The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Gandhola Monastery (Gaṅdolā, also called Gondla, Kundlah, or Guru Ghantal Gompa) is about 18 km before Keylong in Lahaul, Himachel Pradesh, India on the road from Manali. It is located on a hill above the Tupchiling village at the sacred junction of the Chandra and Bhaga Rivers, which together Form the Chandrabhaga or Chenab River.
The Monastery is said to have been founded by Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava in the 8th century CE. It is now connected with the Drukpa Kargyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, but its history long precedes the formation of that sect. According to local tradition and also the Tibetan Terma text, the Padma bKai Thang, discovered in 1326 CE, at Yarlung by Urgyan Lingpa, the site was associated with Padmasambhava. But the site was a Buddhist establishment even earlier than that:
A chased copper goblet dated to the 1st to 2nd century CE was found here in 1857 by a Major Hay and is considered to be evidence of Buddhist Monks' cells being located in a cave Monastery at that early Time. A damaged marble head of Avalokitesvara also found here, is kept in the Guru Ghantal Monastery itself, and is claimed to date back to the Time of Nagarjuna in the 2nd century CE. This seems to be the only Monastery in the region other than Sani Monastery in Zanskar which has a history which is claimed to go back to Kushan Times.
There is also a black stone image of the Goddess Kali, called Vajresvari Devi (rDo-rje Lha-mo), and a wooden statue of The Buddha said to have been installed by the Monk Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055), a famous Lotsawa or translator of Sanskrit Buddhist texts.
The Monastery was originally probably a larger complex of purely Indian style of which nothing now remains. The present structure is two-storied, 17.3 x 11.6 metres facing the northwest. The Assembly Hall or du-khang is on the ground floor. In 1959 the Monastery underwent extensive repairs and a small Pagoda roof of Kangra slates was added in a rather haphazard manner, which is surrounded by the mud roof which covers the Monks' cells and kitchen on the second floor.
- About 800 years have elapsed [by 1885 when the account was recorded] since Rānā Nīl Chand came from Kolong in the district of Bangāl to settle in Lāhul. At the same Time Ţhākur Ratan Pāl of the Pāl family, a resident of Gond in Bangāl, came to Lāhul and settled in Tīnan, and named Tīnan Gondala after his first place of residence; and of his family at the present Time Ţhākur Hīrā Chand is alive and the holder of the jāgīr of Gondala."
Gandhola, like all the Drukpa Monasteries in Ladakh and Lahaul, owes allegiance to H.H. the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa, or Drukchen Rinpoche, Abbot of Hemis Monastery in Ladakh, who, in turn, owes allegiance to the head of the Order in Bhutan.
Gandhola is also famous for its eight story fort with alternating layers of stone and timber, which was once the seat of the local Thakur or king, but is no longer occupied. It is a 4 km walk from the village of Tupchilling, in which the Monastery is set.