The Hill Temple: Key Monastery, Himachal Pradesh
A three-hour drive from Kaza along NH21 and one will reach the hill monastery of Key which has a very unique location. The monastery being situated on a hill is easily visible from the town of Kaza. Key monastery is at a height of 13,668 feet above sea level and is a place worth visiting while in the Spiti Valley.
Key Monastery has no accommodation which is unlike most of the other monasteries in the Spiti, the reason for it is the fact that the monastery is a training center for over 200 monks and nuns. Vehicles are not allowed to the foot of the temple so one has to walk for almost one kilometer.
The entrance to the monetary has many prayer flags that lead to its huge entrance. Key monastery is always flooded with people both local and foreign. Many backpackers come to this place before they start their trip to the far ends of the valley.
The monks at the monastery are very friendly and a few of them can speak very good English that they have picked up from the crowd of backpackers that come here from all over the world. Prayers are conducted twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. If you are lucky to reach the temple when the prayers are going on then you are allowed to sit in the temple while the monks pray.
Befriending a monk in Key monastery is very useful as they give you a detailed tour of the monastery as the place has many locked doors and closed rooms with inscription in Tibetan which not many people will understand like the Kutungh which is called a bedroom. It is reserved for the Dalai Lama and is kept closed in his absence.
Built-in the mid-1800s, Key Monastery has very narrow steps. These take you up the monastery building which is badly lit as they rely a lot on natural lighting. There is a shop in the monastery which sells a host of religious articles like incense, prayer books and even monk clothing. Tea is served in the veranda outside the temple for everyone who comes to visit. The Locals from Spiti Valley make the trip to Key Monastery by public bus that ply twice in the morning and twice in the evening from Kaza to Key Monastery.
Fairs are held in the monastery during the months of July and September where monks perform songs and dance; this attracts people from all over Spiti valley and backpackers from all around the world.
Key Monastery is truly a place where one can feel peace, calm and serenity from the minute they enter the steps leading to the monastery.
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