Tashi Sumtsek

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 Lhachen Ngaklug (ལྷ་ཆེན་ངག་ལུག་) in a tiger year of the 12th century, only ruins remain. According an inscription, the Tashi Sumtsek of Wanla was erected at the centre of the castle by a certain Bhakdarskyap (འབྷག་དར་སྐྱབ་), the eldest son of a minister of an unnamed government. This occurred most probably in the late 13th or early 14th century, an otherwise 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 Avalokiteśvara flanked by 3.4 m high figures of Maitreya and Śākyamuni in the side niches. Today the Wanla Temple is named Chuchikzhal (བཅུ་གཅིག་ཞལ་, eleven-headed) after its main image, while in the inscription it is referred to as Tashi Sumtsek (བཀྲ་ཤིས་གསུམ་བརྩེགས་, auspicious three-storeyed). All the walls are covered with largely original murals. These paintings are among the earliest specimens of a Central Tibet-derived local style evidenced at several places in Ladakh (see 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.

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