Wanla

Wanla is a village in Lower Ladakh located at the confluence of two streams in a side valley between Khaltse and Lamayuru. The village houses are sited on the slopes around a prominent rock hill that once boasted an impressive castle but is today dominated by the lofty structure of the three-storeyed Wanla temple. Of the castle, which was founded by the Ladakhi King lHa-chen Ngag-lug in a tiger year of the 12th century, only ruins remain. According an inscription, the Wanla temple was erected at the centre of the castle by a certain ’Bhag-dar-skyab, the eldest son of a minister of an unnamed government. This occurred most probably in the late 13th or early 14th century, an otherwise completely obscure period of Ladakh’s history.

The Wanla temple contains three niches with large standing clay sculptures at the back (south) and the sides; an approximately 5 m high main image of an eleven-headed Avalokiteshvara flanked by 3.4 m high figures of Maitreya and Shakyamuni in the side niches. Today the Wanla Temple is called Chuchigzhal (bCu-gcig-zhal, Eleven-headed) after the main image, while in the inscription it is referred to as TashiSumtsek (bKra-shis-gsum-brtsegs, Auspicious Three-storeyed). All the walls are covered with largely original murals, which are mostly almost invisible due to a thick coating of soot. These paintings are among the earliest specimens of a Central Tibetan-derived local style evidenced at several places in Ladakh (cf. the paintings of the Alchi Shangrong chörten). The bases and capitals of the pillars, the brackets, as well as the veranda and the door are decorated with original woodcarvings.

Literature
  • Kozicz, Gerald (2002) "The Wanla Temple.” In: Buddhist Art and Tibetan Patronage Ninth to Fourteenth Centuries, edited by Deborah E. Klimburg-Salter & Eva Allinger. PIATS 2000: Proceedings of the Ninth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Leiden 2000, edited by Henk Blezer, Vol. 2 of 7. Leiden, Brill: 127–136.
  • Luczanits, Christian (2002) “The Wanla Bkra shis gsum brtsegs.” In: Buddhist Art and Tibetan Patronage Ninth to Fourteenth Centuries, edited by Deborah E. Klimburg-Salter & Eva Allinger. PIATS 2000: Proceedings of the Ninth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Leiden 2000, edited by Henk Blezer, Vol. 2 of 7. Leiden, Brill: 115–25.