Renowned as the oldest Buddhist learning centre in Ladakh, Alchi Monastery is located 70 km from Leh in Jammu and Kashmir in north India on the bank of Indus River. A national heritage site, it is distinct from other monasteries in Ladakh as it is situated on flat ground unlike others which are located on hilltops. The foundation of the monastery was laid by Tibetan translator Rinchen Zangpo in the middle of 12th century.
It has three main structures known as Dukhang, Sumtsek and the temple of Manjushri. Dukhang, the assembly hall, is the largest and the oldest preserved part of the monastery. Walls of the assembly hall are full of ancient paintings that depict different forms of Buddha and goddesses.
Sumtsek, the three-story temple is popular for its four armed big Bodhisattva statue which occupies two floor of the temple. On the ground floor there is a Maitreya Buddha along with figure of white Avalokiteshvara and Manjushri.
Temple of Manjushri is also known as Jampe Lhakhang. Along with images of Manjushri, the temple has sculpture and a painting of Rinchen Tsangpo. No documents testifying to Alchi’s history exist.
The only thing that tells the history is the ancient monuments and paintings of the monastery. Archaeological Survey of India is helping preserve the monastery.
Villagers of Alchi are quite traditional and staunch believers in their culture, so that makes the village a cultural site too. For adventure lovers, rafting is an option in Alchi. As it is located near Zanskar river, Nyemo-Alchi is popular with river rafters. It is a good place for buying Pashmina Shawl, woolen jackets and apricots.
There are small budget hotels in Alchi which offer river-side view. One can also stay in tented accommodation. Alchi has several small restaurants which serve Indian and Tibetan meal at reasonable rates.