Shasur Gompa

Posted: September 13, 2012 by randommuzings in India
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“We did not have any written records of the history of this monastery and have tried to collate it through the details and stories we could find and have complied it into a book that is available at the monastery and at Keylong”, the monk at Shasur monastery explained. We stood looking at the board at the gompa entrance that summarized to say that the monastery had been constructed in the 16th century by Lama Dewa Tyatsho of Ladakh (an emissary of Nawang Namgyal- the king of Bhutan) and later renovated by Lama Dewa Gyatsho Gompa. The name Shasur was derived from the local name of the “blue pine” trees around the monastery. “It has also been revamped Indian government and relocated from its earlier position much higher up on the mountain.”

Keylong is flanked by four monasteries at the adjoining mountains tops; Khardung (12th century), Shasur monastery (17th century), Tayul Monastery (literal meaning- ‘The Place That is Chosen’) and Guru Ghantal. We chose to trek to Shasur Monastery but unfortunately the sun in its most extreme form decided to accompany us that day. We started climbing up the road but to take shelter from the sun we took short cuts up the mountain. We lost our way and ended up at a farm. Shagun there gave us water and then guided us the way.

After dredging for 3-4 hours we finally reached the Gompa and were greeted by an effable monk, “We can climb up in 1.5 hours in summers but once the snow sets in climbing up only takes half an hour.” “How come?”, we gasped. “In winters we can climb from anywhere but now we can’t climb through the fields.” “Fields?” All we could see was grass growing on the mountain. “Yes, grass is the crop that they would be collecting as fodder for the cattle for the next few months.” That had never struck me. I had been scolded for walking over grass but that was mainly for aesthetic reasons. I never thought that grass could be a scarce resource and had to be stored!!

The monastery is a three storeyed building with elaborate wall paintings representing the history of 84 Buddha’s, numerous thangkas including a 15 ft thangka that is displayed during festivals and several statues notably that of Namgyal.  This monastery conforms to the Drukpa form of Tibetian Buddhism. There are 101 volumes of Kangyur text that are read by monks over 6 days.

“You have just missed the famous Tseshe festival in June wherein people throng the gompa to watch our (monks’) mask dance called Chham dance or devil dance. Even I have just arrived from Darjeeling 20 days ago along with 4 others as there are few monks remaining at Shasur and we need at least 7 to be present here. 4 monks have gone to the village for a funeral where they would be chanting prayers for the deceased for 4 days and 3 monks are needed here for the morning and evening prayers.” It is believed after the death of the body, the personality goes into a state of trance for four days and during this period (called First Bardo) the verses chanted by Lamas can reach the dead person. Most places around Keylong they preserve the dead body for these 4 days and burn it only after the First Bardo is over. The monks sleep next to the dead body for 4 days! Ouch!!

He went on to explain their way of life, their organized treks to holy places, their plans to set up a school to teach people Tibetian as most people did not know the language and to encourage more people to become monks.

At 4.30 they struck the bell many times to inform the villagers that the evening prayers were about to begin. We listened enchanted to the use of various musical instruments and the chanting sound. I felt at peace. At 5.30 we left the gompa in order to reach the town before dark. Along the way we could hear the chanting prayers for quite a distance!


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