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Tashilhunpo Monastery, Tibet

Tashilhunpo Monastery

Tashilhunpo Monastery is located in Shigatse around 250 km away from Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. Situated on the foot of Drolmari, the structure is one of the six huge monasteries of Gelugpa in Tibet which was built by First Dalai Lama in the year 1447. It stands on a whooping area of around 300,000 square meters and was also a seat of the Panchen Lama for hundreds of years who is considered to be the second most important religious leader of Tibet. Tashilhunpo Monastery has become a prominent landmark in Shigatse, which is the second largest city in Tibet.

The Tashilhunpo Monastery was founded by Gedun Drub who was later named as the first Dalai Lama. He was also the nephew and follower of the legendary Buddhist Philospher Je Tsongkhapa. The massive scale renovation of the monastery was started by the fourth Panchen Lama and was carried on by successive Lamas. In the year 1791, the monastery was attacked and looted by a

Tashilhunpo Monastery Tibet

Nepalese Gurkha warrior who was later ousted by the Chinese who were expanding there power over entire Tibet. When the monastery was at its most active, there were more than 4000 monks and 4 tantric colleges with their own abbot. In 1960, the Chinese attacked the monastery in the absence of the Pachen Lama and gained control over it, though not much destruction was done inside the monastery. In 1972, by the order of the 14th Dalai Lama, the Tashilhunpo Monastery was re-established in Karnataka, the southern state of India. From early 1980's, entry to the general public has been allowed, although one cannot visit all the parts of the monastery, but still Tashilhunpo Monastery has become an important tourist destination in Tibet.

There is too much to see and admire in this magnificent Tashilhunpo Monastery. As you enter the monastery, you will find a wall overlooking the monastery, which was build by the order of the first Dalai Lama in the year 1468. The monastery witnesses the largest number of visitors during the Buddha Thangka display festival which is held on every 14, 15 and 16 of May according to Tibetan calendar. On this day, the wall displays images of Lord Buddha. And when looking the monastery, from entry you will see the mighty building with white walls and shining golden roof. In the west side, the Maitreya Chapel holds the biggest statue of a sitting Maitreya Buddha, almost 86 feet in height, well decorated with gold, diamond, pearl and every other rare stone that you can think of. It is spellbinding to know that it is purely handcrafted by around 900 craftsmen and took more than 9 years in its construction. From the other higher levels of the Chapel, you can clearly see and appreciate the Lord's monolith. The other attraction of the monastery is the Stupa of the tenth Panchen Lama. It lies east of the chapel and is covered with 614 kgs. of gold and innumerable number of jewels and precious stones. From the top floor, you will get the best view of the statue.

The another significant building in Tashilhunpo is the Kelsang Temple. It is one of the oldest and biggest buildings in Tashilhunpo. It is a colossal compound. It has a Main Chanting Hall where the lamas learn the sutras and listen to the Panchen Lama's sermon. On the back end of the hall lies a 5 meters (16 ft) high statue of Sakyamuni. It is said that a part of Sakyamuni's relics were placed in it. There are two chapels situated on both sides of the Main Chanting Hall. The left one is devoted to Tara, the goddess who is believed to be the avatar of Avalokitesvara. The chapel contains the statues of White Tara (which is seated in the middle) and two Green Taras on each side. The right chapel is devoted to Maitreya Buddha. The chapel houses the statutes of Maitreya Buddha, the Avalokitesvara and Bodhisattva Manjusri. The Great Courtyard of the Kelsang Temple is used by the lamas for practice and debate. Thousands of images of Sakyamuni in different postures and expressions cover the wall around the courtyard.

Near to the stupa there is the Panchen Lama's palace which is still not open to visitors. To the east of the palace, there is a stupa of the fourth Panchen Lama. This stupa is also completely covered with gold and silver. Apart from these grand palaces and stupas, the paintings adorn the walls of this monastery.

The monastery is open from 8 to 12 AM in the morning and later reopened at 2 PM till 4 PM in the evening. There is only small entry charge. During festivals like Tibetan New Year and Dancing Deity festival, you can enter the monastery without any charge. If you just want to explore the entire monastery, it will take around 3 hrs that is how big this temple of worship is. But if you want to completely relish this opportunity, then you must keep at least half a day in your hand.


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