The Hemis Gompa is the biggest and the most famous Gompa of Ladakh. As one climbs up the hillside, the Gompa becomes visible and one notices that the walls are made of stone, painted white. The windows, which are fringed with colored frills for curtains on the outside, are latticed in a Tibetan design and painted in bright, simple patterns. This painting is on every piece of wood both inside and outside the structure. The gates are carved from wood, with a cutout border, and painted a canary yellow. The dome is square, painted with intricate designs from the life of Buddha, and surmounted with tops in gold leaf.
Hemis Gompa - a Front Look
In front of all the idols are many rows of small brass bowls, each filled with water. Before the altar are cushioned seats for the lama in constant attendance on the spirit of the Buddha. The walls are lined with carved and painted pigeon holes, each holding the manuscript of a scripture. These manuscripts are made of two boards joined together by a cloth, which holds the handwritten parchment..
Hemis Gompa - An Inner Look
Inside the Gompa it is dark and one's eyes take time to adjust to the shade. At the far end is an altar on which there are numerous tiny carved idols arranged in rows before a glass case containing a life size idol of the Buddha. This is carved in wood and painted gold with a background of lotus flowers.
Hemis Gompa - An Outer Look
Outside lies the sunlit courtyard, polished like a terrace above the village. A path leads down with prayer flags in either side through a sloping meadow. At each end of this path stands a chorten, a stone monument often to be found near monasteries and other holy places throughout the country. Chortens have a special structure: a cube at the base, signifying water; next a cone, strangely interpreted as fire; and the top crowned with a crescent and a circle of gilded wood which stands for "air".
Hemis Gompa -
Description of Walls
Between these chortens and surrounded by prayer flags runs a "mane wall". This wall of stone is about 120 ft long, two and a half feet wide and two and a half feet tall. It contains the usual carved and pointed stones bearing the formula "Om Mane Padme Hum" which means "bless the gem in the lotus". On the painted walls of the prayer wheel house are hung painted tankas depicting incidents in the life of Buddha. The walls themselves are adorned with a riot of colors and designs in which warlike and religious scenes can be distinguished. It is an impression of the Buddhist heaven and hell.