Rizong Monastery

Rizong Monastery

Rizong (or Rhizong) gompa, Gelugpa or Yellow Hat Buddhist monastery is also called the Yuma Changchubling in Ladakh, India. It is situated 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 established in 1831 by Lama Tsultim Nima under the Gelukpa order, at Ri-rdzong. There are 40 monks in the monastery. The monastery is also called “the paradise for meditation” and is noted for its extremely strict rules and standards. The nunnery, located about 2 km from the monastery, is called the “Jelichun Nunnery” or Chulichan (Chomoling), where, at present, 20 nuns reside. It is also believed that long ago Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the caves around Rizong years before the monasteries were built. 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. Before the monastery was built in 1831, it was started as a hermitage for teaching the Buddhist religion to the monks, with a strict regimen of a celibate life suited to the monastic order. In the 18th century, Lama Tsultim Nima who meditated at the rDzong-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 build a much larger monastery due to the then location of the hermitage being inadequate to build one large monastery. Lama Tsultim Nima selected a site to build 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 built 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 consecrated. 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 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.

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