Gandan Monastery – The Palace of Complete Joy – Tuesday’s Snapshot

Destination Bayan Olgii – On the road update
February 28, 2014
On the road with Eternal Landscapes – Our Attempt At Video Production!
March 12, 2014

Tuesday’s Snapshots – highlighting images from the EL team and our guests based on a Mongolia theme. On each of our trips we offer a free informal and relaxed walking tour of Ulaan Baatar. This is not about museums or shopping but about exploring the local community and part of this walk takes in Gandan Monastery.

Monasteries and temples are built not just as centres of worship but as centres of learning – their elements are designed to teach and inspire. Gandan has colleges of Buddhist philosophy (including the Zanabazar Buddhist University – a college of traditional medicine and astrology and tantric ritual and practice). 
Within Mongolia, religious belief and religious customs and traditions are still upheld and remain an inherent part of Mongolian society. Visiting Gandan Monastery provides a window on a slice of Mongolian history and everyday life.   At Gandan, you can buy birdseed and feed the pigeons or pay to light a candle – both ways of attaining Buddhist merit. 
Its full name Gandantegchinlen translates roughly as ‘the place of complete joy’ and it is considered the centre for Buddhism in Mongolia. Construction was started in 1838 by the Fourth Bogd Khan (Living Buddha). The 13th Dalai Lama fled to here when Tibet was invaded by the British in 1903. The main monastery temple is the Migjid Janraisig Sum. 

Within Migjid Janraisig Sum, complete a Kora – the inner circumambulation path of the temple. Alternatively, visit Tsaganny Ovoo – a shamanistic stone shrine connected to Gandan Monastery (you can just see it in the background). UB is still very much a city of gers and surrounding the downtown area are ger districts where a majority of the city’s population make their home. Most travellers to Mongolia only have a day in the city and accessing the ger districts is not possible. By visiting Tsagaany Ovoo you can look north into the ger districts – some which have been here since 1838. 

This 26 meter gold gilded statue is of the Bodhisattva of Compassion (Janraisig in Mongolian) – bodhisattvas are able to escape the cycle of death and rebirth but choose to remain in this world to assist others in reaching enlightenment (nirvana). Rebuilt in 1996, the statue was originally erected in 1911 to commemorate Mongolian independence and was tragically transported to Russia for use as metal in the manufacturing of explosive shells during WW2. The smaller statues surrounding the interior of the temple are said to be that of Amitabha (Sanskrit for ‘Immeasurable Light’) – one of the five Buddha’s of Wisdom.
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