Tabo monastery, founded in 996 AD, is one of the most pious, biggest and oldest surviving Buddhist establishment in the Trans-Himalayas with its original decoration and iconographic program intact. Tabo Monastery is also referred to as the Ajanta of the Himalayas with a complex that holds nine temples, 23 chortens, a monks’ chamber and an extension that houses the nuns chamber. The monastery’s importance can be judged from the fact that its significance is second only to the Tholing Gompa in Tibet in the entire Himalayan region.
The monastery’s complex has nine temples built between the late 10th and the 17th century. The monastery has temples of Tug-Lha-Khang (The Temple of the Enlightened Gods), Ser-Khang (The Golden Temple), Dkyil-Khor-Khang (The Mystic Mandala Temple) and Brom-ston Lha khang (The Temple of Dromton) are the few very important to name. Tabo is famous for its exquisite murals and stucco sculptures which bear a striking resemblance with the paintings and sculpture in the Ajanta caves. The monastery also treasures some centuries old paintings which are not allowed to be photographed. Above the monastery, there are a number of caves carved into the cliff face used by monks for meditation.
The unique beauty of its art and its pivotal historical role in the transmission of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and culture in the 10th and 11th century makes Tabo Monastery an historically significant site. The main temple preserves an extraordinary wealth of documentation of the history and culture of the period.
In 1996, Tabo attracted national and international attention when His Holiness the Dalai Lama celebrated Tabo Monastery’s millenium anniversary with a two week event of teachings and the Kalachakra initiation. His Holiness the Dalai Lama occupied the throne in the Main Temple for the opening ritual of the Kalachakra initiation. Attended by 26,000 pilgrims, the event transformed the village Tabo into a tourist destination.
The Serkong School was established by Tabo Monastery on 29 May 1999 (Serkong Tsenshap Rinpoche’s 15th birthday). On that day each year, the students and teachers celebrate both the school’s anniversary and Rinpoche’s birthday. Tabo Monastery is involved in the management of Serkong School.