Monday, August 22, 2011

Gandantegchenling Monastery


Originally situated in the center of Ulaanbaatar, Gandan Monastery was moved to its present location by the 5th Bogd Jebzundamba in 1838.

Over the next century the Monastery grew to include nine datsans or institutes, a library and housed a community of around 5000 monks. Gandan became an important center for learning and practicing Buddha’s teachings, not only in Mongolia but for the entire Mahayana Buddhist community.

In 1938, the communists suppressed religious communities in Mongolia. They destroyed around 900 monasteries, though a handful were turned into museums. The monks were killed, jailed, or forced to join the army or laity. Five temples of Gandan Monastery were destroyed. The remaining temples were used to accommodate Russian officials or used as barns to keep their horses.

In 1944 after a petition from several monks, Gandan Monastery was reopened but its functions were carried out under the strict supervision of the socialist government.

In 1990, after the Democratic Revolution and with Buddhism flourishing once more, Gandan Monastery embarked on an ambitious restoration program around the country.

There are currently 10 datsans and temples operating at Gandan Monastery, and approximately 900 monks.

Gandantegchenling /1938/

Along the left wall are the 108 volumes of the Kanguir, penned in the 14th century by Mongolian masters in gold ink on black paper.

In the central glass case at the back is a large statue of the Buddha made by Mongolian lamas in 1956 to celebrate the 2500th anniversary of the Buddha’s death.

In another case is a self-portrait of Zanabazar, the first Jebzundamba of Mongolia, made in the 1680’s at his mother’s request. It is surrounded by small statues of the seven subsequent Jebzundambas. Along the right wall are gold-plated statues of the Bodhisattva Amitays, the Bodhisattva of Longevity.

Migjed Janraisig

This imposing building, which has become a symbol of independence for the Mongolians, is a temple for the veneration of Janraisig (Chenresig in Tibetan), the Bodhisattva of Compassion. It was built in 1911 at the time of Bogd Khan, the 8th Jebzundamba (Mongolia’s last reincarnate spiritual and temporal ruler). The original statue was destroyed by the communists in 1938. The current statue was completed in 1996 with the generous donations of Buddhist devotees. The Janraisig statue stands 26.5 meters. It is made of copper from Erdenet Mine and is gilded in gold.


This building originally housed the remains of the Mongolian Bogd Lamas. Later, when Gandan Monastery was reopened it became a library.

The library contains approximately one million sutras in Mongolian, Tibetan and Sanskrit. There are also some surgical instruments from the 16th century kept here.


This temple was built at the beginning of the 1900’s. The 13th Dalai Lama lived here in 1904. The temple is made of earth and brick.

Vajradhara Temple /1840/

On the main altar is a statue of Vajradhara, a Buddha from Tantric practice, made by Zanabazar in 1683. The temple is made of earth and brick and the top decoration is gilded gold. Daily service is performed at this temple.

Dechengalpa Datsan

Originally in the center of Ulaanbaatar, this Datsan was rebuilt at Gandan in 1992. On the throne is a portrait of the Bogd Khan. Every spring the Datsan holds the Kalachakra ritual.

Idgachoinzenling Datsan

This Datsan was established by the 8th Bogd Jebzundamba. its practices were based on the works of Tibetan scholar Sera Jebzunpa. The Datsan was destroyed in 1938. Former disciples Ven. Tserendemchig and Ven. Naidan wished to restore their home datsan and had it reopened in 1990. The new temple was opened in 2004.

Tashchoimphel Datsan

This Datsan was established by the 2nd Bogd Jebzundamba and Manjusri Khutagtu in 1756 but was destroyed in 1938. The Datsan was restored in 1990 and the temple was completed in 1994.

Gungaachoiling Datsan

This Datsan was established by the 4th Bogd Jebzundamba in 1809 and followed Tibetan scholar Panchen Sonamdagva’s works for training and practice. The Datsan was revived in 1990 and opened this new temple in 2001.