Destinations Magazine

Lhasa, Tibet – Jokhang Temple and Drepung Monastery

By Sonyaandtravis @sonyaandtravis

Jokhang Temple and Barkhor square

Our first day in Lhasa started with a visit to the Jokhang Temple, walking through the bustling Barkhor Bazaar to the Barkhor square.

By the time we arrived, there were already many pilgrims outside the temple, performing prostrations whilst two large incense burners omitted strong smoke of juniper.

As we lined up amongst the tens of Tibetan pilgrims, we couldn’t help but notice the strong smell of yak butter which we later found is used to burn offering candles. The Jokhang Temple is quite a large complex. We entered courtyard first and our guide Demdah advised that this was the place where important examinations (e.g. to determine the highest lama) sat by Gelugpa Iamas are held.

After the courtyard, we entered the inner prayer hall which is surrounded by a number of chapels.  The prayer hall contained six statues – two of Guru Rinpoche, three Jampa statues (Maitreya, the Future Buddha) and the thousand-armed Avalokiteshvara.  We would learn later that these statues would be seen repeatedly across many of the monasteries in Tibet.

As per Buddhist tradition, we encircled the surrounding chapels clockwise.  Inside the chapels, we were also required to encircle the room clockwise. There were numerous chapels, including the Chapel of Tsongkhapa (the founder of the Gelugpa order, probably the most renown of the four orders), Chapel of Chenresig, Chapel of Jowo Sakyamuni (said to be the most important shrine in Tibet, as it houses the Present Buddha image at age twelve and is thought to have been brought to Tibet by Princess Wencheng, the Chinese wife of King Songstan Gampo – the founder of Tibet). After visiting a number of chapels, we headed to the roof of Jokang to view the surrounding areas, including views of Barkhor Square and Potala Palace.

Barkhor Bazaar selling scarfs and prayer flags
A Tibetan lady selling various items
Handheld prayer wheels

Handheld prayer wheels
Barkhor Bazaar located around Jokhang Temple
Traditional Tibetan jewelry being sold inside Jokhang Temple

An image of Buddha in the courtyard of Jokhang Temple
The roof of Jokhang Temple
The exterior wall of Jokhang Temple

A snow lion on the corner of Jokang Temple
One of the smaller rooms surrounding the main temple
The upper open courtyard of Jokhang Temple

Gilt roof of the Jokhang Temple
Snow lion found on the gilded bell
Prayer and prostration in front of the Jokhang Temple

Jokhang Square also know as Barkhor Square
Flowers leading to Jokhang Temple in Barkhor Square
Jokhang Temple from Barkhor Square

Drepung Monastery

After Jokang, we headed to Drepung Monastery, located about 8km from Lhasa, stopping by Potala Palace to pick up tickets for the next day (there is a 2000 limit on ticket numbers per day for the popular attraction). Drepung was founded by one of Tsongkhapa’s disciples in the 15th century and is part of the Gelugpa order. It has a number of key buildings, we visited Ganden Palace, the main assembly hall (with a large Jampa statue), the kitchen (used to cook the lamas meals) and a meditation hut where we were told some monks meditate for years on end. It was our first monastery and I enjoyed walking around and admiring the beautiful deep red and white buildings with their wispy white curtains.  We had a lunch of rice and vegetables at the Monastery restaurant next door before heading to our next destination.

Typical braiding of coloured scarfs found on door rings
Tibetans turning prayer wheels at Drepung Monastery
Buddhist stupa outside Drepung Monastery

Colourful rock murals of Buddha with protector
Entrance to the chapel at Drepung Monastery
Yak butter lamps used for lighting and an offering

Inside the Drepung Monastery chapel, statues can be seen on the wall
Inside the Drepung Monastery chapel
Statue of Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelugpa school

The Yellow Hat worn by the Gelugpa sect of Buddhism
Inner buildings of the Drepung Monastery
Ganden Phodrang, the residence of Dalai Lama

High walls of the Drepung Monastery
Steps leading to a chapel in the Drepung Monastery
Sonya with a background of traditional Buddhist colours

A colourful hallway at Drepung Monastery
A colourful inner court at Drepung Monastery
A colourful inner court at Drepung Monastery

Four animal friends, an elephant, a monkey, a rabbit, and a bird positioned on top of each other
An interesting painting
Commonly  seen in Tibet, a Dharma chakra (Wheel of Life) with pair of deer

One of the many colourful doors
The inner courtyard of Drepung Monastery
A snow lion on the corner of the Drepung Monastery, commonly seen in Tibet

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