Phuktal Gonpa is a Buddhist monastery located in the remote Lungnak Valley of Zanskar, in the autonomous Himalayan region of Ladakh, Northern India. Built around a natural cave believed to have been visited by important sages, scholars and translators beginning around 2,550 years ago, the present Phuktal Gonpa of the Gelug lineage was established in the early 14th century by Jangsem Sherap Zangpo, a disciple of Gelug founder Tsongkhapa.
Among the earliest residents of Phuktal cave were the 16 “Arhats” or legendary followers of Buddha, whose images appear on the cave’s walls. The great scholar-translators Padmasambhava and Phakspa Nestan Dusdan are said to have resided in the cave; Milarespa’s teacher Lama Marpa also stayed in the Phuktal cave. In the 12th century, the scholar and Tibetan translator Zanskar – Lotsawa Phagpa Sherab lived and worked here. The three eminent scholar- brothers Dangsong–Pun–Sum, believed to hold the supernatural power of flight, gave Dharma teachings here; upon the arrival of Jangsem Sherap Zangpo, they departed, bequeathing the sacred site to him. According to legend, the spiritually gifted Zangpo caused a spring to run in the cave, a tree to grow above the cave, and the cave itself to grow larger. Then, under his guidance, the present monastery was built. Today the Phuktal Gonpa houses a main temple, prayer rooms, a library, numerous apartments, teaching facilities, a kitchen, and of course the original cave and protected sacred spring.
The famous Phugtal monastery is located in proximity to the famous river Lungnak and situated atop of a cliff, at the mouth of lateral gorge. It can be accessed through Padum-Manali route through a 7 kilometer long trek which starts from the main trekking route at Purney Bridge.
How to reach
It is one of the only Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh that can still be reached on only by foot. Supplies to the monastery are brought on horses, donkeys, and mules in the warmer months, and in the frozen winters, they are transported through the frozen Zanskar River. A road is expected to be built up to the monastery, however, for now, it is a day’s walk from Dorzang, the end of the road leading from Padum.
Made up of wood and mud, the Phugtal monastery boasts of 4 prayer halls and 1 library. The old chapel is decorated with ceilings and frescoes. On the way to Phugtal, you can also visit Bardan and many monasteries.
Best time to visit
Just like other attractions in Ladakh, the peak time to visit the Portugal monastery in Ladakh is between July to September.
Phuktal Monastic School
Phuktal Monastic School provides students of the local Lungnak Valley of Zanskar with a complete education combining traditional subjects with a modern curriculum. By training young monks, we strengthen and preserve our unique Zanskari cultural-spiritual heritage for future generations, and enrich and expand the teaching of Dharma in the Zanskar Valley.
All students attending Phuktal Monastic School pay no fees. Room, board and all educational materials are provided by the monastery, with the ongoing support of sponsors.