Home :: Buddhist Gompas :: Matho Gompa

Matho gompa lies about 20 km south of Leh on the other side of the Indus River and offers spectacular views of the Ladakh range from its perch on top of a ridge. Matho gompa was first established in the 16th century by Tungpa Dorje after he had traveled extensively in Tibet. Matho is the only representative monastery in Ladakh of the Sakya order of Tibetan Buddhism. This is a particular religious order. Centered on the Sa-skya monastery in Tibet, which was founded in 1075 AD. Today the gompa has about 60 lamas and 30 novices from the larger gompas in Ladakh. Entering the gompa's central courtyard, one sees a tall flag pole in the center and another one at the far end. On the same side of the courtyard as the entrance and up a few steps is the Lhakhang Soma or New Temple, built in 1974. The verandah has new mural paintings of the Guardians of the Four Directions and an elaborately and colorfully decorated doorway. Inside the Lhakhang all the wall murals were painted in 1977 and are very colorfully done.

Matho Gompa

The left wall next to the entrance portrays Matho's founder, Tungpa Dorje, with representatives of Matho's two oracles below him. Next to him is an idealized portrait of the present head lama of the Sakya sect. The right entrance wall shows a White Mahakala (a particularly fierce protecting deity) and to the left of this is a painting of the Four Headed Sarvavid (the omniscient or guardian aspect of Vairocana (the Teaching Buddha).

The wall murals on the left side of the Lhakhang depict various lamas of the Sakya sect while the right wall shows the various manifestations of Sakyamuni, the Historical Buddha. The central panel of the right wall depicts Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa and Mila Ras-pa, historical personages associated with the early doctrines of the Saka sect. In front of the Lhakhang is dominated by the throne seat reserved for the Sakya sect's head lama who now resides in Dehra Dun. The central statue behind the throne is Sakyamuni, the Historical Buddha, blanked by the red decorated hats worn by Matho's oracles. Surrounding the statue are numerous small Buddha statues flanked by the canonical texts of Buddhism. After leaving the Lhakhang, the entrance to the ukhang or main assembly hall is visible on the right side of the courtyard. The verandah is again painted with the Guardians of the Four Directions but the murals are old and not in very good condition. Inside the Dukhang are two rows of seats for the lamas and a throne seat reserved for the Rimpoche or head lama of Matho. The four statues behind the throne seat are, from the left, the thousand-armed form of Avalokitesvara (a Buddhist deity analogous to the Hindu god Shiva and believed to be reincarnated in the Dalai Lama), Maitreya (the Future Buddha of Compassion), Sakyamuni and a blessing Buddha. The wall on the left side of the Dykhang shows various Sakya lamas and the Four Headed Sarvavid. The right wall depicts the four-armed manifestation of Avalokitesvara, a blue Sakyamuni and two Sakya lamas. The entrance wall has Mahakala the fiercest Buddhist guardian divinity on the left and other protecting deities on the right. Upon leaving the Dukhang, climb the flight of steps on the right, walk through the enclosed passageway towards the left until a wooden ladder is reached. Climb the ladder and at the top go through the door immediately in front and enter a small courtyard. Go through the door at the opposite end of the courtyard and there are two rooms to be seen: the Gonkhang on the left and the gompa museum on the right. Women are not allowed in the Gonkhang and photography is prohibited.

The Gonkhang, in which meditation takes place, is ascribed great spiritual power as it is the room in which Matho's order prays and enters into a trance. The oracle's special clothing is hung in this room and the Gokhang also contains old weapons and thanks, masks and statues. Directly opposite the entrance is the seat of the head lama and in front of that is a table for maize and oil lamps. According to an old custom, a representative of every family from Matho village brings a small bowl of maize grain from the first harvest to this room. This practice is not accompanied by any special ceremony. One lama, changed every three years, is particularly responsible for the Gonkhang. The museum opposite the Gonkhang contains, among other things, numerous thanks, a stuffed yak, a poorly stuffed and preserved snow leopard, masks, stucco statuettes. Phurbos (ceremonial daggers) and miscellaneous ritual objects. Leaving this area of the gompa and returning to the small outer courtyard, on the right is the Lamdre, a shrine in honor of the Lamdre lineage of lamas. Lamdre is a special teaching associated with the Sakya sect. Photography is not permitted in this room, which contains numerous statues of various Sakya lamas, old thanks and small Buddha and Mahakala statues.

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