15
Mar
11

Gyantse, Tibet – Kumbum Stupa and Palkhor Monastery

The Palkhor Monastery lies in Gyantse, about 230 kilometers south of Lhasa in Southwest  Tibet and 100 kilometers east of the Shigatse Prefecture, at the foot of Dzong Hill.

It is well-known for its Kumbum, which has 108 chapels in its four floors. The multi-storied Kumbum Stupa was crowned with a golden dome and umbrella, surrounded with more chapels filled with unique religious statues and murals.
The monastery was founded in 1418 by the second Prince of Gyantse, Rabten Kunsang, who was a devotee of Kedrub Je, Tsongkapa’s disciple. It became an important centre of the Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

In 1904, the town and monastery were attacked by British soldiers, most of the damages were later restored, but bullet holes from this attack remain there up to now. It was partially destroyed in 1959 after a revolt against Chinese ruling class and again was damaged in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), but has since been largely restored.

The compound housed approximately 15 different monasteries, made up of three different sects (Gelugpa, Sakyapa, and Kahdampa) in a rare instance of tolerance amongst the Tibetan sects of Buddhism. It is the only monastery that housed monks from different sects in harmony. Meanwhile, its structural style, enshrined deities, and murals are pretty special.

Palkhor Monastery is most famous for its Bodhi stupa (Kumbum in Tibetan, meaning hall of 10.000 Buddhist figures).

As the symbol of the monastery, the spectacular stupa (Buddhist shrine) consists of hundreds of chapels in layers, housing a hundred thousand figures of Buddha or so, Bodhisattvas, Vajras (thunderbolt symbols), Dharma Kings, Arhats (enlightened Buddhists), and disciples and great experts of different orders in Tibetan Buddhist history. The stupa also contains about 3,000 statues of outstanding figures in Tibetan history such as Songtsen Gampo and Trisong Detsen, so it is also called Myriad Buddha Stupa.

Covering a space of 2,200 square meters, the stupa has a total 108 gates and 77 chapels, each of which has a dominant religious figure and murals. The cylinder, 20 meters in diameter, has four chapels inside. This graceful structure is one of the most visited places in Tibet.

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