In Pictures

In pictures: Child monks of the Himalayas

Young monks take a break from their studies inside Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh, India. Image copyright Cathal McNaughton/REUTERS

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.

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.

Prayer flags fly at Namgyal Tsemo Monastery above the town of Leh in Ladakh, India. Image copyright Cathal McNaughton/REUTERS
Young monks take a break from their studies inside Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh, India. Image copyright Cathal McNaughton/REUTERS

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.

Young monks take a break from their studies inside Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh, India. Image copyright Cathal McNaughton/REUTERS
A young Buddhist monk stands inside Thiksey monastery, Ladakh, India. Image copyright Cathal McNaughton/REUTERS
A Maitreya Buddha is seen at Thiskey Monastery near the town of Leh in Ladakh, India Image copyright Cathal McNaughton/REUTERS

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.

Young monks are seen at their school inside Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh, India Image copyright Cathal McNaughton/REUTERS

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.

A young monk runs during a break from his studies inside Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh, India. Image copyright Cathal McNaughton/REUTERS
A young monk plays during a break from his studies inside Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh, India. Image copyright Cathal McNaughton/REUTERS

All photographs by Cathal McNaughton / Reuters