After Drepung and Sera, Ganden was the last of Tibet’s three great Gelug university monasteries we visited. Ganden lies some 40km northeast of Lhasa atop Wangbur Mountain at an altitude of 4300m above the sea. Founded by famous Buddhist teacher Je Tsongkhapa in 1409, Ganden was once a powerful monastery with a few thousand monks until 1959 when much of the monastery was destroyed by the Chinese army. A further blow to the monastery occurred during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. As the ancestral monastery of Gelugpa (Gelug school), the abbots of Ganden Monastery are considered as the abbots of Gelugpa, and hence the most powerful figures in Tibetan Buddhism after Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. Despite its destruction in the 20th century, the monastery has been subjected to series of reconstructions which lasted from the 1980s until the present day. Today, Ganden is still very popular among the local pilgrims. The monastery is consisted of more than 50 buildings with prayer halls, monk quarters, colleges, etc. After the kora hike which passed around the back of the monastery, we had about 1.5 hour to wander around the religious compound.
Just like many Tibetan monasteries, Ganden is mainly finished with white and red paint.
Buildings are built on various levels on the mountain slope, connected by series of stairs and ramps.
We took our time to wander around the compound. Not many buildings were opened, but we were delighted to walk around and take pictures of the colourful environment.
We saw different groups of local pilgrims interacted with the monks. Some were visiting like tourists while others seek for blessing from senior monks in different buildings.
Despite most buildings were reconstructed, the atmospheric environment of the compound was spiritual and pleasant to walk around.
The traditional Tibetan motifs are present at entrance vestibules of many chapels and assembly halls.
Tsokchen Hall (措欽大殿), the main assembly hall, is an essential structure in the Ganden compound.
From the front terrace of the Tsokchen Hall (措欽大殿), we saw a large group of monks gathered outside the main parking lot engaged in some sort of rituals.
At the front terrace of the Tsokchen Hall (措欽大殿), two crows were attracted by the food offering on the balustrade.
With its golden roof, the Serdung (羊八犍) that houses the tomb of Tsongkhapa, is probably the most important building in Ganden Monastery.
The original tomb of Tsongkhapa was damaged by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. The new red building was reconstructed to house the salvaged fragments of Tsongkhapa’s skull.
We started heading back to the main parking lot half an hour before our bus departure time.
We walked towards the parking lot under the strong midday sun.
The sky was clear and the air was warm. The view of Ganden Monastery from the parking lot was spectacular.
By the time we reached the parking lot, the group of monks were returning to the monastery after some sort of rituals outside the compound.
The incoming monks were in a delightful mood, chatting with each other with frequent laughter.
On the way back to Lhasa, our bus stopped by another small temple for a 15 minute visit. We didn’t go in with the local pilgrims. Instead we stayed with the friendly driver at the parking lot, thinking of where to visit back in Lhasa.
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More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet