Basgo is situated about 40 km west
of Leh. The complex of buildings includes a ruined fortress dating
from before the 15th century, two large temples and a small shrine.
Presently, one lama from the Hemis gompa is the caretaker at the
The best preserved temple which situated at the highest point,
is the Chamba Lha-khang or Maitreya temple (Chamba is the Ladhaki
word for Maitreya, the Future Buddha). It was built in the mid 16th
century by Tshe-wang Namgyal, of the Namgyal dynasty who ruled Ladakh.
With the exception of Alch, this temple has the oldest original
wall murals in Ladakh, dating from the 16th century.
Entering the Chamba Lha-khang temple, over the entrance you see
a portrait of Vajrapani (meaning "vajra-in-hand", for
Vajrapani is always shown holding a vajra).
Flanking Varapani below are the Kings
of the Four Quarters and above are Indra and Brahma on the left
and Vishnu and Shiva on the right. Below these are images of four
small guardian divinities. Below this are groups of miniature paintings
that reflect the royal dress of Kashmir and the Mughals in the 16th
century, as this wall mural is original to that time. On the right
is a scene of Tshe-wang Namgyal, his two brothers and members of
the royal family with their servants. On the left are scenes from
the life of Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha). The left side wall
has images of a seated Buddha in the meditation posture, a seated
Buddha making the gesture of explanation, a painting of Atisa (and
Indian Buddhist who went to Tibet and became a great teacher of
Buddhism, dying there in 1054) and another seated Buddha whose hand-gesture
is not identifiable. On the right side wall are Avalokitesvara,
Padma Karpo, a 16th century Buddhist scholar associated with the
red-hat sect of Buddhism, a seated Buddha making the Earth-witness
gesture and Vajradhara, holding a vajra and representing the supreme
Buddha manifestation of the red-hat sect of Buddhism.
The three main images opposite the entrance are a lovely Maitreya
(the Future Buddha or Buddha of Compassion) in the center, flanked
by Bodhisattva images. The one on the right is making the preaching
gesture and the one on the left is making the gesture for generosity.
To the right of these images are paintings of Padme Sambhava (an
8th century Indian teacher of Buddhism in Tibet) and Mila Ras-pa
(spiritual head of the red-hat sect and famous ascetic).
The Serzang temple (Serzang translates as "Gold and Silver")
located next to the royal quarters is in a somewhat neglected state.
Its name refers to a Buddhist canon manuscript, partially written
in gold, silver and copper letters, which are commissioned by Senge
Namgyal, a 17th century Ladakhi king. The main image in this temple
is a two-storey tall Maitreya and by his head are mural paintings
of Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa and Mila Ras-pa, historical personags associated
with the red-hat sect of Buddhism. The walls are painted with Buddha
figures. Volumes of the Kandsur are on the left side of the temple.
The Tandshur is on the right. Both sets of volumes are stored in
attractive glass-fronted bookcases.
Another small shrine is located off a courtyard one level below
the Serzang temple. This shrine was built in 1642 and dedicated
by a wife of Senge Namgyal, a Balti princess named Zeze Khatunee,
whose Muslim background caused the Buddhist monks in Ladakh to declare
her an incarnation of Tara. This shrine contains a large image of
Maitreya (the Future Buddha or Buddha of Compassion) while the wall
murals depict various guardian divinities.