Tucked away under a flyover near the busy Kashmere Gate ISBT is the Monastery Market. The blink-and-you-miss-it gate leading to this little Tibetan colony is marked only by a couple of signboards, but there is much to explore inside.
As you enter the Monastery Market, you are met with two rows of small shops leading till as far the eye goes. This is the outer side of the market, which is famed for its stock of jackets and woollens available in winter. You might still find a few pieces of knitwear here and there in the warmer months, but the shops usually sell printed shirts, denims and pyjamas in the summer. The market also has a larger shopping complex besides the outlets outside, and you can find a tailor or two in there in case your new clothes need a quick stitch in time. Although the market seems to cater mostly to the gents (with shoes, belts and watches up for grabs too), women can choose from a variety of T-shirts and cute backpacks that a few of the shops keep.
Adjacent to the market is the monastery it is named after. Take the lane to the left from the market gate and you will find the Ladakh Buddhist Vihara complex. The monastery stands in the middle of a leafy park-like area, with residential buildings on one side and a guesthouse and the market on the other. Inside the monastery is a small yet beautiful shrine with a striking idol of Lord Buddha, a prayer hall and a couple of time-worn Buddhist paintings. A plaque outside the monastery gives visitors a concise history of the place, informing them how the complex was constructed by Ladakhi Buddhists and inaugurated by the then Prime Minister, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in 1963.
The colony also has a few food joints, so if you tire yourself out during a shopping spree, you can recover over a round of fried momos. You will find all the Tibetan basics – right from thukpas, tingmo and aloo phingsha – and more at this neat little restaurant called Zomsa, which is located right next to the monastery entrance.
Another point of interest which lies just beyond the colony, on the other side of a tiny unmarked gate at the end of the market is the Yamuna bank. The Monastery Market also sits on the banks of the Yamuna (like Majnu ka Tila/New Aruna Nagar does – which is less than 3 kms away), and has a way which leads to the river. Although there isn’t much to write home about here, the river bank holds its own charm, with its few grazing cows and sunburnt prayer flags.
The nearest metro stations are Kashmere Gate and Civil Lines on the Yellow Line. Take an auto from either of these places to reach the Monastery Market. The market stays closed on Tuesdays, and the restaurants do not serve non-vegetarian food on Wednesdays. On every other day, the place is ideal for shopping on a budget, following it up with a plate of steaming momos, and enjoying a moment of peace at the monastery.
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