A Brief History
In a sequestered nook, amidst glorious landscapes, emanating positivity, sweet serenity and mystique lies a majestic edifice. They call it Kye Gompa, famously known as Key Monastery. Standing majestically tall at an altitude of roughly 4200 meters, it is the biggest monastery in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. Built in the 11th century, it has seen a lot of attacks and natural calamities. Although all the repairs and reconstructions have managed to restore its form.
The barren, cold, isolated and slippery mountains surrounding the Key Monastery makes one wonder. Such a grand structure at such an extreme altitude and in such precarious surroundings! How was it built? And that too in the 11th century. No one has spoken for sure but apparently Key Monastery is said to have been built by Brom-ston. He was the chief disciple of one of the most profound Buddhist philosophers – Atisha. There are speculations that he built the Kadampa monastery in Rangrik (a village 16 Kms from Key Monastery) instead. And since it got damaged during the Mongol assisted conquests, Key Monastery was pronounced as the ‘one.’
Living at Key Monastery
The closest town to Key Monastery is Kaza. Kaza has in the past 10 years become a famous tourist destination. Although it can still be termed as exotic in the sense that it is not packed as many 0ther Indian Hill stations. Kaza has a good number of home stays, guest houses and hotels. Key Monastery is at a distance of 16 Kms from Kaza.
Most people stay at Kaza but i would personally recommend you to spend at least one night at Key. At a time the monastery accommodates not more than 20 – 25 tourists. Each person is charged a meagre amount of INR 250/- and that includes meals and tea. Unfortunately the maximum time you can spend there is 3 nights. That is a great deal but is secondary, living at the monastery is an experience that cannot be bought.
The Kye Gompa is also a religious training centre for Lamas. At a time there are around 250 lamas living there. Technically its a proper school where these young would be monks receive proper education. They learn pretty much all the subjects that kids in cities do.
An Experience etched in the memory forever
Some places are bound to leave strong imprints on your minds. This was undoubtedly one such place. You would wake up to unearthly views, a bunch of kids (lamas) would be sitting on the steps of the monastery serving butter milk to one another. Their laconic replies compensated by big lovely smiles are bound to melt your hearts. They are an intelligent bunch of kids who are the future monks, torch bearers of Buddhism.
Their favorite hobby was unarguable cricket. During my stay, I spent hours and hours playing cricket with them. Teaching them nuances of the game, I was surprised to see their agility and strength. They were stronger for their age and frames. Yes, wiser too. I just felt bad about the fact that they didn’t have proper equipment, not even a bat. They were just beating the ball with wooden planks. That was not hampering their enthusiasm though. I wish I could have gifted them a bat but Kaza was not very near and I was leaving next morning.
It’ll be great if any of our Samaritan readers could provide the lamas with bats and a few stationery items. Nonetheless, after reading the article, I’m sure many of you are already planning a trip to Key. I honestly hope that you get to experience the divinity of the place someday.