Not far from Sulamani stands the biggest temple in Bagan, the Dhammayangyi Temple. Standing majestically like an ancient pyramid, Dhammayangyi was perhaps a statement of remorse from King Narathu, who killed his father and elder brother and executed one of his wives for Hindu rituals. He also ordered the mortar-less brickwork to be so precise that not even a pin could fit between two bricks. Failing to do so the brick workers would be cruelly punished with amputation. However, before the temple was completed, Narathu himself was also assassinated in 1170. Since then, Dhammayangyi remained unfinished.
Compared with Sulamani, the interior of Dhammayangyi seemed much less polished. Our guide told us that after the death of Narathu, the locals hastily bricked up the inner passages and didn’t put too much efforts to maintain the temple because of their revulsion toward cruel Narathu. As we passed through the bricked up passages while touring the structure, a sense of mystery still captivated our imagination on what really lie beyond the bricked passages. Another interesting feature at Dhammayangyi was the original side-by-side Buddha statues with Gautama and Maitreya (present and future Buddhas). On the outside, we could admire the fine carvings on the external walls and at arched openings, where visitors gathered to pose for photos.
Looking from a distance, Dhammayangyi looked similar to an ancient pyramid in the Yucatan jungle.
After we took off our shoes, we followed a green mat to enter the temple complex.
On our way, we passed by a few trees where vendors displayed dozens of local puppets.
We entered Dhammayangyi through a worship hall packed with local worshippers.
The Buddha image at the altar was once again gilded with gold.
Behind the altar, we entered the main passage of the temple.
The ceiling of the passage was high and dark. Supporting arches appeared from time to time to provide braces for the walls.
We passed by a number of bricked up passages that led to the unknown.
Buddhist statues were placed at some of the opened niches.
Statues varied in styles and facial features might have come from different periods in history.
With the constant flow of visitors, walking in the dark passages of Dhammayangyi was hardly a spooky experience.
Finally we reached the west shrine, featuring the original image of the double Buddhas on one side, and a reclining Buddha on the back.
The dual statues of Gautama and Maitreya Buddha at Dhammayangyi was a rarity in Bagan.
At the exterior, local visitors enjoyed themselves at the arched openings.
Some of external ornaments and arched openings had become desirable backdrops for photo shooting.
We exited the complex from where we arrived.
Vending trucks selling fresh juices could be found all over the entrance parking lot.
A number of vendors gathered under a tree shade as Bagan braced for a scorching afternoon.
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Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:
Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT
Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U
Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR
DAY 9 (1/3): TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY (བཀྲ་ཤིས་ལྷུན་པོ་ 扎什倫布寺), Shigatse (日喀則), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.24
Before leaving Shigatse for Namtso Lake, we spent the morning at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery (བཀྲ་ཤིས་ལྷུན་པོ་ 扎什倫布寺). Probably the most influential monastery in the Shigatse area, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery is very popular with local pilgrims. Founded by the 1st Dalai Lama in 1447, the 70,000 sq.m monastery remains as the largest functioning monastery in Tibet. In the past five centuries, Tashi Lhunpo has been the traditional seat of Panchen Lama (པན་ཆེན་བླ་མ 班禪喇嘛), the second highest tulku (སྤྲུལ་སྐུ 活佛) in the Gelug school, just after the Dalai Lama. During the turbulence years of the Cultural Revolution, buildings and relics of the monastery had been damaged. Fortunately, damages of the Tashi Lhunpo was relatively small compared to most other monasteries in Tibet.
Walking in the labyrinth of cobblestone lanes of the enormous monastery ground, visitors can absorb the spiritual air and wander through prayer halls, chapels, chortens and courtyards, admire beautiful Buddhist artworks including the 26m statue of Jampa (Maitreya) Future Buddha, and pay respect to the tombs of the past Panchen Lamas. Other than the gold gilded statues and architectural features, what interested us during our visit of Tashi Lhunpo were the pilgrims who came from all over Tibet and China. From teenagers to elderly, the pilgrims’ gratifying expression and devoted prayers demonstrated to us how Buddhist traditions still remained strong in today’s Tibet.
All visitors to Tashi Lhunpo Monastery would pass through the lingkhor (sacred path) along the external enclosure wall.
The 70,000 sq.m Tashi Lhunpo Monastery sits on the mountain slope west of Shigatse city.
Inside the monastery ground, a network of flagstone paths led us to a village of chapels, chortens and prayer wheels.
The first objects captured our eyes as we entered to the core area of the monastery were the three large chortens.
At 9:30am the sun of the highland was already scorching hot.
Pilgrims and monks in the vivid setting of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery provided us the best subject for photos.
Many lamas we saw at Tashi Lhunpo were actually visitors from other areas of Tibet.
Jamba Chyenmu or Maitreya Temple (强巴佛殿) is the tallest building in Tashi Lhunpo Monastery. Erected in 1914 by the ninth Panchen Lama, it houses the 26.2m statue of Maitreya Buddha. The enormous statue contains 279kg of gold and 150,000kg of copper and brass.
The chorten of the Tenth Panchen Lama is one of the most popular pilgrimage spot in the monastery. The three-tiered chorten is decorated with large amount of gold, silver and gemstones.
Semi-precious stones were used to decorated the entrance vestibule of chapels (in this case the Buddhist swastika was created on the floor). Many pilgrims would knee down and touch the decoration before entering the building.
Other than statues and chortens, a number of architectural features such as a building column could also become a subject of worship for worshipers.
Outside of the monastery, we could see the beautiful mountains across the city of Shigatse.
After visiting a number of the chorten halls (chapels housing the tombs of Panchen Lamas), we arrived at the upper court of the Gyeni Chanting Hall. The gilded roofs and turrets of the Gyeni Chanting Hall can be seen from far away.
As we walked down the ramp near the Gyeni Chanting Hall, we could see right behind us the Thangka Wall used for unfolding the gigantic thangka during festivals.
Below the Gyeni Chanting Hall, we arrived at the Chuajing Duogang, the great courtyard paved with flagstones.
The Chuajing Duogang was another popular spot for pilgrims.
Surrounding the cloister of Chuajing Duogang, we could admire the fresco depicting over 1000 images of Sakyamuni (Buddha).
The Sakyamuni were drawn with hands gesturing the five symbolic poses (mudras).
Looking up from the colonnade of Chuajing Duogang, the splendid Gyeni Chanting Hall looked grand and magnificent.
Beautiful fresco could be seen all over Tashi Lhunpo, including the wall at the lower exit of Chuajing Duogang.
After a 2.5 hour visit of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, it was time for us to find our way to the exit and departed from Shigatse.
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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
We left Hotel Ladakh Greens at around 5:45am to embark on our day-long exploration of Tibetan monasteries in the Indus River Valley southeast of Leh. Our first stop was Thiksey Gompa, the only lamasery in the area allowing visitors to attend their morning prayers. We arrived at Thiksey slightly after 7am, and hastily walked up the exterior terraces to look for the main prayer hall. The session had already started as we could hear Buddhist chanting and the sounds of drum. We followed the sound of prayers up various stairs until finally reaching the entry of the main prayer hall at a covered terrace overlooking Thiksey village.
Inside the hall, about two dozens of lamas sat in several rows of carpeted platforms. An European couple with their guide arrived before us were sitting in the back row against the wall of Buddhist murals. We entered the hall and followed suit. The rhythmical chanting of the lamas sounded like a soothing song reverberating under the old timber structure and suspended thangka banners. The stress of our hasty arrival was soon calmed down. A few more tourists soon arrived and joined us at the back row. We sat quietly and witnessed the lamas chanted, drank butter tea, and had their breakfast porridge. Lamas of different age groups seemed playing different roles. Some younger lamas were drummers while others helped serving butter tea. We were also offered butter tea during the session.
The prayer session lasted till about 8am. By the time the last chant stopped, we were the only tourists left in the hall. One by one the lama exited the prayer hall except one lama. He was kind enough to show us around the hall, and led us to the back chamber where a number of Buddhist statues stood behind offering tables. Outside the prayer hall, the land was warming up as the sun was already quite high up in the sky. We walked back down to the main assembly courtyard where workers were repainting the colourful external walls. At one end of the courtyard there was a building with its doors opened. Peeking through the door we could see the side profile of Maitreya Buddha statue. The 2-storey tall golden Maitreya Buddha was a well known feature of Thiksey. The Maitreya Temple and its statue were erected in 1970 to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama.
The visit of this famous Gelug sect (Yellow Hat sect) lamasery was a delightful start for our long day of monasteries hopping in the Indus River Valley. The morning prayers was definitely one of the most memorable moments of our Ladakh trip. Before leaving Thiksey, we stopped by a decent eatery at the monastery entrance for breakfast.
Approaching Thiksey Gompa from the main road. Thiksey Gompa was sometimes referred to as the Little Potala Palace.
Thiksey Gompa against a beautiful backdrop in early morning.
We didn’t know how we could find our way to the main prayer hall. We followed the chanting and climbed up numerous stairs and terraces. Half way through, we met three senior monks who were also making their way up. They took their time and walked leisurely. At one point, they stopped at a terrace to admire the amazing view.
They chanted, stopped, then chanted, then stopped again for a break of butter tea, or a bowl of simple breakfast.
The younger monks served butter tea at regular intervals to everyone, including us, between chanting sessions.
Lamas of various age groups were present at the morning prayers.
After morning prayers, almost everyone left the hall except a caretaker lama and us.
We were the only tourists who stayed till the end. We stayed behind and the kind caretaker lama let us wander around the prayer hall before locking up the doors.
Buddhist murals at the prayer hall.
Some of the murals were in need of restoration.
The statues in the inner chamber of the prayer hall.
The sun was quite high up after the morning prayers. We walked up to the roof terraces for great views of surrounding landscape.
Looking down towards the main road and the group of stupas downhill.
Lama at the main assembly courtyard.
Causal chat between two lamas.
The assembly courtyard and assembly hall of Thiksey.
We entered the temple which housed a giant statue of Maitreya (future Buddha).
Every room we visited at Thiksey was very well maintained.
Worker painting the exterior wall of the monastery.
The prayer wheel along the entry stair.
The dramatic view of Thiksey Gompa has become an iconic image of Ladakh, appearing on various marketing mediums for tourism in the region.
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Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi