasant jingle can soothe any troubled soul.