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Drepung Monastery in Lhasa

ABOUT DREPUNG MONASTERY

Drepung monastery was the residence of the Dalai Lamas before the construction of Potala Palace was completed. Drepung is the largest monastery in Tibet. During the time when Buddhism was thriving in Tibet, up to ten thousand monks were living in the monastery.  Although there are a lot fewer monks living there now (around 600), modern-day Drepung still shows the signs of its previous glory.

Drepung belongs to the Gelug (Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is one of the three main monasteries of Yellow hats. The other two are Sera in Lhasa and Ganden located 40 km away from Lhasa.

DREPUNG MONASTERY HISTORY

Drepung Monastery, Lhasa, Tibet

Drepung Monastery was built approximately 8 km to the West from Lhasa’s Old Town. It was established in 1416 by Jamyang Choje, the disciple of Tsongkhapa (the founder of the Gelug sect of Buddhism).

The complex soon attracted many monks and turned into an important educational center. There were four academies studying Tibetan Buddhism, and Dalai Lamas were studying there. Drepung became very influential since the Dalai Lamas executed their power from there.

The Fifth Dalai Lama moved the seat to the newly constructed Potala Palace. Tombs of the second, third and fourth Dalai Lamas are located in Drepung.

VISITING DREPUNG MONASTERY

Drepung monastery during Shoton Festival
Shoton Festival celebration in Drepung Monastery

Drepung monastery complex is large, and if you wish to visit all main buildings, it will take you all day. Most of the visitors choose the most important buildings, such as the Main Assembly Hall, the Ganden Palace and a few chapels nearby.

The Ganden Palace served was home to early Dalai Lamas, until the fifth Dalai Lama established the Potala Palace. It still contains the tombs of second, third and fourth Dalai Lamas.

The Main Assembly hall is the largest structure in the complex and the most impressive. The Assembly hall is a 3 store building with the large terrace overlooking the city of Lhasa and the valley. The main statue there is the 3-floors high Future Buddha. In addition, there are statues of Shakyamuni, Tsongkhapa, 13th Dalai Lama and protectors in the chapels.

Drepung was an important educational center with 4 colleges. These colleges are Ngagpa studying Tantric Buddhism, Loseling studying logic, Gomang, and Deyang.

WHEN TO VISIT DREPUNG MONASTERY

You can visit Drepung Monastery year round. One of the most special days to visit it is during the Shoton Festival. It is also called a yogurt festival. On this day monks of Drepung display huge thangka to give blessings to all visitors. Tibetans visit Drepung early in the morning to walk underneath the Thangka. Crowds walk around the monastery.  

After visiting Drepung, people visit Sera Monastery, where monks display a large thangka in the afternoon. The next few days people meet at Norbulingka Park for a picnic. The celebrations usually last for a week. 

WHAT TO DO NEARBY

Nechung State Oracle statue

VISIT NECHUNG ORACLE PROTECTORS CHAPEL

At the bottom of the hill, you can see the Nechung Oracle protectors chapel. The Oracle played an important role in the religious life of Tibetan lamas. The chapel is very popular among Tibetans.

It is a 2-store building with several chapels and the large terrace with the view on both the Drepung Monastery and the city of Lhasa.

You can buy barley beer before entering the chapel and offer it to the protectors.

NECHUNG ORACLE TEMPLE

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Drepung Monastery in Lhasa