Basgo is, of course, known for its castle ruin and the adjoining three royal temples, all dedicated to the Bodhisattva Maitreya, spectacularly located on the rocks above the village (see the images of  ◊ Basgo). Besides those later monuments the Basgo area preserves a number of structures going back to the 11th and 13th centuries, and two of these are documented here, namely an

11th Century Ruin

The oldest remnant of Buddhism in Basgo is probably a ruin located on the plain that Basgo shares with Nimmu. Less than 100 meters besides the road the ruin, noted by A.H. Francke (1914:xxv,b) already, is easily accessible. On the interior walls the remnants of the halos and plugholes that once bore clay images allow not only the identification of the main topic of the ruin, a Vajradhātumahāmaṇḍala, but also the suggestion of an approximate date for the ruin, namely the mid-11th century (◊ Basgo 11th Century Ruin).

As in the Tabo Main Temple, the central Vairocana with the four accompanying goddesses must have occupied a throne in the centre of the room. On the back wall, two Buddhas are each accompanied by four attendant Bodhisattvas, and four offering goddesses have been placed between them, the different deities clearly differentiated by the respective size of their halos. On the side walls, the central Buddha, seated on a more elaborate throne base, is flanked by four attendant Bodhisattvas with a further two goddesses above and two gatekeepers below.

Distribution of the former sculptures in the 11th century ruin of Basgo; J = Jina, BS = Bodhisattva, G = Goddess, P = Protector (gate-keeper).

The full modelling of the circular halos and their relationship to the pegs that once held the figures compares best to the mid-11th century sculptures of the Tabo Assembly Hall. The upper peg holding the image is placed in the centre of the halo, and the lower peg just at its bottom edge. Below that, two separate pegs once held the lotuses of the secondary images. In the case of the esoteric Buddhas, six pegs in two parallel rows of three held a more elaborate throne that included their vehicles (compare the mounting of the Tabo Assembly Hall sculptures).

  • Francke, August Hermann (1914 / repr. 1992) Antiquities of Indian Tibet, Part I: Personal Narrative. Archaeological Survey of India, New Imperial Series, Vol. 38. Calcutta / New Delhi, Archaeological Survey of India / Asian Educational Services.
  • Luczanits, Christian. Buddhist Sculpture in Clay: Early Western Himalayan Art, late 10th to early 13th centuries. Chicago: Serindia, 2004.
  • Luczanits, Christian. "The Early Buddhist Heritage of Ladakh Reconsidered." In Ladakhi Histories. Local and Regional Perspectives, edited by John Bray, 65-96. Leiden: Brill, 2005.

Passage Chörten

At the foot of the rock on which the more famous Basgo temples and the castle are located is an interesting passage chörten. This chörten as well as a fragmentary second one once marked the way up to the temples. On the basis of the paintings in it's interior, in particular the ceiling, the large Basgo passage chörten can be attributed to the middle of the 13th century. The exterior of the Chörten has recently been restored, distorting the more complex original shape of the many auspicious doors type (◊ Basgo Passage Chörten).