Lamayuru (བླ་མ་གཡུང་དྲུང་དགོན་པ་), situated at an altitude of 2957m, 127kms west of Leh on Leh-Srinagar highway. Lamayuru is also called as Gyung Drung, after the Ladakhi word for the swastika.
History: Alchi is known to be the oldest monastery in Ladakh. However, Lamayuru is the oldest one still being worshiped in. It possibly became a Buddhist Monastery in 10th century AD, apparently at the behest of Lama Mahasidh Narop. Some say that the great 11th century Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo was the one who constructed a temple here. Close to the monastery are the remains of some truly ancient chortens, as well as some ruins that possibly were Bon temples.
The Yuru gompa was founded before Ladakhi-Tibetan Buddhism split into sects. Therefore, it is one of the half dozen gompas that originally belonged to no sect at all. The Ka Dam Pa sect was the first to control it. Later the Dri Gung Pa sect took the gompa over, and continues to do so.
How the gompa was founded: The Lamayuru area used to be one big lake. A great saint called Nimagung came here and predicted that a major gompa would one day be established where he stood. He then prayed and offered grains of corn to the spirits of Nag Snakes. When the grains fell on the ground they formed a swastika. Hence, the monastery’s name.
Layout: The Lamayuru monastery contains caves carved into the mountainside. It overlooks a valley. The hill it sits on faces ancient glacial remains. This makes Lamayuru the most photogenic and spectacular gompa in Ladakh. There is reason to believe that there once was a lake at this site, which emerged after the lake got drained off.
Location: The monastery is located quite conveniently on the Srinagar-Leh national highway. It has been built on a rock.
Inside: There are fine carpets in some of the rooms. Small, colorful tables, thanka scrolls and tiny lamps are among its other treasures.