Located at an altitude of around 11,204 feet above sea level and on the way to Thikse and Hemis Gompas on the main road leading east along the Indus, Shey Palace and Monastery is only 15 km from the town of Leh. Shey Palace was built in 1665 by the King of Ladakh as his summer retreat house.
The Palace and Monastery of Shey are in the vicinity of the village by the same name. Shey used to be the capital of ancient Ladakh. Shey was abandoned after the Dogras of Jammu and Kashmir conquered Ladakh and the Namgyals were removed from the power. Legend has it that there used to be an artificial lake around the Palace, but there is no real evidence of its existence.
Located on a hill Shey contains a gold topped victory Stupa. The monastery has a two-storied statue of Sakyamuni Buddha wrought with copper and gold. The walls of the Du-Khang are adorned with beautiful frescos. Since the monastery is exclusive, it is preferable to make arrangements to see this monastery with the head Lama before hand. Many chortens can be seen to the east of the Monastery. A traveller should not miss the engraving on a rook-face beside the main road below the monastery which represent five Buddha’s in meditation.
Shey Monastery has two seasonal festivals which are held every year. The first festival is held at Shey Palace on the 26th and 27th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar which is in the month of July or August. This festival is called “Shey Doo Lhoo” it is held to mark the beginning of the sowing season. The two day celebration is marked by special rituals performed by the monks in the main monastery, in addition to several other religious rites. Villagers flock to the monastery in large numbers in a spirit of celebration and hope.
During this festival, an oracle reader visits Shey Monastery riding a horse and conducts a three-day prayer and then goes into a trance. In this state of trance, he is said to give prophecies for the coming year.
The second festival in Shey is called the “Shey Rupla” that marks the harvesting season. On this occasion, farmers offer the first fruits of the corn at the monastery. A dance called the “Rhupal dance” is performed by two men in tiger costumes. Other forms of folk dances are also performed.
Around Shey Palace and Monastery there are a handful of accommodation options in the village. The accommodation is mostly in the form of budget guesthouses and homestays. There are also a few eateries in the village in the form of Dhabas.
For those who like to shop there is a Souvenir stall at the entrance of the Palace which sells Shey Palace collectables
in the form of mugs, caps, watches and t-shirts. The best way of getting to this Palace is by hiring a taxi from the town of Leh, since public transport is not very good.
Shey Palace and Monastery is a must-visit place while in the town of Leh. Shey is a place which has something to offer for all kinds of travellers.
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