Gangon Tashi Chodzong (sgang sngon bkra shis chos rdzong), popularly known as Phyang Monastery is situated at a distance of approximately 20 km to the west of Leh, the district capital of Ladakh. The name of the monastery is derived from the blue mountain (Gang Ngonpo) behind the monastery. It was established by Choje Denma Kunga Drakpa in the 16th century with the sponsorship of his disciple Chogyal Tashi Namgyal, the 21st Dharma King of Ladakh. The site where the monastery now stands was once a part of the numerous monastic properties, offered during the time of King Tashi Namgyal to Denma Kunga Drakpa.
According to legend, in search for a place to build a monastery, Denma Kunga Drakpa came to the area of Phyang where he set up his tent on a field, contemplating the beautiful surroundings.
He was especially intrigued by a hill, revealing three different animal shapes. While meditating he had a vision of the protectress Achi on her blue horse. He interpreted this as an auspicious sign and decided to build the monastery on top of the hill. Later a rosebush sprouted and grew on the hill which can be seen inside the monastery to this day. The monastery has been served by a succession of Chojes appointed directly by the Drikung Kyabgons.
Presently, it is headed by Kyabje Togden Rinpoche, the 33rd Drikung Choje of Ladakh. There are a number of sacred shrines situated inside the monastery complex. Also, there are a number of exquisite wall paintings, dating from the royal period, adorning the monastery. Phyang’s oldest temple is the Gomkhang (Mahakala Temple). It was built and painted at the time of the founding of the monastery in the 16th century. The exquisite old murals show Mahakala and other protector deities.
Gangon Tashi Chodzong monastery also houses a collection of masterly painted old thangkas and statues, extremely precious for the iconography of the Drikung tradition. These cultural treasures have recently been documented in the beautiful book Hidden Treasures from Ladakh published by Otter Verlag.
Phyang Monastery became the primary and most influential center of the Drikungpa mission in Ladakh until the present time. His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang made his residence at Phyang Monastery after escaping from Tibet and before the DKI was established at Dhera Dun, India. There are more than 100 resident monks in Phyang at present. At Phyang Monastery, Ratnashri School was founded to provide the younger monks with Buddhist and modern education. Classes offered include Tibetan, English, Hindi, mathematics, and the monastery’s ritual prayers.