Tabo Math Spit Ghaati himachal

Tabo Math Spit Ghaati himachal

Tabo, a small peaceful village nestled in the lap of the enchanting Spiti Valley. Situated on the banks of Spiti river, this village is surrounded by Leo Pargil peak in the east and Manirang in the west.

This beautiful Tabo village in Himachal is famous for the more than 1000 years old Tabo Monastery and the stupendous heritage hidden in its earthen structure-filled complex.

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The frescoes, thanka paintings, manuscripts, lime crafts and sculptures and the unique and unique architecture are the enchanting assets of this monastery.

We had reached Tabo village by the time of lunch. Our intention was to spend some time in this monastery and then proceed to Kaza.

However, while having lunch, when Mr. Rajinder Bodh of Devachan Retreat briefed us about the caves and rock crafts here, we immediately decided to spend a whole day, not a few hours, in the village of Tabo.

The longing to see the heritage of this village had intensified in our minds. To be honest, this determination of ours proved to be invaluable in the true sense.

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Tabo village is situated at an altitude of 3280 meters or 10,000 feet above sea level. Its population is about 400.

Tabo Monastery or Chos-Khor Gompa

Tabo Monastery is called the ‘Ajanta of the Himalayas’ because of its frescoes. Another reason for this is that both Ajanta and Tabo are considered symbols of Buddhist faith.

Lama Dechen, a former monk of this monastery, gave us a guided tour of the monastery complex. As a Buddhist monk, his visit was more full of devotion than the unique expression of artifacts.

But at the same time, a group of officials of the Archaeological Survey of India and some trainees reached there to visit the monastery.

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Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity to interact with a person who was entrusted with the task of restoration and preservation of a temple in the monastery and its frescoes. He gave me subtle and detailed information about the various techniques of painting there and the antiquity.

Tabo Monastery – Oldest but Lively Monastery

This oldest and lively monastery has 9 temples and some stupas which if seen from a distance, it appears to be a small village with mud houses.

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The very simple outer landscape of the monastery wrapped in mud, what is hidden inside it, it is not possible to realize it from outside.

On the outside of the monastery, only the name of Tabo Monastery is written on a simple information panel. As soon as you enter the monastery, you will find yourself surrounded by many earthen structures which have if any shade of light, it is only the bright red clothes of the Lamas.

It is like entering a strange world. Why not? Before this, I and probably you too, would never have found myself in the midst of such structures built entirely by the soil.

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We began our observation at the main temple, which is called the Tsuglangkhang or the meeting hall. The sculpture that caught our eye inside this oldest structure of the monastery was the statue of Ganesha, which appeared to be a symbol of the confluence of two religions.

The paintings present in this room are from the 17th century. The statues of the two sons of the founder of this Math, Nagraj and Devraj, stand at the entrance of the meeting hall.

monastic hall


The assembly hall of the main temple of Tabo Monastery is an utter masterpiece that needs to be spent ample time here to behold.

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On its four walls there are 33 exquisitely carved sculptures made of lime of Bodhisattvas. Each of them has special names that begin with the word ‘Vajra’, such as ‘Vajra Lasya’ or ‘Vajra Ratna’.

They are mounted on top of exquisitely painted walls. The first sight he reminds of Ajanta. But their portrayal style is not the same.

The wall on the right depicts a biography of the Buddha, known as the local Shakyamuni Buddha. Biographies of Bodhisattvas take precedence over the other walls of the chamber.

Some of these paintings are believed to be from 996 AD to 1042 AD and some from 17th AD to 19th AD. It appears as if the various time periods of the life span of more than the last millennium years experienced by this monastery have been displayed in layers.

The only source of light inside this room was a hole on the ceiling of the chamber, which was made like a raised window covered by glass.

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Pillars made of the aromatic wood of juniper or hapusha were supporting the roof. One of the features of this structure was that it stood on a hollow base on the ground which I had never seen before.

Tabo Gompa


The Tabo Gompa is built in the form of a mandala on the central part of the hall of the main temple. The hall is a symbol of ‘Vajradhatu Mandala’ in which there are fourfold Vairocana in the turning of the wheel of Dharma.

There are images of 33 Vajrayana deities on the reefs near them. Inside the sanctum there is a statue of Amitabha riding a lion. Rampani is on its right side and Mahasthanprata on the left. Although Amitabh’s vehicle is a peacock, but here he is shown riding on a lion.

According to our guide, this place probably once had a statue of Buddha, which at the time of refurbishment was replaced by the image of Amitabha and kept his vehicle unmoved.

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Usually, inside the monastery there is a small hall called Gon Khang, inside which only professional monks are allowed to meditate.

Here it is in front of the meeting hall. It is also called as Mahakal Vajra Bhairav ​​Temple. I was told that there are statues of Mahakal and Sridevi inside them.

According to Peter Van Hamm’s version, the inscription inside Chokhor’s Tsug Lakhang is:

For those who are tired after a long journey,

And for those beings who are witnesses of sorrow,

Friends and relatives who have abandoned

This beautiful temple is dedicated to him.

-Drafted within Chokhor’s Tsug Lakhang

Source – Peter Van Hamm’s Blog

Tabo Monastery’s frescoes

The frescoes of the Tabo Monastery are of the same tempera painting style as those in the Ajanta caves. In these, aqueous dyes are used along with a synthetic substance.

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For this reason, these frescoes of the reefs of Tabo Monastery are facing a serious crisis because the layers of the reefs are coming down due to water leakage.

Officials of the Archaeological Survey of India are investigating the problem. It is hoped that with the help of experts, they will soon find a solution to this problem and will be able to preserve this heritage.

Similar to Ajanta, the frescoes here also tell stories of Buddha and Bodhisattva. Geometric figures are painted on the roofs.

In some places, outlines of incomplete paintings are visible, indicating the process of painting or perhaps the colors there have faded over time.

Inscriptions of the mural at many places give information about the date of painting and the subject matter of the story depicted. Also the names of the sponsors of these pictures. All inscriptions are in Boti script.

Guge Empire


The kings of the Guge kingdom built this monastery under the direction of Rinchen Jangpo. Rinchen Jangpo was a great translator who translated Buddhist manuscripts from Sanskrit into Tibetan.

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Rinchen Jangpo was a student of Nalanda University. While building this monastery, they brought Kashmiri artisans here to paint the reefs. His influence is clearly visible in the frescoes of the monastery.

To see the other 8 temples, you will have to request the Lamas to open their doors. Inside a temple, I remember a unique picture depicting Ushnishvijaya with a green star and 3 faces, and 8 hands.

Maitreya Temple has a huge statue of Maitreya Buddha. There is a unique door frame at the entrance of the temple which reminds me of the Western Chalukya temples.

There are 23 stupas in the monastery complex, some with frescoes inside. In the absence of good display facilities, the Archaeological Survey of India has not granted permission for their observation. Carvings can be seen on some stupas.

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Tabo village is considered to be the ancient confluence of Indian and Tibetan cultures where Tibetan students used to come here to receive teachings from Indian Buddhist scholars.

Life here is centered around the monastery and the tourism economy generated by it on a small scale.

Photography is not allowed inside the temple, but you can buy and take pictures of the frescoes inside the temple as a souvenir.

A new monastery has also been built here, where the Dalai Lama himself had initiated Kalachakra in 1996 to commemorate the completion of the thousandth year of the monastery.

Tabo Caves

If you had visited this place a thousand years ago, you would probably have been living in these caves which you can see today scattered on the hill adjacent to the village of Tabo.

Presently these caves are in very dilapidated condition and it is very difficult to reach them. However, these caves are located so close to a cave temple under Tabo Monastery that you can clearly see these caves from there.

Some caves are of two floors and some appear as if they were carved out of rocks. I was told that there are signs of smoke inside these caves which indicates that these caves were inhabited at some point of time. Although their date is not known,

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it is estimated that they must have come into existence around the time when this monastery was being established in 996 AD. Till then the village of Tabo did not exist and traveling monks supposedly stayed in these caves only.

The cave temple is a simple cave structure under the Tabo Monastery that is covered with mud in such a way that if your clothes touch the surface, take a handful of clay with you. The responsibility of its conservation rests with the Archaeological Survey of India. A paved staircase made of cement concrete will lead you to the cave which has a temple, a kitchenette, and a hall.

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