Sacred Places and Holy Waters in Tibet
SACRED PLACES AND HOLY WATERS IN TIBET
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north of the Himalayas. It is home to the indigenous Tibetan people, and to some other ethnic groups such as Monpas and Lhobas, and is inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people. Tibet is the highest region on earth, with an average elevation of 4,900 meters (16,000 ft). It is sometimes referred to as "the roof of the world".
Founded in 1416, Drepung Monastery (Tibetan: Drepung Gompa; Chinese: Zhébàng Sì) 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.
The Shaton Festival
Drepung is especially known as the site of the annual Shoton Festival, with its dramatic unfurling of a giant thangka painting on the hillside.
This is the origin of the "Xuedun" or 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.
Jokhang Temple ("House of the Lord") 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.
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.
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.
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.
Mt. Kailash or Mt. Kailas (Tibetan: Gang Tise or Gang Rinproche; Chinese: Gangdisi Shan) 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 Manasarowar.
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 Potala Palace (Tibetan: Po-trang Po-ta-la; Chinese: Bùdála Gong) in Lhasa was the primary residence of the Dalai Lama until 1959, when the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala after a failed uprising.
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.
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.
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.
Located northwest of Mount Kailash in Western Tibet, the Tirthapuri Hot Springs are closely associated with Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche). Pilgrims bathe in pools fed by the springs, visit the monastery containing the guru's footprint and dig for healing stones along a one-hour pilgrimage route.
Located on the north bank of the Sutlej River, the Tirthapuri Hot Springs fill the barren landscape with steam. Pilgrims typically come here after completing the Kailash pilgrimage. They bathe in pools fed by the sacred springs, then visit the cave and monastery associated with Guru Rinpoche. Prayer flags stretch across the river gorge and chortens (stupas) add color to the landscape.
IMAGE SOURCE: All from Google Images