Buddhist Sites

Delhi

Ashokan Rock Edict – Delhi

In the year 262 BC, having been on the throne for eight years, the emperor Ashoka raised a great army and moved against the independent kingdom of Kalinga on the eastern seaboard in present-day Orissa. It’s a battle he famously won, but not without a staggering loss of […]

Jammu & Kashmir

Ladakh – An Introduction

In the far north of India set within the Himalayas lies Ladakh. Known as “Little Tibet”, it is a land of dramatic landscapes and mystical Buddhist monasteries. This is my introduction to the region, detailing what can be seen : West of Leh – all reachable as a day excursion […]

Return to Lamayuru

Lamayuru has a mystique quite unlike any other Ladaki monastery. For me it’s probably the spectacular setting that instills this feeling, remote and isolated, and yet not secluded. Towering mud brick structures jutting up from the rugged cliffs and scree slopes, my previous visit in 2014 has a number of […]

Phyang Gompa

Phyang Gompa lies 13km west of Leh, standing on a crag overlooking the village of the same name, and accessed via a 4km long straight road that branches off of the Srinagar highway. My visit to Ladakh in 2014 intended to visit this gompa as part of my […]

Return to Chemde Gompa

My previous visit to Chemde Gompa last year was a mixed experience. Without doubt it is in one of the post picturesque settings imaginable, with its buildings straddling a pyramidal hill I imagine few tourists can resist stopping on the approach to capture the view. I am no exception […]

Tak Tok (Thag-Thok) Gompa

Thag-Thok (also spelled Tak Tok, or Thak Thok) is a relatively small monastery just beyond Saki, about 50km east of Leh. Visiting it could be combined with a trip to Hemis Gompa, but if you are planning to have an excursion to Pangong Tso this is an ideal early […]

Return to Basgo

Last year during my first visit to the Ladakh region I was totally captivated by Basgo. It was without doubt my favourite location for a multitude of reasons, mostly down to the crumbling atmospheric buildings set against a wondrous landscape quite unlike anywhere else I have ever experienced. […]

Jokhang Gompa

Jokhang Gompa is a large modern gompa just around the corner from Leh’s Main Bazaar. It”s also the location of the Ladakhi Buddhist Association, a conservative political organisation with ties to Hindutva groups. Built in 1957, this is one of the newest monasteries in Leh. Being far more accessible […]

Matho Gompa

Matho is certainly off the popular tourist trail and rarely sees any visitors. Nestled high up on a crag on the far side of the river Indus, it’s well worth a visit for the astonishing views the monastery commands. The monastery can be reached from Stakna Gompa, taking […]

Wanla Gompa

Wanla Gompa is an ancient and historic monastery believed to date back 1,000 years to the time of Richen Zangpo, who was one of the greatest translators of Buddhist texts. The Gompa stands high above the village of Wanla on a precipitous crag, 12 km down a narrow road […]

Rizong Gompa

Rizong is one of Ladakh’s newest and most isolated Gompas. Founded in 1833, there are no settlements nearby and the monastery enforces a very strict regime of Buddhist discipline for the 40 resident lamas. How the monastery was founded is an intriguing story. In 1815 a Ladaki merchant, […]

Mangyu Gompa

Mangyu Gompa is one of Ladakh’s most historic monasteries, but is often one that is overlooked by those visiting the region and exploring the sites en-route from Leh to Lamayaru. It is as old as Alchi Gompa and also shares some of the same icongraphical features, the earliest structures […]

Soma Gompa

Soma Gompa is the easiest to find of the four temples that are considered part of the Leh palace complex. It sits just below the palace entrance, next to an open courtyard that was once the stables for the palace. Whilst locating the gompa is easy, getting access […]

Guru Lhakhang

Guru Lakhang is one of four temples that are considered part of the Leh palace complex in Ladakh. It is probably the hardest to reach on foot, being located immediately below the palace with no easily identifiable path to it from Leh old town. Your best approach is […]

Chenrezig Lhakhang

The Leh palace complex includes four temples that reside just below the palace itself, running along the ridge that overlooks the crumbling old town. Access to all of them is extremely difficult, they are rarely open but your best chance is to get there early in the morning […]

Temisgam Gompa

Located 57 miles from Leh and 2 miles off the highway from Nura, Temisgang was once a capital of western Ladakh. There’s little to suggest that these days, except for a ruined castle dating back to the 15th century and three old temples. The setting for the gompa […]

Namgyal Tsemo Gompa – Leh

Located high up on the crest of a ridge overlooking Leh Palace, the imposing red building of Namgyal Tsemo Gompa can be seen from just about anywhere in Leh town. There are three ways to reach the gompa : A zip-zag path from Leh Palace. This is quite […]

Spitok Gompa

Spitok Gompa is perhaps one of the most beautifully sited monasteries in the whole of Ladakh, possibly only bettered by Chemde Gompa. Despite being located so close to Leh airport, it’s perched on a craggy hill which is best viewed from the south side – multiple tiers of monastic […]

Shanti Stupa

Built by the ‘Peace Sect’, an association of Japanese Buddhists, the Shanti Stupa crowns a hill on the western edge of the Leh valley. A total of 157 steps take you to the summit just off of Changspa, or alternatively there is a road that will take you […]

Hemis Festival 2015 – Day 2

Having attended Day 1 of the Hemis Festival I was a little unsure what to expect from the second day. I arrived early again, and it soon became clear that it was going to be far less crowded than the previous day. This is probably not that surprising as […]

Hemis Festival 2015 – Day 1

According to the Tibetan calendar, the great annual festivals held in the villages of Ladakh takes place in winter, with the exception of thseshu held at Hemis in summer. This is one of the most important events of the valley, its chief feature being the presentation of a […]

Saspol Caves – Ladakh

Ladakh contains some amazing monuments of Tibetan medieval culture, perhaps the most famous and most visited among them being the temple complex at Alchi. But with a little prior research there are some hidden gems to be discovered, far less visited or known about to the outside world, and […]

Thikse Gompa

Thikse is 19km from Leh, and was my second stop on my tour of Gompas south of the town. My gompa hopping list for the day was : Shey Gompa Thikse Gompa Chemde Gompa Hemis Gompa Stakna Gompa …and then back to Leh Thikse belongs to the Gelugpa […]

Diskit Gompa

Diskit monastery dates back to the 15th century and is Nubra’s most historic monument. Situated 150m above the village, the zig-zag road up passes by the new giant 32 meter high statue of Maitfreya (Future Buddha). The gompa can also be reached on foot, but it’s a steep […]

Samstanling Gompa

Samstanling Monastery lies between the villages of Kyagar and Sumur in the Nubra Valley. The monastery was founded in 1841 by Lama Tsultrim Nima, and is currently home to about 50 monks. In 1962, the Dalai Lama inaugurated the Gompa. It’s location, just 1km above the small town of Sumur, is well […]

Basgo

Basgo is 40km from Leh and well worth paying a visit, particularly in the evening light when the orange-red tint of the rocks look their best during ‘golden hour’. My visit to Basgo was part of a one day excursion from Leh, exploring the gompas north of the town. […]

Likir Gompa

Likir lies 53km from Leh, and is a must visit gompa if you’re in the region in order to see its colossal open-air Maitreya (Future Buddha), a new addition to the monastery having been completed in 1999. My visit to Likir was part of a one day excursion from […]

Alchi Gompa

Alchi, 69km from Leh, is in a class of it’s own when it comes to temples. Sited unusually on flat ground. The 12th century shrines, abandoned in the 15th century, boast the most magnificent murals in all of Ladakh. My visit to Alchi was part of a one […]

Lamayuru Gompa

Lamayuru is 125km north from Leh, and formed the final destination of my second day excursion from the town, “gompa hopping”. The itinerary for the day was : Alchi Gompa Likir Gompa Basgo Lamayuru Gompa I would personally recommend this is done in the reverse order, head for […]

Hemis Gompa

Despite it’s remote location, 43km from Leh, Hemis Gompa is Ladakh’s most famous and most frequently visited monastery. It’s famous for it’s mask dance festival held in the summer, which no doubt attracts even more crowds (although I would like to see it one day). This was the […]

Chemde Gompa

Chemde lies 45km south of Leh. Nestled on a pyramidal hill, the approach to the monastery will get every photographer itching to get out and capture the scene. This was the third gompa I visited on my day-excursion from Leh, seeking out the monasteries that lie south of […]

Stakna Gompa

Stakna is another hilltop monastery 25km from Leh, built in 1580. I attempted to access it from Hemis, but unfortunately the road was not great so never actually got to see it up close. As a result, welcome to my shortest blog post ever ! 🙂 You’re best […]

Shey Gompa

I set aside a day to tour the Gompas that lie alongside the Indus river running south from Leh. This made for a perfect day excursion, with plenty of time to explore each monastery and be back in Leh before the evening. My gompa hopping list for the […]

Madhya Pradesh

Sanchi – Remaining Monuments

In total there are 50 monuments within the Sanchi complex, each structure regardless of its form was numbered from 1 to 50 by Sir John Marshall, the Director General of Archaeology in India, who spent eight years cataloging and restoring the site between 1912 and 1919.

Sanchi – Stupa 3

Situated less than 50m to the north of Stupa 1, Stupa 3 is the first monument you will pass having entered the Sanchi complex. Although it is of similar size to Stupa 2, it’s architectural elements more closely match that of Stupa 1.

Sanchi – Stupa 2

Sanchi Stupa 2 has a wonderful setting, located next to a man made pond/tank with open views to the west. This stupa is somewhat detached from the rest of the monuments of Sanchi, and is hidden away out of sight whilst you’re exploring the other structures. As a result, in all probability you will be the only person here.

Sanchi – Stupa 1

Sanchi is unique in having the most perfect and well preserved stupas anywhere in India, with monuments spanning from the 3rd century B.C. to the 12th century A.D.

Heliodorus Pillar – Vidisha

The Heliodorus Pillar is a column that was erected on the outskirts of Vidisha in central India in about 113 B.C. and is considered to be one of the most important archaeological finds on the Indian subcontinent.

Maharashtra

Parvati Cave – Pune

Ask any Punekar what is the oldest surviving structure in Pune city, and they are likely to respond with Pataleshwar Caves. Situated on Jangli Maharaj Road (JM Road), these caves were carved out of the bedrock most probably in the Rashtrakuta period, around the 8th century C.E. Anyone […]

Bhamchandra Caves – Bhamboli

Bhamchandra Caves are a set of rock-cut excavations located near Bhamboli, 40 km north of Pune in Maharashtra. There are six caves in total at Bhamchandra, three are natural caves and a further three that probably started as natural caves and have been extended considerably. In addition to the caves, there are at least five cisterns evenly distributed across the site.

Bhandara Caves – Induri

Bhandara Caves are a small set of modest Buddhist excavations located on Bhandara Hill near Induri, 36 km north-west of Pune in Maharashtra.

Firangai Cave Temple – Nanoli Hill

My annual visit to Pune this year continued my ongoing project to visit the many cave temples that exist in the region. Having already visited the more famous examples such as Karla, Bhaja, Bedse and Kondana caves, I was keen to explore the lesser known examples in the area, of which there must be literally hundreds.

Ghoradeshwar Caves

Also known as Ghorawadi, Ghorawdeshwar and Shelarwadi Caves, Ghoradeshwar Caves are a small group of rock-cut excavations about 32 km north-west of Pune, close to the old Mumbai-Pune highway.

Kanheri Caves – Mumbai

Located deep within the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai, Kanheri Caves are a group of 109 Buddhist rock-cut monuments dating from the 1st – 10th century A.D.

In Search Of The Elephanta Stupa

Elephanta Island is home to one of the finest rock-cut temples in India, and any visitor to this small island of great scenic beauty is likely to focus their attentions on the main cluster of five temples located on the western hill. But for those wishing to dig a bit deeper into the antiquity that this island has to offer, a quick look at any map of the island will give you some pointers as to where to go next.

Mahakali Caves

Mahakali Caves – Mumbai

The Mahakali Caves, also known as the Kondivite or Kondivita Caves, are a series of rock-cut shrines 5km south-east of Jogeshwari Caves in Mumbai, dating from the 1st century B.C. to the 6th century A.D.

Jogeshwari Caves – Mumbai

Jogeshwari Caves in the Andheri district of Mumbai are amongst the earliest rock-cut cave temples built by Hindus in India. Dated to 520 – 550 A.D, they were once richly ornamented, but sadly due to their damp location the caves have been slowly crumbling for centuries.

Mandapeshwar Caves – Mumbai

Located near Mount Poinsur in the Borivali suburb of Mumbai, Mandapeshwar Caves is an 6th – 8th century rock cut shrine dedicated to Shiva.

Bhimashankar Caves

The Junnar region in Maharashtra has the largest number of rock-cut caves in India, numbering over 200 independent excavations and spread over the four hills. All the caves here belong to the Hinayana phase and are datable from mid 3rd century B.C. to late 3rd century A.D. The presence […]

Bhutalinga Caves

The Junnar region in Maharashtra has the largest number of rock-cut caves in India, numbering over 200 independent excavations and spread over the four hills. All the caves here belong to the Hinayana phase and are datable from mid 3rd century B.C. to late 3rd century A.D.

Kondana Caves

Excavated out of solid rock some 2,100 years ago, Kondana Caves are a group of 16 Buddhist caves situated 33 km north of Lonavala and 16 km northwest of Karla Caves.

Amba-Ambika Caves

The Junnar region in Maharashtra has the largest number of rock-cut caves in India, numbering over 200 independent excavations and spread over the four hills. All the caves here belong to the Hinayana phase and are datable from mid 3rd century B.C. to late 3rd century A.D. The presence […]

Lenyadri Caves

The Junnar region in Maharashtra has the largest number of rock-cut caves in India, numbering over 200 independent excavations and spread over the four hills. All the caves here belong to the Hinayana phase and are datable from mid 3rd century B.C. to late 3rd century A.D. The presence […]

Tulja Lena Caves

Having explored the better known rock-cut caves near Pune (Bhaja, Bedse and Karla), I decided to take a day excursion to Junnar (90 km from Pune) to see and photograph further examples. The Junnar region in Maharashtra has the largest number of rock-cut caves in India, numbering over 200 […]

Bedse Caves

The small group of Buddhist excavations at Bedse (alternatively known as Bedsa), completes the trilogy of caves along with Karla and Bhaja that can be visited on a days excursion from Pune or Mumbai. Although from an architectural standpoint the Bedse Caves have little to add over and above […]

Bhaja Caves

Bhaja Caves (or Bhaje Caves) are a group of 22 rock cut caves dating back to the 2nd century BC,  located near Lonavala, Maharashtra. The caves are 400 feet above the village of Bhaja, on an important ancient trade route running from the Arabian Sea eastward into the Deccan Plateau (the division […]

Karla Caves

The enormous 1st century chaitya cave at Karla is also known as Karli and Karle. It’s considered to be the best preserved rock cut Buddhist prayer hall in India, although in my mind the examples at Ellora and Ajanta come pretty close. Karla is 28km south of Matheran, on one […]

Ellora Caves

Ellora Caves are 18 miles North-West of Aurandabad, so unlike Ajanta caves you won’t have such an early start in order to get there for opening time. I would recommend getting there early to once again try to avoid the hoards of tourists and school parties. Ellora represents […]

Ajanta Caves

The Ajanta Caves are located about 100km north east of Aurangabad, it takes about two hours to drive there from the city. If possible try to arrive early (for 9am) so you stand the best chance of enjoying them with the minimum of fellow visitors. The caves are very […]

Odisha

Ashoka’s Rebirth And Rediscovery At Dhauli

Dhauli Hill is located on the left bank of the river Daya, an unimpressive tributary of the Mahanadi river that quietly flows next to this small green hill, just 10km south of Bhubaneswar. More than 2,250 years ago on the bank of this river and the foot of […]

Langudi Buddhist Archaeological Site – Pushpagiri Rediscovered

With the light fading rapidly, time was not on my side. Having already explored the well known Buddhist sites of Ratnagiri, Udayagiri and Lalitagiri which collectively are known as the “Diamond Triangle” of Buddhist complexes in Odisha, I was determined to squeeze in one more site – Langudi.

Lalitagiri Buddhist Complex – Odisha

Located 85 km north-east of Bhubaneswar, the Lalitagiri Buddhist Complex completes the triad of ancient Buddhist sites along with Ratnagiri and Udayagiri. Declared a protected monument by the central government in 1937, the site consists of a main stupa, numerous monasteries, a stupa complex, and a newly built […]

Udayagiri Buddhist Complex – Odisha

Located 95 km north-east of Bhubaneswar, Udayagiri is the largest Buddhist complex in Odisha and together with Ratnagiri and Lalitgiri forms the “Diamond Triangle” of Buddhist complexes can can all be visited in a single day. The site is broadly divided into two distinct areas; known as Udayagiri […]

Ratnagiri Archaeological Museum

Located a short distance from the entrance to the Ratnagiri Buddhist Archaeological Site (but not accessible from inside the site), the ASI museum was opened in 1998 and displays 238 antiquities from their vast collection of 3,485 artifacts.

Ratnagiri Buddhist Archaeological Site – Odisha

Once the principle centre of Buddhism in Odisha, the superb Ratnagiri Buddhist Archaeological Site is located on a hill between the Brahmani and Birupa rivers, 100 km north-east of Bhubaneswar. Together with Udayagiri and Lalitagiri, Ratnagiri completes a set of Buddhist centres in Odisha commonly known as the Diamond Triangle.

Kuruma Buddhist Archaeological Site

The ancient Buddhist archaeological site of Kuruma is situated just 6.5 km from the famous Sun Temple at Konark in the district of Puri. Set beside a small and peaceful village, it’s a wonderful setting and a far cry from the crowds that flock to see the more renowned monument a short distance away.

Uttar Pradesh

Padma Samye Chokhor Ling Monastery – Sarnath

Situated 600m south of the ancient Buddhist complex in Sarnath, Padma Samye Chokhor Ling Monastery was officially inaugurated in 1995 after a construction period lasting five years. If you decide to pay this monastery a visit, you may have to be quite persistent at the entrance knocking on […]

Shechen Stupa – Sarnath

Shechen Stupa is located 250m north of the ancient Chaukhandi Stupa, on Rishpattan Road in Sarnath. A plaque outside the small gated enclosure states : Shechen Stupa For Universal Peace Built in fulfillment of H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s vision Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was a Vajrayana master, scholar, poet, […]

Vishwa Shanti Stupa – Sarnath

Vishwa Shanti Stupa is located approximately 900m south-east of the main Buddhist complex at Sarnath, and I believe is associated with the adjacent Japanese Temple, which I sadly failed to visit. The entrance to the stupa is heralded by a replica of one of the gateways at the […]

Lhaden Chenmo Tibetan Monastery – Sarnath

The Lhaden Chenmo Tibetan Monastery (also known as the Tibeten Temple) is located 600m south-east of the ancient Buddhist complex at Sarnath. Constructed in 1955, it is the first monastery and temple built by the present Dalai Lama in India. The entrance of the monastery complex is flanked […]

Chinese Temple – Sarnath

One of the joys of spending a day at Sarnath is the amount of variety that is on offer. Whilst most of the visitors probably restrict themselves to the ancient Buddhist complex, archaeological museum and the giant Buddha Statue, there are a number of more modern temples dotted […]

Giant Buddha and Thai Temple – Sarnath

Situated 300m south of the ancient Buddhist complex at Sarnath, the colossal standing statue of Lord Buddha and Thai temple are set within 2.5 acres of lush green gardens with fountains and blooming lotus flowers. Construction of the statue was started in 1997, although the original idea was […]

Mulagandha Kuti Vihara – Sarnath

Mulagandha Kuti Vihara is located 400m east of the main entrance to the ancient Buddhist complex at Sarnath. Completed and opened in November 1931, this temple is considered the crowning achievement of Anagarika Dharmapala, who founded the Maha Bodhi Society in 1891 with the aim of resurrecting the […]

Chaukhandi Stupa – Sarnath

Located 600m south of the main Sarnath Buddhist Complex, Chaukhandi Stupa is a lofty brick built structure curiously crowned with an octagonal tower. The name Chaukhandi comes from the four-armed plan of the stupa, which was declared to be of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India […]

Lion Capital of Ashoka - Sarnath - circa 250 B.C

Sarnath Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum at Sarnath is the ASI’s oldest site museum, and is one of the most important in India. Plans to build a museum to house, study and display the antiquities found at Sarnath was initiated in 1905 by Sir John Marshall, the then Director General of […]