Hemis Monastery is the largest monastic institution in Ladakh. It belongs to the Drukpa Lineage or the Dragon Order of Mahayana Buddhism, with His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa as its supreme spiritual head. Gyalwa Gotsangpa Gonpo Dorje (1189-1258), a main disciple of the 1st Gyalwang Drukpa, Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje (1161-1211), and one of the most celebrated yogis in the Himalayas, came to Ladakh in the 13th century and established the Drukpa Lineage here. Gyalwa Gotsangpa meditated in a cave on the edge of the mountain above Hemis Monastery, where a meditation centre named after him was established.
In the 17th century, the 1st Taktsang Repa, Ngawang Gyatso (1573-1651), popularly known as “Taktsang Shambunath” and also in Ladakhi language as “Staktsang Raspa”, who was another great Drukpa Lineage master, became the Royal Preceptor of the Kingdom of Ladakh and with the support of King Sengge Namgyal (1616-1645), he founded the Hemis Monastery. Taktsang Repa was sent by his gurus, the 5th Gyalwang Drukpa, Pagsam Wangpo (1593-1653), and the 1st Drukpa Yongdzin Rinpoche, Lhatsewa Ngawang Zangpo (1546-1615), to Ladakh in order to spread the teachings of Lord Buddha and to benefit the people here.
Taktsang Repa arrived in 1624 and founded Hanley Monastery, the first monastic institution belonging to the Drukpa Lineage. Two years later, Taktsang Repa arrived at Hemis and was received by King Sengge Namgyal and members of the Royal Court. The King had the abode known as Samten Ling, which is still intact, built at Hemis, where Taktsang Repa preached for many years. Taktsang Repa's arrival resulted in the flourishing of the Drukpa Lineage in Ladakh and neighbouring Himalayan regions. He and his successive reincarnations became the spiritual gurus of Ladakhi Kings and their people.
The 2nd Taktsang Repa took the great grandson of King Deden Namgyal, Prince Mipham Tsewang Thrinley Tenzin Migyur Dorje, popularly known as Gyalsey Rinpoche, under his care and gave him the basic spiritual education. Gyalsey Rinpoche later went to Tibet to receive his full ordination vows and spiritual trainings from many great masters. The Annual Hemis Festival that takes place on the 10th and 11th day of the 5th Lunar Calendar was introduced by Gyalsey Rinpoche.
Hemis has more than 200 branch monasteries in the Himalayas and more than 1,000 monks under its care. It is an important living monument and heritage of Himalayas and its people.