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Rizong Monastery
About Rizong Monastery

Rizong (or Rhizong) gompa, Gelugpa or Yellow Hat Buddhist monastery is also called the Yuma Changchubling in Ladakh, India. It is located at the top of a rocky side valley on the north side of the Indus, to the west of Alchi on the way to Lamayuru. It was built in 1831 by Lama Tsultim Nima under the Gelukpaorder, at Ri-rdzong. There are 40 monks in the monastery. The monastery is also called “the heaven for meditation” and is noted for its extremely strict standards and rules.The nunnery, located about 2 km from the monastery, is called the “Jelichun Nunnery” or Chulichan (Chomoling), where, at present, 20 nuns reside.

The Nunnery Comprise of about 20 nuns, and is under the control of the governing body of Rizong Monastery only. The nun, known as Chomos, worship at the temples of the monastery itself. They also perform a number of chores for the monastery like spinning wool, milking, extracting oil for the temple lamps, etc

The Rizong Gompa of Ladakh was founded by the great Lama Tsultim Nima in the year 1831. It belongs to the Gelukpa Order, and is located at a distance of approximately 73 km from the Leh town. The monastery serves as the residence of approximately 40 monks. However, they have to follow some very strict rules. The prisoners of the monastery are not allowed to have anything, except for religious books and robes. Rizong Monastery of Leh Ladakh consists of various shrines inside its complex.

It is also believed that long ago Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the caves around Rizong years before the monasteries were constructed. It is also inferred that in the small caves in the vicinity, Lamas used to meditate for years in isolation from the rest of the villages. They subsisted on one meal a day, which was provided to them by local people through a 1 foot (0.30 m) square window opening in the cave.

The gompa also has a rich collection of the painting blocks of Lama Tsultim Nima's biography as well as a number of objects made and books composed by the first Sras Rinpoche. Serving as the incumbents of the Rizdong Monastery, are the successive recreations of Lama Tsultim Nima and his son, Sras Rinpoche. A nunnery, known as Chulichan (Chomoling) is situated near the monastery, at a distance of approximately 2 km.


In the 18th century, Lama Tsultim Nima who meditated at the Dzong-lung mountains decided to establish a hermitage (before he built the present large monastery) here, as a monastery for monks to meditate and learn the teachings of Buddha. Supported by many monks, initially many mud huts were built where they recited gso-shyong. He laid down very strict rules of celibacy called the “Vinaya Rules” to be followed by each monk who meditated here. In brief, rules set are the following.
• Monks are not allowed to leave the monastery, except in the case of sickness
• No comforts of bedding are allowed to sleep at night
• Monks are not to touch anything handled by women (including their own or others sisters)
• Before sun rise or after sunset, Monks can not leave their cell, except to bring water
• Not even a needle worth of possessions are allowed to be owned by the monks
• Fire cannot be lit in their rooms
• Any kind of donation received by a monk from his home shall be shared with other monks in the hermitage
• The boundary of the hermitage was marked by three types of fences and no women was allowed to sleep even in the outer most boundary of the hermitage
• Any rumour about offences that the monks committed would result in their rustication from the monastery

Within the ambit of the above rules, the monks of the monastery would at times become quite sentimental about even inadvertently treading on an insect or even cutting a blade of grass. Over the years, the hermitage became a place of worship and pilgrimage to all Buddhists from Ladakh. It is reported that the king of Ladakh gave rich donations to convert the Hermitage into a retreat centre and the queen of Ladakh even visited this place on a pilgrimage. At this stage, as the number of monks in the hermitage increased, Lama Tsultim Nima decided to construct a much larger monastery due to the then location of the hermitage being insufficient to build one large monastery.

Lama Tsultim Nima selected a site to construct a large monastery, away from the villages, at a place known as Ri-rdzong, since the place had adequate water supply and fuel availability. He launched on a donation campaign to build the monastery for which the villagers also provided voluntary labour during construction. The Monastery was constructed in 1831 along with many shrines within it. Basically, the monastery has three large chambers. In two of these chambers idols of Buddha have been set apart. The third chamber houses a stupa.
The hermitage has the distinct reputation of upholding "the Vinaya rules in strict sense of the term", so much so that the lamas of this monastery do not indulge in performances of mask dances or with undue rites and rituals.

The monastery has the distinction of having two incarnate lamas namely, Lama Tsultim Nima and his son Sras Rinpoche, the former is the head of the monastery who generally lives in Manali and the latter is the Abbot of 'rgyud-smad Dratsang'. The Abbott will be elevated to the rank of Dga-ldan Khirpa, the chief of all Tibetan scholastics, after completing a term of two years. During the absence of the these two incarnate Lamas at the Monastery, the duties are well allocated to others; the senior most monk (Inas batan) looks after the monastic schedules while his second in command would attend to the house keeping chores such as food and providing other facilities to the monks. In the monastery, which has full control of all its economic activities, there are three groups of people. The first group is of the Lamas (monks), the second of Chomos and the third group is of ordinary folks; the duties of each group and their interrelationships are well defined.

Structure and Layout

The following are the details of the structures and idols of deities deified in the monastery's various chambers.

1)Relic shrine
A relic shrine, known as Sku–Gdung in local language, that enshrines the old relics of the founder of the monastery is at the centre. It is enclosed by various frescoes of Dharma-raja and other deities.
2)Assembly hall
The assembly hall, with the statue of Shakymuni Buddha in the middle, is flanked to its right by idols of Tse-dpag-med, rje-Rin po-che, and Sras Rin Poche Esha Rab-rgyes and Lord Yamakantaka and other deities. To the left of the main deity, idols of Lord Avalokiteshvara and Mahakala are defied. The main hall also has thankhas or wall paintings of Dlama-mchod-pa and Lam-rims.
Scriptures of Bka-gyurand and bstan-gyur are arranged on the sides. The central throne is reserved for the founder with the side seats (thrones) earmarked for Sras Rinpoche and mKhan-po of the monastery. Printing blocks of the biography of Lama Tsulim Nima, many objects made then and the books composed by the first Sras Rinpoche are housed here.
3)Sacred chamber
In the sacred Chamber on the west, the statues of Mahakala (protectress deity of the monastery), statue of the founder of the monastery, statue of the second incarnate, Gnas-Bstan Tsual–Khrims Dorji and a Stupa are situated. Each row in this chamber has the idols of the two head lamas.
4)Thin-Chen shrine
In the Thin-Chen shrine, frescoes of Shakyamuni Buddha’s life history are depicted; the idols deified are the Golden Chengchub stupa,Rjo-wo-Rin-Po-cho, silver Chengchub stupa, Arya Avalokiteshwara, a sitting image of Maitreya Buddha, and a set of bka-gyhr.
5)Other structures
The chamber on the east has statues of rje-tzone-khapa, mkhas-drub-rje and rgyal-tsabrje. Their writings, in thirty volumes, are also kept there.
The Mandala shrine is the roof over the assembly hall meant for Mandala of Lord Yamakantaka and btra-shis-gyhi-skyong. The four directions of the mandala display religious statues.


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