Child Monks of the Himalayas

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India-based Irish photographer Cathal McNaughton shows his images of boy monks who live in the 15th-Century Thiksey monastery near Leh in Ladakh. Published on BBC on 9 January 2016.

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High in the Himalayas, young novice monks in maroon robes take their lessons in the 15th-Century Thiksey monastery near Leh in Ladakh – known as the land of high passes – in Indian-administered Kashmir, disputed territory between India and Pakistan.

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With its whitewashed ramparts sitting over 3,000m high on a rocky crag, with breathtaking views across the Indus Valley to the mountains beyond, Thiksey is home to a monastic community affiliated with the “yellow hat” or Gelukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.


Tibetan Buddhism is a religion in exile, forced from its homeland when Tibet was conquered by the Chinese. Many Tibetan families in India send at least one child to a monastery to learn about their own culture, language and religion.


Visual aids to understanding are very common in Tibetan Buddhism – pictures, structures of various sorts and public prayer wheels and flags provide an ever-present reminder of the spiritual domain in the physical world.



Buddhism is a tradition that focuses on personal spiritual development. Buddhists strive for a deep insight into the true nature of life and do not worship gods or deities.



All photographs by Cathal McNaughton / Reuters

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