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Attraction of Tibet

Jokhang Square, the approach to the complex taken by most tourists today

LHASA TIBET 

Surrounded by colossal mountain ranges in southwestern China, the city of Lhasa ("Place of the Buddhas ") is the spiritual heart  of the Tibetan world. Every Tibetan Buddhist aims to visit Lhasa at least once in his or her lifetime. Lhasa rose to prominence following the founding of three large Gelugpa monasteries by Tsong-kha-pa and his disciples in the 15th century. Two centuries later, the Fifth Dalai Lama, Lobsang Gyatso (1617–1682) moved to Lhasa and began construction on the Potala Palace.  Today, although most of the temples and monasteries of Lhasa remain active and visited by throngs of Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims,   Over 1 million visitors come to Tibet each year. Lhasa tourists and pilgrims alike spend most of their time in the Tibetan Quarter, also known as the Barkhor District, which centers on the sacred Jokhang Temple.

 It is the second most populous city on the Tibetan plateau, after Xining , and at an altitude of 3,490 metres (11,450 ft), Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world. The city contains many culturally significant Tibetan buddhist  sites such as the Potala palace, Jokhang temple and  Norbulingka palaces.

POTALA PALACE

The  Potala palace  in Lhasa was the primary residence of the Dalai Lamas. Today the Potala Palace is a state museum, a popular tourist attraction, and a UNESCO World Heritage site ,It was also recently named one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World" by the television show Good Morning America and the newspaper USA Today.

History

This hilltop site above the city of Lhasa originally hosted the meditation retreat of King Songtsen Gampo, who built the first palace there in 637 in order to greet his bride Princess Wencheng of China.

Construction of the present palace began in 1645 under the fifth Dalai Lama, Lobsang Gyatso, an important figure in Tibetan history. Known as the "Great Fifth," he unified Tibet and made the Yellow Hat sect the state religion. The White Palace was completed in 1648, after which it was used as winter quarters by the Dalai Lama.

Construction on the Red Palace was still underway when the Great Fifth died in 1682. Fearing the project would be abandoned, the monks kept his death a secret for 10 years until the Red Palace was completed. In the meantime, the Dalai Lama was impersonated by a monk who looked most like him.

What to See

Built on a rocky hill overlooking the city of Lhasa, the Potala Palace has a sturdy fortress-like appearance. It contains more than a thousand rooms spreading over an area of 1,300 feet by 1,000 feet. The stone walls are 16 feet thick at the base, but more finely constructed (without the use of nails) in the upper stories.

The palace is fronted by a great plaza at the south base of the rock, enclosed by walls and gates. A series of fairly easy staircases, broken by intervals of gentle ascent, leads to the summit of the rock. It is important to become acclimated to the high altitude of Lhasa before making the climb.

The Potala Palace is made of two main parts, easily distinguished by their color: the Red Palace and White Palace. The two are joined by a smaller, yellow-painted structure that houses the sacred banners hung on the exterior for the New Year festivals. The rooms inside the palace are identified by numbers as well as names.

Red Palace

The heart of the complex is the Red Palace (Potrang Marpo), painted a deep red and used primarily for religious purposes. Richly decorated with painting, jewelled work, carving and other ornament, it contains several shrines and the tombs of eight past Dalai Lamas. Before the tombs are precious votive offerings, including a pagoda made of 200,000 pearls.

Especially celebrated throughout the Red Palace is the fifth Dalai Lama, whose life story is depicted in murals. His mummified body rests inside a 50-foot stupa covered with four tons of gold and encrusted with semi-precious stones. In another chapel he is shown enthroned as an equal to the Buddha. Also impressive is the golden tomb-stupa of the last Dalai Lama (d. 1933).

The Red Palace also houses the monks' assembly hall, numerous chapels and shrines (dedicated to the full extent of Tibet's pantheon of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, saints and demons) and libraries of important Tibetan Buddhist scriptures (theKangyur in 108 volumes and the Tengyur in 225, all hand-painted from carved wooden blocks).

White Palace

Surrounding the Red Palace is the secular White Palace (Potrang Karpo), the former home of the Dalai Lama and his monks. Originally built in the 1650s, it was extended to its present size by the 13th Dalai Lama in the early 1900s. In addition to monastic living quarters, the White Palace contained offices, the seminary for training and the printing house.

The most important shrine in the Potala is the Saint's Chapel in the White Palace, which contains a revered statue of Chenrezi, bodhisattva of compassion. Below the Saint's Chapel is the Dharma Cave, where King Songtsen Gampo studied the Buddhist scriptures after his conversion in the 7th century. These rooms are the oldest part of the Potala Palace.

Jokhang Temple

JOKHANG TEMPLE

Jokhang Temple ("House of the Lord Buddha ") in  Lhasa is the holiest site in Tibetan Buddhism, attracting crowds of prostrating Tibetan pilgrims and curious foreign tourists every year. It hosts the annual Great Prayer Festival, as well as all ceremonies of initiation for the Dalai Lama and Panchen Llamas.

History

Jokhang Temple was founded in 647 by King Songtsen Gampo (r.617-49), the first ruler of a unified Tibet, and his two foreign wives who are credited with bringing Buddhism to Tibet. The king's first wife, Princess Bhrikuti (married in the 630s), was the sister of the Nepalese king, while his second wife, Princess Wencheng (married 641), was the niece or daughter of the Chinese emperor.

The temple was constructed to house a sacred image of the Buddha, the Jowo Rinpoche, which Queen Wengcheng brought with her from China as a dowry. This statue is still enshrined within the temple and is the holiest object in Tibet.

Various traditions explain the foundation of the temple. In one version, Queen Bhrikuti founded the temple to house the statue, while Queen Wengcheng chose the site based on the principles of geomancy . Another legend says that the king threw his ring into the air, asking the spirits to show him where to build the temple. The ring fell into a lake, from which a stupa emerged. The lake was filled in to support Jokhang Temple, whose central shrine was built over the miraculous stupa.

The temple has been regularly expanded over the years, including extensive reconstruction under the fifth Dalai Lama in the 17th century. Remarkably, however, the core of the temple is still original from the 7th century.

What to See

Tourists can only tour Jokhang Temple in the afternoon; the morning is reserved for pilgrims. The best way to experience the temple is to arrive at 8am to watch the pilgrims perform their devotions, then visit the interior in the afternoon. The temple is relatively quiet then,  for the presence of  tibetan local  tour guides.

Standing four stories tall and covering an area of about 25,000 square meters in the heart of Lhasa, Jokhang Temple combines local Tibetan elements with influences from Nepal, China and India. In the front is a large plaza and open porch, which is usually filled with prostrate Tibetan pilgrims.

The exterior of the temple is decorated with deer and wheel motifs, early symbols of Buddhism. Both represent the Buddha's first sermon, in which he "turned the wheel of the Dharma" in a deer park near Varanasi, India.

Jokhang's interior is a dark and atmospheric labyrinth of chapels dedicated to various Buddhas  and bodhisattvas, illuminated by votive candles and thick with the smoke of incense. Although some of the temple has been rebuilt, original elements remain: the wooden beams and rafters have been shown by carbon dating to be original; the Newari door frames, columns and finials date from the 7th and 8th centuries.

The main cloister is ringed with large prayer wheels, kept spinning throughout the day by pilgrims. The cloister leads to the central hall, which contains Jokhang Temple's star attraction: the Jowo Rinpoche (or Jowo Shakyamuni) This life-sized (5 foot/1.5m) statue of the Buddha at age 12 is the holiest object in Tibet. Probably originating in India, it was brought to Lhasa as part of the Chinese Princess Wencheng's dowry in 641. The richly gilded and bejeweled image is flanked by altars of King Songtsen Gampo and his two wives, who together introduced Buddhism into Tibet.

The third floor contains an image of Palden Lhamo, fierce protector of both Lhasa and the Dalai Lama. She is said to have murdered her own child to bring her husband to his senses and put an end to his endless military campaigns. The roof is accessible and provides fine views over the temple, the Barkhor path and the Potala Palace.

A chapel on the south side of the complex contains more recent yab-yum imagesof sexual union. Many mistakenly believe tantric practice has no place in the "reformed" Geluk School, but Tsongkapa simply restated the principle that only advanced practitioners should engage in tantric sex.

Pilgrimage

Jokhang Temple is a very important pilgrimage destination for Tibetan Buddhists. Pilgrims come from all corners of Tibet, usually on foot and often performing austerities for penance along the way. The most devout pilgrims cover the last several miles prostrate on the ground. More prostrations are undertaken in the plaza in front of the temple. Before entering, most pilgrims circumambulate the temple on the Barkhor, a sacred path that is also lined with market stalls selling yak butter and jewelry.

Inside the temple, pilgrims make their way gradually to the central shrine, often crawling on their hands and knees or prostrate on their bellies. They hum prayers while also spinning prayer wheels, and bring offerings (typically white scarves and yak butter for the votive candles) to the many chapels that ring the shrine. Finally, they pray before the sacred image of the Jowo Shakyamuni

Barkhor Street 

Barkhor Street is the attractive place for domestic and foreign tourists in Tibet. Here you will learn more about Tibetan culture, economy, religion, and arts. Surrounding the Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street served as a trading and religious center. Many commodities in the Bakhor Street are displayed with the characteristics of Tibet including local folk art crafts, Tibetan-style daily goods, prayer wheels, etc. as well as knivers, tanka, relious musical instruments, gold and silver ware, masks and much more.

About Barkhor street

 Barkhor Bazaar is the oldest street in Lhasa, as well as the most representative. It is a place full of religious atmosphere and a world of exotic articles. Traditional Tibetan houses and narrow lanes in and around the street whisper the stories of old Lhasa.

 The Barkhor Bazaar Highlights

  Located in the old area of Lhasa City, Tibet, Barkhor Street is a very ancient round street surrounding the Jokhang Temple. Combining ancient and modern, religious and everyday life in perfect harmony, Barkhor Street is indeed a must-see for all visitors.For tourists, Barkhor Street is a magical place showing the original outlook of Lhasa. The street was paved by hand-polished stone boards.A place full of religious atmosphere Today many pilgrims hold the prayer wheels to walk clockwise there from dawn to dark. Also you can see some pilgrims walking or progressing body-lengths by body-lengths along the street.Even some of them are teenagers or have experienced thousands of miles' walk to reach this sacred place. The way they express their piety could make you understand the holiness of religion.

 Marketplace Barkhor Street is also a marketplace in which visitors can buy many beautiful souvenirs. Varied shops stand on both sides of the street and thousands of floating stands are on every corner. Most of them offer the prayer wheels, long-sleeve 'chuba' (the Tibetan people's traditional clothes), Tibetan knives and some religious articles for sale. Furthermore, some shops sell 'Thangka' (the Tibetan scroll painting), which is a unique art of Tibet with the themes of religion, history, literature, science and customs. Surprisingly, there are some articles from India and Nepal in this street as well.

Norbulingka   summer palace of Dalai Lamas

Know as the "summer palace" of the Dalai Lama, Norbu Lingka Park is the biggest man-made garden in Tibet Autonomous Region having an area of about 360.000 square meters with 374 rooms. Norbu Lingka Palace was built in the 1740s by Qing magistrate. Later it was used as the summer palace for Dalai Lamas, where they solved the political problems and held festive celebrations. It has now been turned into a park open to the public.

 Norbulingka Palace, situated in the west side of Lhasa is just around a km southwest of Potala Palace. Norbulingka meaning 'Treasure Park' covers an area of around 360000 sq. m. and is considered to be the biggest man made garden in Tibet. You will be amazed to know that there are more than 370 rooms inside its premises. It is called summer palace because after the 7th Lama, Dalai Lamas used to visit here during summers to hold religious and government related activities. As a part of "Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace", UNESCO added Norbulingka in its list of world heritage sites.

The area on which the palace stands today used to be a wasteland full of weeds and wild animals. The 7th Dalai Lama often visited the place and spend his time here. Seeing this the Qing magistrate ordered for a palace to be built in the garden. The construction of the palace started in the 1740s and named the garden Norbulingka. In 1751, the 7th Dalai Lama himself started the construction of his own palace called Kelsang Potrang inside Norbulingka itself. In its life span of more than 200 years, Norbulingka has seen a lot of construction on it. The 8th Dalai Lama built a lake and a group of buildings called C. Each Dalai Lama had a building built for himself and named them.

 

Samye Monastery 

Built in the 8th century, Samye Monastery was the first Buddhist monastery to be founded in Tibet. It is also notable as the site of the "Great Debate" (792-794) between the Indian Mahayanists and Chinese Chán (Zen) Buddhists.

Samye is famous for its sacred mandala design: the central temple symbolizes the legendary Mount Meru, center of the universe. It is a popular pilgrimage destination for Tibetan Buddhists, some of whom travel on foot for weeks to reach it.

History

Samye Monastery was founded in the 8th century during the reign of King Trisong Detsen with the help of the Indian Buddhist masters Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita, whom the king had invited to Tibet to help spread Buddhism. Padamasambhava is credited with subduing the local spirits and winning them over to Buddhism.

The first Tibetan monks were ordained here after examination, and are referred to as the Seven Examined Men. Over the centuries Samye has been associated with various schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Padmasambhava's involvement makes Samye important in the Nyingma school, but it was later taken over by the Sakya and Gelugpa schools. Today, Tibetans of all traditions come to worship here.

What to See

A unique monastery and village rolled into one, Samye is a highlight of a visit to Tibet. Situated amidst breathtaking scenery, the journey to Samye is splendid no matter how you arrive.

The layout of the huge monastery complex forms a giant mandala, a representation of the Buddhist universe, and is modeled after the Indian temple of Odantapuri in Bihar.

The complex is surrounded by a strong wall topped by 1008 (108 is a sacred number) tiny chortens and pierced by gates at the four cardinal points.

The main temple in the center represents Mt. Meru, the mythical mountain at the center of the Buddhist universe. The four continents in the ocean around Mt. Meru are represented by the four lingshi temples at the cardinal points, each flanked by two smaller temples (lingtren) to symbolize islands in the ocean.

There are four large chortens at the corners of the main temple in four different colors, and there is a nyima (Sun) temple in the north and a dawa (Moon) temple to the south.

The main temple, or utse, at Samye is a grand six-story building that takes a couple of hours to thoroughly explore. Bring a flashlight to see the murals hidden in the shadows. The first floor is the most impressive of the six, and is dominated by the main assembly hall, with old mandalas on the high ceiling.

Flanking the entrance to the main chapel are statues of historical figures associated with Samye's founding: Shantarakshita, Padmasambhava, Trisong Detsen and Songtsen Gampo are among those on the left.

The chapel, Jowo Khang, is accessed through three tall doorways and enshrines a statue of Buddha at the age of 38.

Left of the assembly hall is a small temple, Chenresi Lhakhang, which houses a beautiful statue of Chenresi with a eye carefully painted on the palm of each of his thousand hands. This is perhaps the artistic highlight of Samye.

To the right of the assembly hall is the Gonkhang, a protector chapel, with eerie statues of former Bon demons that were turned into fierce Buddhist protector deities.

The second floor is an open roof area, where monks and locals carry out the craft work for the temple. The third floor contains the Quarters of the Dalai Lama, with a small anteroom, throne room and bedroom.

In the bedroom is a barred, glass-fronted case full of wonderful relics: Padmasambhava's hair and walking stick, a Tara statue that is reputed to speak, and the skull of Shantarakshita.

Naturally, this room is of utmost importance to Tibetan pilgrims so there is often a crush of bodies that makes it difficult to linger very long. The top floors have little to see in themselves, but provide excellent views from their balconies.

The four brightly-colored chortens (black, white, red and green) at the main temple's corners are modern and each one is slightly different. Inside them are stairs and tiny chapels. Most visitors either love them or hate them.

The rest of the buildings are in varying stages of renovation, with some being used as stables and others still showing the effects of the Cultural Revolution. The finest murals are in Mani Lhakhang in the northwest of the complex.

East of the complex, you can climb the sacred Hepo Ri for splendid views. It was here that Padmasambhava is said to have subdue the local spirits and won them over to Buddhism

Tashilunpo Monastery

The Residence of the Panchen Lamas, Tashilumpo Monastery is the largest monastery in Shigatse. First built in 1447, it is a constellation of red and white buildings located on a hill in the center of the city.  The highlight of the monastery is the statue of Maitreya Buddha made of copper with 22.4 meters high, which looks graceful and dignified in appearance. It is considered to be the highest statue in the world.

 ABOUT TASHILUNPO MONASTERY

With the majestic peak of Drolmari (Tara's Mountain) forming its background, the Tashilunpo Monastery glitters as the sun rises every morning. It is located in the western part of Shigatse.

 The Monastery, also known as the 'Heap of Glory', was founded in 1447 by nephew and disciple of Tsongkhapa (founder of Gelukpa sect), Gendun Drup. Gendun Drup was posthumously given the position of the 1st Dalai Lama later on. Because of its association with Geluk founder, the Tashilunpo Monastery is counted amongst the six most important monasteries of the Geluk order.

 Tashilunpo became the seat of the Panchen Lamas from the time the 4th Panchen Lama became its abbot. The 4th Panchen Lama and his later successors renovated and expanded the monastery to bring it to its present size. The monastery today spreads over an area of nearly 300,000 sqm and houses around 800 lamas.

 For visiting tourists, it is important to know that the monastery is open from 9 in the morning to 5 in the evening. Also, remember that the monastery complex of Tashilunpo is huge and confusing. Because of this you need ro take care when you roam around and prevent yourself from getting lost. If you rae desirous of clicking som snaps inside, do ask for the permissions from the lamas.

 INSIDE

 

From the entrance itself, you can see huge buildings with golden roofs and white walls. Most noteable is the the nine floors high Thangka wall which dates back to time of the 1st Dalai Lama. It is on this wall that images of Buddha are displayed during the ceratin festivals. The images are so big that you can see it from any part of the Shigatse city.

 On the west side of the complex stands the Maitreya Chapel with a 26.2 m high image of Future (Maitreya) Buddha. Embellished with gold, copper, pearl, amber, coral, diamond and other precious stones, this statue is worth a vist to find out why around 900 craftsmen needed nine years to handcraft it.

 Since the chapel has five storeys, you can also climb up and have a pretty close look at the statue.

 To the east of the chapel, you can see the Stupa-tomb of the Tenth Panchen Lama adorned with 614 kg of gold, 868 precious stones and 246,794 jewels. This Stupa-tomb was constructed pretty recently, in the year 1993. The first Stupa- tomb of Tashilunpo, belongs to the 4th Panchen Lama and stands to the east of the The Panchen Lama's Palace which itself is close to the Stupa-tomb of the 10th Panchen Lama. The Stupa-tomb of the 1st Panchen Lama is decorated with gold and silver and was constructed in the year 1662. As for the Panchen lama's palace, it is a beautiful white building, but unfortunately closed for locals as well as the visitors.

 Another attraction of the Tashilunpo Monastery is the Kelsang Temple which is one of the earliest and grandest buildings in the complex. The main Chnating Hall is the place where the lamas gain knowledge of sutras and receive sermons from the Panchen Lama. Housed in this hall is the 5 m tall statue of Sakyamuni Buddha which is believed to preserve the relics of Sakyamuni Buddha. Two chapels stand on the either side of the Chanting Hall, the left one is dedicated to Tara, a manifestation of Avalokitesvara while the right one honours Maitreya Buddha. In the chapel of Tara, the White Tara is in between flanked by two Green Tara on each side. In the chapel of Maitreya Buddha, the statues of Avalokitesvara and Bodhisattva Manjusri created by the First Dalai Lama stands close to the the statue of Maitreya Buddha which itself stands in the centre. The Kelsang Temple has a great courtyard which is made use of by the monks and the lamas to practice and conduct debate. All around the courtyard, runs a wall filled with innumerable images of Shakyamuni in varying postures and expressions.

 While visiting the Tashilunpo, make it a point to explore the treasures of this monastery, specially the wall paintings. These wall paintings are instant attention grabbers because of their variety of shapes, brilliant colours and exquisite painting. Apart from the wall paintings, other treasures of the monastery inlcude murals, rare sutras, thangka, china and glass services of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasties (1644-1911).

 Festival

 

The Tashilunpo Monastery celebrates the Jigang Dance festival every year on the 4th day of the 8th month of Tibetan calendar. The festival sees the lamas move to the beats of drums, an act supposed to please gods, gain good luck and ward off evil spirits. Humourous mimes are alsopresented with an intention to appease gods, however, sometimes they end up entertaining the spectators. Mass singing and horse races are also a part of this festival.

 MT.EVEREST 

Mount Everest "Holy Mother" is the earth's highest mountain, with a peak at 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) above sea level. It is located in the Mahalangur, section of the Himalayas . The international border between  Tibet  and  Nepal runs across the precise summit point. Its massif  includes neighboring peaks Lhotse, 8,516 m (27,940 ft); Nuptse , 7,855 m (25,771 ft); and Changtse , 7,580 m (24,870 ft).

In 1856, the great trigonometric survey of  established the first published height of Everest, then known as Peak XV, at 29,002 ft (8,840 m). In 1865, Everest was given its official English name by the Royal Geographical society upon a recommendation by Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor Generalof india . Waugh named the mountain after his predecessor in the post, Sir George everest . Although Tibetans had called Everest "Chomolungma" for centuries, Waugh was unaware of this because Nepal and Tibet were closed to foreigners.

The highest mountain on the earth attracts many well-experienced mountaineers as well as capable climbers willing to hire professional guides. While not posing substantial technical climbing challenges on the standard route, Everest presents dangers such as altitude sickness, weather and wind.

Yamdrok Tso Lake

The Yamdrok Lake is one of the three largest lakes in Tibet. The holy lake lies to the south of Yarlong Tsangpo River in Shannan Region of Tebit surrounded by many snow-capped mountains and fed by numerous small streams. The lake does have an outlet stream at its far western end.

 

About Yamdrok lake

yamdrok Lake is one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet. It is over 72 km (45 miles) long. The lake is surrounded by many snow-capped mountains and is fed by numerous small streams. The lake does have an outlet stream at its far western end. Around 90km to the west of the lake lies the Tibetan town of Gyantse andLhasa is a hundred km to the northwest. According to local mythology, Yamdrok Lake is the transformation of a goddess.

Yamdrok Lake, has a power station that was completed and dedicated in 1996 near the small village of Pai-Ti at the lake western end. This power station is the largest in Tibet.

The lake with an area of 621 square kilometers and the unknown depth is fan-shaped, spreading to the South but narrowing up to the North. The mountainous lake has a dozen of islands, the largest of which is about 3,000 square kilometer. The lake freezes up in winter. Like mountains, lakes are considered sacrosanct by the Tibetan people, the principle being that they are the dwelling places of protective deities and therefore invested with special spiritual powers.

There are shoals of fish living in Yamdrok Yumtso lake, which are commercially exploited by local population. From April to October, fish caught from this lake are sold at markets in Lhasa. Besides, the lake's islands serve as rich pasture land to local herdmen.

 Holy Yamdrok-tso Lake lies in Nangartse County, about 100 kilometers southwest of Lhasa and easily accessible. Yamdork-tso is traditionally first seen from the summit of the Kamba-la, which an altitude of 4,794 m (15,728 ft). Surrounded by high mountains, its water is so clear that you can watch fish playing within. The sky surrounding Yamdrok-tso is clear with white clouds often "floating" above it. All of our Tibet tours, can be tailor-made to allow time for a picnic or trekking along Yamdrok-tso

Yarlong Tsangpo River

The Yarlong Tsangpo River is the highest river in the world with an average altitude of 4,000m (13,100 feet). It flows through southern Tibet then into India where it becomes the Brahmaputra, one of India's most holy rivers.

Yarlung Tsangpo River refers to 'water flowing from the highest peak' in Tibetan language. With the highest altitude in the world, Yarlung Tsangpo River is considered as a seam of the Indian and European-Asia plate by geologists. It is one of the most beautiful rivers throughout the world. Steep mountains, thick virgin forests, fruit gardens give off an alluring fragrance and waterfalls formed by melting snow from the mountains present you with a marvelous painting; Meanwhile this scene provides you with a chance to feel in person the mightiness and charm of nature.

 Yarlung Tsangpo River cuts Himalaya Mountain, the highest in the world, flowing twistingly to the south of Tibet. The world famous Yarlong Tsangpo Canyon can be found in a big turn of this river. This canyon is the deepest in the world. Its mystery and steepness catches the eyesight almost of all the people on the earth.

 Adjectives such as high, spectacular, deep, humid, quiet, long and dangerous can help you to get a general impression of this canyon.

  High?Lofty mountains on each side of Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon are so high that they seem to have reached the sky and been guests in a white cloud palace. Glistening glaciers clothe the ridges of those peaks. Mist wreathes the whole canyon, making you feel as if you are in a legendary place.

?Spectacular?If you ever have a chance to get a bird's eye view, you will see that Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon is surrounded by countless snow peaks of east Himalayas and other green color covered mountains as it traverses all barriers to flowing into the Indian Ocean. This spectacular scenery is far beyond the words.

? Deep?The deepest section of Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon is 5,382 meters (about 5,886 yards). The average depth of this canyon is about 5,000 meters (about 5,468 yards).

Humid?Verdant forests can be found almost everywhere in the Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon because of the humidity resulting from the influence of the Indian Ocean air current. This humidity also results in the Canyon supporting most kinds of life-forms found elsewhere in the world.

? Quiet?The location of the Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon makes it a place where traffic and inhabitants are scarce. Most of the sections of the Yarlung Tsangpo River have not been touched by humans. The heavy mist which blankets the canyon most of the time definitely enhances its mystery.

? Long?The total journey of along the Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon is 496 kilometers (about 308 miles). It is 56 kilometers (about 35 miles) longer than the Colorado Canyon which claimed to be the longest one in the world.

? Dangerous?The upright rocks and mighty peaks make many sections of the Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon too dangerous to pass. To date, no people have traveled along the entire length of the Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon on foot.

 Namtso Lake

Namtso Lake is also one of the 3 holy lakes in Tibet, playing an important role among Tibetans. Every sheep year in Tibetan calendar, the Trekking Namtso Festival is held and numerous pilgrims from far away visit the lake to pay homage.

Trekking Namtso Lake has been a traditional activity for a long time. Every sheep year in Tibetan calendar devoted Buddhist follower flow here to pay homage to the Buddha by trekking Namtso Lake. They throw ceremonial scarves in the lake in the hope of good health, good harvest and good luck.

In Nov. 14, 2005, Namtso Lake was selected as one of the five most beautiful lakes in China by Chinese National Geography magazine. Namtso Lake's touching beauty should not be missed by any traveler who visits Tibet. Its purity and solemnness are symbols of Qinghai-Tibet Platean. In Tibetan, Namtso means 'Heavenly Lake.' It is considered one of the three holy lakes in Tibet. Namtso is famous for its high altitude (4720 meters (about 3 miles)), vast area (1961 square kilometers (about 757 square miles) and beautiful scenery. 

Being the second largest saltwater lake in China only after Qinghai Lake, Namtso Lake is the biggest lake throughout Tibet. Meanwhile, it is the highest altitude saltwater lake in the world. The water here is a storybook crystal-clear blue. Clear skies join the surface of the lake in the distance, creating an integrated, scenic vista. Soul of every visitor who has ever been here seems to be cleansed by the pure lake water.

  Namtso Lake maintains its levels from rainfall and melted snow flowing from high mountains. Five islands stand in the waters of the lake, among which the largest one is  Liangduo island. In addition another five bylands stretch into the lake from different directions. Zhaxi byland is the largest in area of these five. A great many bizarre stone peaks can be found on this byland. Some of them are like trunks; some look like human beings; some resemble trees. Various kinds of vivid shapes can easily arouse your imagination. At the same time there are many quiet grottos which are masterpieces of nature. Some grottos are narrow and long like subways; some are full of stalactites; still, others are like louvers. Queer rocks, steep peaks, natural stone ladders and other landform wonders on Zhaxi byland present visitors a picture filled with mystery and enchantment.

 Summer is the best time for Namtso Lake. Wild yaks, hares and other wild animals leisurely look for food along the expansive lake shores; countless migratory birds fly here to lay eggs and feed their young; sometimes lovely fishes in the lake jump out of the lake water, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine; sheep and cows herds are like flowing white blanks on the green grassland which can stretch as far as your eyes can see; the dulcet songs of Gauchos resound through the valleys. This time of the year Namtso Lake is full of life and activity. Therefore it is no wonder Tibetans take Namtso Lake the symbol of goodliness and happiness. Really Namtso Lake is a blessing from nature.

 Besides the beautiful scenery in Namtso, it is also a famous sacred Buddhist place. There is a Zhaxi Temple in Zhaxi byland. In every Tibetan year of sheep, thousands of Buddhism adherents will come here to worship. As a rule, they will walk clockwise along the Namtso Lake in order to receive the blessing of the gods.

 MT.KAILASH

Mt. Kailash or Mt. Kailash is a striking peak in the Himalayan mountains of western Tibet. The source of some of the longest rivers in Asia, Kailash is a sacred mountain for four faiths: Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and followers of the indigenous Tibetan religion of Bön. Next to the mountain are two sacred lakes, the most important of which is lake Manasarovar 

What to See

Mount Kailash rises to 22,028 feet (6,714 m) in one of the highest and most rugged parts of the Himalayas. Made of black rock, the symmetrical peak has a distinctive diamond-like shape with four steep facades. The south face has a vertical gash across its horizontal layers, creating the appearance of a swastika - an ancient symbol of good luck in this part of the world.

The landscape around the mountain is rugged and dry but crossed by crystalline blue streams and other bodies of water. Near the sacred mountain is the source of the Indus, Sutlej and Bramaputra rivers and on its south side are two freshwater lakes, the easternmost of which is the highly sacred lake Manasarovar (Mapam). With an altitude of 14,950 feet, Mansarovar is the highest body of fresh water in the world. The other lake, Rakshastal, also has legendary significance.

Myth & Mystery

According to Hindu mythology, Shiva, the god of destruction and regeneration, resides at the summit of a legendary mountain named Kail???. Mount Kail??? is regarded in many sects of Hinduism as Paradise, the ultimate destination of souls and the spiritual center of the world.

According to a description in the Puranas, Mount Kailash's four faces are made of crystal, ruby, gold, and lapis lazuli; it is the pillar of the world; rises 84,000 leagues high; is the center of the world mandala; and is located at the heart of six mountain ranges symbolizing a lotus. From it flow four rivers, which stretch to the four quarters of the world and divide the world into four regions.

This legendary mountain has long been identified with the striking peak in the Himalayas that now bears its name. Shiva is therefore believed to dwell at its summit. Some traditions say the mountain is Shiva's linga, while Lake Manasarowar is the yoni of his consort.

The importance of this holy mountain in Hinduism is reflected, among other places, at the famous Ellora caves in India, where the largest and most important rock-carved temple is dedicated to Mount Kailash.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that Kailash is the home of the Buddha Demchok (also known as Demchog or Chakrasamvara), who represents supreme bliss. They also say it was on this sacred mountain that Buddhism displaced Bön as the primary religion of Tibet.

According to legend, Milarepa, champion of Tantric Buddhism, arrived in Tibet to challenge Naro-Bonchung, representative of Bön. The two magicians engaged in a great sorcerous battle, but neither was able to gain a decisive advantage.

Finally, it was agreed that whoever could reach the summit of Kailash first would be the victor. While Naro-Bonchung soared up the slope on a magic drum, Milarepa's followers were dumbfounded to see him sitting still and meditating. Yet when Naro-Bonchung was nearly at the top, Milarepa suddenly moved into action and overtook him by riding on the rays of the sun, thus winning the contest and bringing Buddhism to Tibet.

In Jainism, Kailash is known as Mount Ashtapada and is the site where the founder of their faith, Rishabhadeva, attained liberation from rebirth.

In Bön, the religion which predates Buddhism in Tibet, the mountain is believed to be the abode of the sky goddess Sipaimen.

Pilgrimage

Every year, thousands make a pilgrimage to Kailash, following a tradition going back thousands of years. Pilgrims of several religions believe thatcircumambulating (walking around) Mount Kailash will remove sins and bring good fortune. The pilgrimage around the sacred mountain is called the Kailash Kora.

It is said that one trip around the sacred mountain will wipe away all the sins (bad karma) of one's current lifetime; 108 revolutions will remove the sins of all one's lifetimes and bring salvation from reincarnation (moksa). Alternatively, pilgrims who complete one circumbulation of Kailash and bathe in the frigid waters of Lake manasarovar  will also bring salvation.

No pilgrims climb Mt. Kailash; all four religions believe it would be a serious act of sacrilege to set foot on its slopes. Legend has it that the only person to have reached the summit is the Buddhist champion Milarepa (who flew to the top in the 12th century) and that all others who have ventured to defy the taboo have died in the process.

The rugged path around Mount Kailash is 32 miles (52 km) long, following a blue mountain stream much of the way. Altitudes range from 15,000 feet at the start to 19,000 feet at the Dolma Pass. The circumambulation is made in a clockwise direction by Hindus and Buddhists but counterclockwise by followers of the Jain and Bön religions.

A typical journey lasts about three days, but some try to earn extra merit by completing the entire walk in a single day. Braving the uneven terrain, high altitudes and variable weather, these hardy souls can complete the trek in about 15 hours.

Other pilgrims seek special merit by taking much longer to circle the holy mountain: instead of walking, they perform body-length prostrations for the entire 32 miles. The pilgrim bends down, kneels, prostrates full-length, makes a mark with his fingers, rises to his knees, prays, and then crawls forward on hands and knees to the mark made by his/her fingers before repeating the process. It requires at least four days of physical endurance to perform the circumambulation this way.

The mountain is located in a particularly remote and inhospitable area of the Tibetan Himalayas. Only those in the best health are able to undertake the journey even to the starting point of the circumambulation, let alone walk 52 km in a single day. A few modern amenities, such as benches, resting places and refreshment kiosks, exist to aid the pilgrims in their devotions.

Most pilgrims and trekkers take three days to complete the journey around Mount Kailash from the city of Darchen, aiming for Drirapuk Monastery on the first night, crossing Dolma La Pass and arriving at Zutrulpuk Monastery the second night, and finally returning to Darchen on the third day.

 

LAKE MANASAROVAR

Lake Manasarovar  is the highest freshwater lake in the world, located at the foot of mount Kailash in Tibet. It is the holiest lake in Asis and an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus and Buddhists alike.

Myth and Mystery

According to Hindu tradition, Manasarovar was created by Brahma, god of creation, to provide an appropriate place for religious rituals. It is said that he had 12 sons, who were holy men and performed rituals and austerities on the dry land at the site. To give them a more suitable place to earn merit, Brahma created the beautiful Lake Mansarovar.

The lake's Indian name derives from this legend: Brahma had a mind (manas) to create a lake (sarowar). For Hindus, a circumambulation of Mount Kailash and a dip in the cold waters of Lake Mansarowar removes the sins of all lifetimes, bringing salvation from reincarnation.

Buddhists associate Manasarovar with Anotatta Lake, where the Buddha was mystically conceived. According to Buddhist legend, the Buddha's mother was transported here by the gods, where she bathed in the sacred waters of Manasarovar until her body was purified. She then saw a white elephant running to her from Mount Kailash, as the Buddha entered her womb.

History

There were once eight Buddhist monasteries around the lake, symbolizing the Wheel of Life. Pilgrims circumambulated the lake, visiting each of the monasteries along the way, representing a turn of the wheel. Most of the monasteries have now disappeared (the most notable survivor being Chiu Gompa), but Buddhists still make the pilgrimage around the sacred lake.

What to see

Located at the southern base of Mount Kailash, Lake Manasarovar is famed for its exceptional beauty. Its color changes from a clear blue around the shores to a deep emerald green in the center; it looks positively magical in the moonlight. The lake is 55 miles (88 km) in circumference, 330 feet (90m) deep, and 120 sq mi (320 sq km) in total area.

The journey around the lake is 64 miles long and usually takes four days. Many travelers opt to pitch a tent by the lake for a couple days instead, recuperating from the strenuous journey around Mount Kailash.

Sera – one of the great Gelugpa school of learning centre and famouse

debate session of monks on Buddhist sciences of philosophy ,metaphysics ,?psychology and epistemology .?The history of sera monastery is strongly connected to master lama?Tsongkhapa ( 1357-1419 ),?The founder of Gelug order, the much venerated  and highly learned guru in?Buddhist sacred scriptures .?It was under his divine tutelage that his disciple Jetsun kunchen lodroe?Richen Senge established the Sera monastery complex in early 15th century?AD .

 

DREPUNG MONASTERY

Founded in 1416, Drepung Monastery on the outskirts of Lhasa was once Tibet's largest and most influential monastery, with over 10,000 monks. Today, Drepung houses about 700 monks and attracts pilgrims and visitors from around the world.

Drepung is especially known as the site of the annual Shoton Festival, with its dramatic unfurling of a giant thangka painting on the hillside.

History

Drepung Monastery was founded in 1416 by Tsongkapa's disciple Jamyang Choeje. It was the home of the Dalai Lamas before the Potala palace was built in the 17th century. Resembling a heap of white rice from a distance, it was dubbed "Monastery of the Collecting-Rice" (Drepung Gompa) in Tibetan.

What to See

The first floor of the Assembly Hall holds a striking statue of Dalai Lama XIII, magnificently lit by filtered sunshine and pungent yak butter lamps. Readings of the scriptures are often held here at midday, during which novices race one another to fetch tea from the kitchen for their elders.

To the left (west) of the Assembly Hall is the kitchen, where butter tea is prepared and donations are accepted.

The most revered image at Drepung is a 15m (49-ft.) tall statue of the 8-year oldMaitreya Buddha (the future Buddha), designed by Tsongkapa and housed on the third floor of the main building. Visitors are offered holy water; to receive it, cup your right hand above your left, take a sip, and splash the rest on your head.

The second floor houses Buddhist scriptures and the first floor contains multiple Buddha statues and other decorations. A chapel to the north of the second floor houses a sacred mirror said to cure the facial diseases of those who gaze into it.

Several courtyards in the forest around the monastery are used by the monks for debating the sutras (Buddhist scriptures). The winners of the debates can take a test to earn the senior degree of Geshi.

Pilgrimage

The pilgrim's circuit of Drepung's monastery runs through these sites:

The pilgrimage trail continues southeast down to the fascinating Nechung Monastery home of the Nechung Oracle. The oracle was regularly consulted by the Dalai Lama on important matters of state. 

Festivals and Events

Before the 17th century, Buddhist discipline required monks to stay in their temples for weeks in the summer. This prevented them stepping on small creatures outside for a time, and taught them to live in harmony with one another. When finally allowed to leave their confinement, monks went down to the mountains, where laymen would prepare yogurt for them as alms. The monks enjoyed the yogurt and happily celebrated their newfound freedom.

This is the origin of the  Shoton Festival at Drepung, which takes place every August. Today, the Shoton Festival is a time for monks to go the mountains for contemplation, after which time their families will meet them on the mountainside. Many lay Buddhists make a pilgrimage to Drepung during this time and participate in the festivities, which include performances by the Tibetan Opera.

The Shoton Festival begins with the dramatic unfurling of a giant thangka banner of the Buddha, amidst incense smoke, the sound of bugles, and scripture recitations. Devotees rush to make offerings before it is rolled up again in less than two hours.

 

GANDEN MONASTERY 

 

Ganden Monastery  is one of the 'great three' Gelugpa  university monasteries of Tibet, located at the top of Wangburi Mountain, Tagtse County, 36 kilometers ENE from the Potala  Palace in Lhasa, at an altitude of 4,300m. 

 

 Ganden means "joyful" and is the Tibetan name for Tushita , the heaven where the bodhisattva Maitreya is said to reside.

It was the original monastery of the Gelugpa order, founded by Je Tsongkhapa  himself in 1409, and traditionally considered to be the seat of Gelugpa. 

 

It was the original monastery of the Gelug order, founded by Je Tsongkhapa  himself in 1409,and traditionally considered to be the seat of Gelug administrative . The Ganden Tripa or 'throne-holder of Ganden' is the head of the Gelukpa school.

Tsongkhapa's preserved body was entombed there in a silver and gold encrusted tomb by his disciples in 1419.

Being the farthest from Lhasa of the three university monasteries, Ganden traditionally had a smaller population with some 6,000 monks before 1959 (although Waddell reports an estimate of about 3,300 in the 1890s and there were, apparently only 2,000 in 1959.At this time there are about 300 monks.

Ganden Monastery consisted of two principal original colleges, Jangtse and Shartse, meaning North Peak and East Peak respectively. The three main sights in the Ganden Monastery are the Serdung, which contains the tomb of Tsongkhapa, the Tsokchen Assembly Hall and  the chapel where Tsongkhapa traditionally taught. The monastery houses artifacts which belonged to Tsongkhapa.

It contained more than two dozen major chapels with large Buddha statues. The largest chapel was capable of seating 3,500 monks.  

 

 

 

 




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