Archaeological Survey of India
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The Hemis monastic complex is located in the state of Jammu and Kashmir within the Ladakh region of the Western Himalayas, at an altitude of 12,000 feet making it one of the highest settlements of the world. Hemis gompa is believed to have been established in 1630 by Lama Tagstang Raspa and built by Palden Sara under the patronage of King Sengge Namgyal on a site previously sanctified by the construction of a cave hermitage dating from the 12th century. This monastery is the oldest one in the area belonging to the Kargyu school. The Gompa is a unique example of a monastic complex of this period which manifests in its structure the geomantic principles which underlie religious constructions of this type. In addition there are also examples of construction techniques and details which are not found elsewhere. The main building itself dates from 1630 when the Nyingma Lhakhang was constructed with a courtyard in front and the residence for the Rinpoche located some distance to the east. During the late 17th century and early 18th century, the main Gompa building reached its zenith with the construction of the Dukhang Chenmo or large assembly hall, its adiacent building, the main entrance to the Gompa building, the large courtyard and its enclosing gallery decoratod with painted stone reliefs. Architecturally thus the monastic complex is unique, not only because of its siting and its conceptualisation and constructon as a three dimensional 'mandala'; but because of its intrinsic design qualities including rare 17th century murals executed with a variety of pigments and gold paint.