A busy village in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, Alchi is tucked away in the Himalayan region of Ladakh at an altitude of around 3,500 m above sea level. Alchi is nestled in the valley of the Indus River along the ancient trade route and is famous for its gompas. It is connected to Leh with a road network.
The region around Alchi was once vital for trade and cultural contact with the rest of India. When Islamic armies entered the subcontinent, what first captured their attention were the Buddhist monuments. Islam disallows idol worship and their word for idol was, in fact, the term Buddha. It was, therefore, the Buddhist monuments and monasteries that suffered most under the hand of iconoclasm. However, Alchi, set amidst the barren gorges of the Indus River and desolate mountains, escaped destruction and some of the 900-year-old paintings and murals are so well preserved that they appear to have been painted just yesterday.
Fairs & Festivals
Hemis festival is celebrated at Hemis monastery every year in the month of June. This three-day festival provides a spectacle of Ladakhi culture and living traditions.
Ladakh Festival is celebrated all over the region for 15 days every year. Many cultural and sports events are held during this festival. Major attractions include the masked dances and polo and archery competitions.
Best Time to Visit
Alchi has an extreme climate with icy winters and normal summers. In summer, the maximum temperature can rise to 25°C and go down to a minimum of around 12°C. Protection against sunburn is necessary in this time of the year. In winters, the maximum temperature hovers around 15°C and minimum temperature can drop to -30°C. The best season to visit this place is from May to September.
How to Reach
BY AIR -Leh is the nearest airport from Alchi, which can be reached by either bus or taxi. Alliance Air flights connect Leh with Delhi, Chandigarh, Jammu, and Srinagar through regular flights.
BY ROAD -Alchi is connected to Leh through regular buses. Taxis are also available on hire to reach Alchi. The Alchi-Manali road is one of the two major road networks that connect this place with the rest of India. This is the world's second highest motorable road, reaching 5328 m at Taglang La. The road is usually open between the months of June and mid-October.
The shrines at Alchi, some of which date back to the late eleventh century, are considered by scholars to be among the most extensive examples of Buddhist art in Kashmir. Du-Khang is the earliest temple at Alchi, founded by Kal-dan Shes-rab around the 11th century AD. There is an elaborately carved doorway with panels of tiny Bodhisattvas and guardian figures. The walls are adorned with mandalas and sacred forms that illustrate the structure of Buddhist cosmology.
Sum-tsek is a triple-storied temple with a carved wooden façade consisting of pillars, carved brackets, and capitals. The walls of the halls are covered with mandalas in vibrant colors, standing figures of Bodhisattvas, Manjushri (the embodiment of wisdom), Avalokiteshvara, and Maitreya Buddha.
Lotsawa Lha-Khang and Manjushri Lha-Khang are two adjoining shrines that share a similar plan. The square shrine has four central columns that hold up the raised roof. Within the shrine of Manjushri are four large plaster images of the Bodhisattva. The murals of the temple follow the theme of the thousand Buddha while gods and goddesses dominate the wall space.
Lha-Khang Soma is a structure constructed later in comparison to other shrines of Alchi. Within the small square room is a chorten or votive stupa. Columns that support the roof have wonderful carved brackets with lion faces. Walls of the shrine are painted with the images of Vairochana, Buddha, Bodhisattvas, and guardian figures. The doorway is decorated and protected as usual with the image of Mahakala.
Places Around Alchi
The region has several spectacular monasteries that seem to grow out of the rugged escarpments and mountain ridges. There are monasteries at Shey, Thikse, and Hemis, which have a wealth of Buddhist images, murals, and carvings.
Leh is the capital of Ladakh Autonomous Council and the most convenient gateway to Ladakh. The sites to visit include Leh Palace, Leh Mosque, and many gompas.