The Watch

Dechen Namgyal Gonpa

Nyoma, India

Dating to the 17th century, Dechen Namgyal was an early monastery, or gonpa, of the Drugpa Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism along the ancient trade route of Ladakh. Perched 14,000 feet (4,270 meters) above sea level on the Western Tibet Plateau, Dechen Namgyal Gonpa was built under the patronage of the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal with the assistance of the Tibetan priest Stag-Tsang-ras-pa. The advantageous position on the trade route plateau is reflected in the architecture, which is a combination of a monastic layout and fortification. The interior is embellished with notable wall paintings and sculptures, and it is still used today as a place of worship for ten monks. The monks perform their daily rituals and maintain the building with help from local residents of Hanle. Unlike when the Tibet trade route flourished, the Dechen Namgyal Gonpa today is remote and difficult to visit. Due to inadequate repairs, lack of financial resources, and limited preservation understanding, the gonpa is in a deteriorated state. Public awareness of the gonpa’s significance, enhanced community partnerships, and local training workshops will help restore this gonpa and foster skills that could be applied at other gonpas in Ladakh.

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