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The view from Thiksey

View of the Ladakh landscapes from the top of the Thiksey monastery. Thiksey is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Yellow Hat (Gelugpa) sect, located on top of a hill approximately 19 km east of Leh.

Sometimes referred to as "Mini Potala" for its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, it is the largest gompa in central Ladakh. The monastery is located at an altitude of 3,600 m in the Indus valley. It is a 12-storey complex and houses many items of Buddhist art such as stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings and swords. Its building are arranged in an ascending order of importance and are well spaced, from the foot of the hill housing the dwelling units to the top of the hill enshrining the monasteries and potang (official residence) of the chief lama.

One of the main points of interest is the Maitreya (future Buddha) Temple which is deified to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama in 1970. The 15 m (49 ft) high statue of Maitreya is the largest such statue in Ladakh, covering two storeys of the building. He is unusually portrayed as seated in the lotus position rather than his usual representations as standing or in a sitting posture on a high throne. It took four years to craft, was made by the local artists under the master Nawang Tsering of the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies (Leh) - in clay, gold paint and copper.

The annual festival held in the monastery precincts is known as the Gustor ritual, which is held from the 17th to 19th day of the ninth month of the Tibetan calendar. Sacred dances such as the mask dance or Cham Dance are performed as a part of this ritual.

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