Spituk gompa was built about 550 years ago by Gyalpo Bumide, although one temple, dedicated to Mahakala was built about 900 years ago. The Spitok is probably derived from the Central Tibetan language and means "Effective as an Example", referring to the fact that this was the Tibetans' first monastery in Ladakh. Spituk gompa contains both old temples and those built in the 1970s. Ancient thankas are preserved here, some having been taken from the Potala Palace and Lhasa after the Chinese invaded. Some 125 yellow-hat sect lamas are considered Spituk lamas, but at least half of them live and pray at Spitok's dependent monasteries at Sankar, Stok and Sabu. All the lamas gather together for a major festival. The head lama of Spituk is also the head Lama for Ladakh and represents Ladakh has been India's serving ambassador to Mongolia and was also a member of Parliament. After ascending and descending several flights of stair, one is in the main courtyard. It is here that Spitok's main festival, the Spitok Gurstor, is celebrated in mid-winter. Masked dances take place here, ending with the sacrificial destruction of a cake. Hence, the festival is known as the Spitok Festival of the Sacrifice of the 29th Day. The festival takes place on the 28th and 29th days of the 11th month of the Tibetan calendar. The monastery also has a statue of Kali whose face is covered throughout the year but displayed to the public for one day during the festival. Steep steps leading from the main courtyard lead to the Dukhang or main temple. The walls both inside and outside the entryway have pictures of fierce protecting deities. Inside the Dukhang are five rows of low seats for the lamas and a high throne at the far end, reserved for the Dalai Lama, although he has only made one visit here since leaving Tibet in 1959. Behind the throne are manifestations of Lord Buddha. On both side walls of the Dukhang are Buddhist canonical texts.
Beside the central throne are doors leading to a low dark chapel behind. In a central position are images of Tsong-kha-pa, founder of the yellow-hat sect of Buddhism and his two chief disciples as well as an image of the Buddha. On the left is an image of Tara the Saviouress and consort of Avalokitesvara, and on the right are statues of previous head lamas. From the main courtyard one can reach another smaller courtyard that is in front of the Chikhang temple, another assembly hall similar to the Dukhang. This temple was built around 1960 and contains beautiful murals on all the walls. The room is dominated by a statue of Sakyamuni, the Historical Buddha. To the right is a statue of the 11 headed Avalokitesvara, the "Lord of All He Surveys" and analogous to the Hindu god Shiva. A small room behind the Buddha statue is dedicated to a guardian divinity whose image remains covered all year, except for one day during Spituk's winter festival. The new Chokhang temple is several levels above the Dukhang courtyard. It is here that funeral ceremonies take place. The central large statue is of Sakyamuni. To the left of the Buddha is a statue of Padme Sambhava, an 8th century Indian Buddhist scholar who translated the Buddhist texts into Tibetan from their original languages of Pali and Sanskrit. To the right is a statue of the goddess Tara. The temple also contains many exquisite thankas, some quite new. Diagonally opposite the Chokhang and on the same level is a small temple called Dolma Lokhang which is devoted to Tara (Dolma in Ladakh). In this temple are 21 beautiful statues of Tara, representing her different forms. The gilded clay figure on a horse represents the King of Ladakh, Shukdan. Next to the temple is the head lama's private apartment.
The largest temple, standing above the other temples near the crest of the rocks is the Gonkhang. Although another name for this temple is Kali Mata, the temple is not dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, but rather to Mahakala, the fiercest Buddhist guardian divinity. Together with the image of Mahakala are the images of other fierce guardians: the "Six-Armed One"a form of Mahakala, the White Guardian, the Brother and Sister, Khyitra on his dog and the Goddess on her horse. The last one is derived from the Hindu goddess Kali who entered the Buddhist pantheon of gods in a minor capacity. The images of Mahakala and the six-armed form of Mahakala are carved from black stone and are very old. In order to clearly see the images in this dimly lit temple, it is necessary to bring a very strong flashlight.