Charang Monastery – The Oldest Monasteries in Kinnaur

Photo of Charang Monastery – The Oldest Monasteries in Kinnaur 1/1 by Neeraj Dhiman

Charang is a small village in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. It is the last village along the Indo-China Border. The ancient Rangrik Monastery is located in this village. Charang is situated at a height of about 3400m above sea level. The village offers a complete escape from the busy city life. No network coverage only two BSNL landline connections one in the village & the other one at the last ITBP Charang Post. The village has flourished under the blessings of the Rangrik Monastery.

Just beyond Charang is a temple of the eleventh century known as Rangrik Tungma complex. The temple takes its name from the goddess Rangrik Tungma and her small metal image, astride a horse, is the oldest at the temple. In all likelihood, Rangrik Tungma must have been a pre-Buddhist deity, absorbed into the pantheon of the later religion. Two other bronze statues appear to be of considerable value; a Maitreya seated with legs pendant, in bhadrasana and a Buddha in bhumisparsha mudra. The walls of the main hall are linked with clay idols, in the same style as the mandala in the dukhang at Tabo.

The wall paintings below are old although the wheel of life outside the door has been redone lately. There is also an interesting hoard of ivory and bone-handled knives and daggers at the temple. Many centuries ago, it is said a robber gang from across the Tibetan border raided the temple. The clay images of protective deities at the entrance set up a terrific noise, resembling the thundering hooves of galloping horses. The terrific robbers dropped their weapons and took off, running up the valley to vanish in the crevasses of the huge glaciers streaming down from the high peaks above.