Shey Palace

The Shey Monastery or Gompa and the Shey Palace complex are structures located on a hillock in Shey,15 kilometres (9.3 mi) to the south of Leh in Ladakh, northern India on the Leh-Manali road. Shey was the summer capital of Ladakh in the past. The palace, mostly in ruins now, was built first in 1655, near Shey village, by the king of Ladakh, Deldan Namgyal, also known as Lhachen Palgyigon. It was used as a summer retreat by the kings of Ladakh.

The Shey Monastery was also built in 1655 on the instructions of Deldon Namgyal, in the memory of his late father, Singay Namgyal, within the palace complex. The monastery is noted for its giant copper with gilded gold statue of a seated Shakyamuni Buddha. Shakyamuni Buddha is so named since Buddha was the sage (muni) of the Sakya people who resided in the Himalayan foothills and their capital was Kapilvastu. It is said to be the second largest such statue in Ladakh.

Shey was the old capital of the upper Ladakh region. When the Dogras of Jammu invaded Ladakh in 1842, the Namgyals abandoned the palace and fled to Stok (they made it their permanent residence) on the opposite side of the Indus River. It is conjectured that the fort found in ruins, not dated, above the present palace at Shey, belonged to this period of invasion. Subsequently when the political dictates necessitated shifting of the capital to Leh, even then the importance of Shey continued since it was a mandatory requirement of the Namgyal kings to father their heir apparent here. Shey Monastery is located in the upper Indus Valley, just 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) east of the modern capital of Ladakh, Leh. Zanskar range of hills are on its southern side in the fertile Indus River valley. It has an average elevation of 11,204 feet. Shey is located on the road from Leh to Thikse Monastery. A large number of monasteries, stupas and rock carvings can be seen on this road. It can be approached by trekking 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) from Thiksey and the path is known as: "for having Ladakh’s biggest chorten fields with hundreds of whitewashed shrines of varying sizes scattered across the desert landscape."

The nearest airport is at Leh. Special permission is essential to visit the monastery, as only one lama resides here and the inner sanctum is usually closed. On a lane, opposite to the Shey palace there is a hotel for visitors, which is surrounded by flowered gardens.