Halji Monastery is one of the oldest and hidden heritage sites in the north- west part of Nepal. It is a six days walk from Simikot to Halji village. Halji village lies to the north of the trekking trail leading to the village of Jang and is linked with the approach road to the village. There are a number of gateways chhortens and Mani walls on the way to the village. The village settlement consists of 85 houses and 400 inhabitants live there. The monastery is a three storied rectangular structure planned around a courtyard. The courtyard is the centre for communal gatherings, ritual dances and festivals. In the western wing there is a big hall named as Ba Khang which is a store for the traditional dresses, mattresses and weapons used in traditional dances. The eastern wing of the monastery is the main kitchen usually used for communal cooking.
The Monastery is located in the middle of the village of Halji, one of the three villages in the Limi Valley. It is situated at an altitude of 3600 meters above sea level. It is the largest of the three monasteries in the valley. The village has a beautiful setting on the bank of the Limi River surrounded by the hills with farmland to the south. It is about three hours walk to the southeast and the village of the Jang is also three hours walk to the northwest.
The Elalji monastery, known also as Rinclicnling Gompa, is said to have been built during the reign of one of the Sinjali kings (1327 A.D.- 1391 A.D.). Monks from the monastery relate that Gompa was built at the same time as Thuling Gompa in Ghuki Village in Tibet. A pilgrim’s guide to the Tise region reports that the Dri-gung Lama Spyan-Snga was given Limit by one of the Malla Kings (circa thirteenth century). According to local informants, one of the Malla kings from Sinja sponsored the Gompa construction and people Srom Jang, Halji and Til village built it with the help of the people from Mugu.
The monastery belongs to the Dri- gung Ka gelugpa sect. It has for centuries been the religious and cultural centre for the inhabitants of the Limi Valley. Local people of the village accept that the Gompa is a protector of three villages in the valley and believe that they could not have been there without the monastery. People from the village visit the monastery and offer scarf, butter lamps and money for the blessing of good health and prosperity when they are away from the village. Each year, boys from the village go to India in winter in search of work and at that time a communal puja is performed once a week for family members in India.
When people get sick, they pay their visit to the monastery and pray for their recovery. Before and after marriage people visit the monastery and offer something in the hope of a happy marriage. When someone dies in the family, a puja is formed by the Lamas and members of the family for the betterment and rebirth of the deceased. Besides these occasional offerings, worships and regular Kanso Puja by Lamas, the following ceremonies are performed during a year
1. The Second Tibetan Month ( March )
1st to 15th ( Kanjurs are read by the Lamas )
2. The 10th Tibetan Month ( November )
25th to 29th
3. The 12th Tibetan Month ( December )
9th to 26th Rimju Pooja
27th to 29th Ritual Dance
The monastery is rich in masks, which are used during the traditional dances. In Kanjur Room, there is a specially designed shelf for the storage of masks but due to the problem mice are not being used. Masks are hung on the walls and columns. Tile library has a beautiful bookshelf, very rich in carving, which holds 108 volumes of the Kanjurs. All the internal walls on the ground floor except, for the Dining Room and the kitchen, are unplastered because they serve as storage areas. The Dining Room is internally plastered with a thick coat of mud and is blue washed which gives a good background for the colorful images of the divinities and is very impressive.
The external plastering towards the courtyard is simple, but there is no plaster on the peripheral walls of the monastery, which have exposed stone surfaces. The first floor rooms are on both sides plastered, as they are significant. GonKhang and Tshog-Khang have specially prepared mud plaster on the walls for their murals. Tllc Zimchung on both the first and second floor and the other rooms at the top are also plastered with mud.
The main divinities are all made of clay and it is said that they were molded and painted at the limc of the Gompa’s construction. All the paintings of the images except in the Dining Room are said to be original. Following the tradition, the images in the Dining Room were repainted last year. Basically the main structural walls are constructed of random rubble stone masonry set on a very thin layer of mud mortar; in some places on the first floor there are some sun dried mud brick walls, which act as structural walls.
The Mani Lha-khang is a village temple and is run separately by the local people. It consists of the vestibule and a Mani room, which houses a large Matic (Prayer wheel), 2 meters in diameters. The room contains images of Guru Rinpoche, Chyaranji, Chanting Chengtong (Avalokitesvara) and Sakyamuni. The vestibule has six small prayer wheels. The western part of the Lha-khang has three rooms: a kitchen, a preparation room and a store and are used during certain ceremonies.
The present condition of the monastery needs an urgent repair. In essence, the major area of concern is the poor state of the roof, which is leaking in many places and is, in certain parts, structurally weak. Although all the roof structures of the northern wing of the complex have been repaired in different times, there is still leakage problem in all the rooms on the top floor which not only caused damage to the wall surfaces but also to the valuable paintings on the walls in the Tshong- Khang. The plaster on the interior walls in most of the monk cells is falling off. The toilets for the monks are of open type and are used in communal practice, with no protection from the rain, thus causing environmental degradation.
Halji Gompa is a place of great beauty and it exudes a sense of peace and tranquility. The Gompa requires significant repair and, because of its great historical significance, deserves to be revitalized. Similarly, reestablished as a meaningful religious center. The people from Limi Valley have requested that suitable year round accommodation. Moreover, it is provided to ensure stability and obviate the need for a general exodus to monasteries. Halji Gompa could succeed as one of the monastic communities to revive this trend and to reactivate Buddhist ritual in the west Nepal Himalaya.
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