Saturday, January 29, 2005

Tibet | Mindroling | Dorje Drak

From Samye we drove down the Tsangpo Valley and crossed the bridge to Tsetang, then headed up the south side of the valley to Mindroling, the monastery which had been heavily damaged by the Zungarian Mongols who invaded Tibet in 1718 under the leadership of Tseveen Ravdan, the nephew of Galdan Bolshigt, who in the 1680s had led the Zungarian Mongols against the Khalkh Mongols, at that time headed by Zanabazar, the First Bogd Gegen of Mongolia, who was the great grandson of Avtai, the founder of Erdene Zuu. The Zungarians were hacked off that the Khoshot Mongol Khan Lhazang had effectively removed the 6th Dalai Lama from power and replaced him with what many Tibetans felt was a pretender 6th Dalai Lama. The Zungarians invaded Tibet with the idea of removing the pretender and installing Kalsang Gyatso, then a boy monk at Kumbum Monastery near current day Xining in Qinghai Province, China, as the Seventh Dalai Lama. As staunch supporters of the Dalai Lama’s Gelug sect they held a particular grievance against the Nyingma sect and set about trashing and looting Nyingma monasteries. Thus Mindroling, a Nyingma stronghold, was heavily damaged. It was later rebuilt or at least refurbished using the distinctive local stone. Mindroling escaped destruction by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and thus survives as an unusual example of the fine stone work used in early Tibetan monasteries.

Building at Mindroling showing distinctive stonework

From Mindroling we took the ferry across the Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) River.

Ferry across the Tsangpo

Passengers on the ferry

On the north side of the river we visited the tomb of Yeshe Tsogyel, the consort of Padmasambhava, who in the eight century had founded Samye Monastery.

Stupa of Yeshe Tsogyel
Then we continued on to the village of Dratang, where we spent New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day at the Dratang Guest House, locally famous for its excellent dumpling soup.

Dratang Guest House

Then back across the Tsangpo by ferry and down the valley to yet another ferry across the Tsangpo to Dorje Drak Monastery.

Ferry to Dorje Drak

Dorje Drak

Like Mindroling, Dorje Drak was a Nyingma Monastery and was almost totally destroyed by the Zungarian Mongols in 1718. It was rebuilt, only to be destroyed again during the Cultural Revolution. It has now been rebuilt yet again.

Dorje Drak

We arrived just in time to see the completion of a sand mandala dedicated to Yama, the Lord of Death.

Sand Mandala

The monks conducted ceremonies connected with the mandala from about five to ten o’clock in the in the morning, then in the late afternoon they did a ceremonial dance in the courtyard, and then more chanting from about seven to ten in the evening.
Ceremonial Dance
We stayed in a guest room at the monastery and were very well treated by the monks, who plied us continually with butter tea.