Perched on a 1000-foot-high rocky spur overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers, Dhankhar was originally called Dhakkhar (Dhak- cliff, Khar- fort/citadel), literally meaning ‘citadel on a cliff’. Dhankhar was the capital of Spiti and was adorned by a stunningly unique and precariously balanced fort that was the home of the royal family. The Dhankhar Monastery is one of the five major monastic centres in Spiti and belongs to the Gelug-pa sect of Vajrayana Buddhism. Dhankhar is also of great art historical importance. Founded between 7th and the 9th centuries, the old temple complex occupies the southern part of the steep mountain slope of the village. The monastery consists of a number of multi-storeyed buildings perched together, giving a fortress like impression. Numerous chambers within the monastery are decorated with a rich wealth of thangkas and wall murals, with depictions of the Sakyamuni, Tsongkhapa and Lama Chodrag. The Dhankhar gonpa is today headed by Rev. Gangling Khentrul Rinpoche and has 135 monks on its rolls, some of whom reside in Dhankhar while others are stationed in village temples across the region.
Dhankhar today is one of the principal Buddhist monastic centres in Himachal Pradesh and a prime tourist destination in the state as well. Unfortunately the Monastery complex, frescos and thangkas are in a state of disrepair and in urgent need for restoration to avoid their further degradation. Recognizing the seriousness of this situation, Dhankhar has been listed as one of the World’s Hundred Most Endangered Sites by the World Monuments Watch program of the World Monuments Fund. Unless swift action is taken to stabilize and restore the site it will soon be lost forever.
For more details on the Dhankhar Initaitive visit www.dhangkar.com