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Jokhang Temple

By: renmenbi

Located in the heart of Lhasa is the Jokhang Temple which is considered to be one of the most holy and sacred places of worship by the Tibetans. The temple has also been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. It covers an area of almost 6 acres and is known for the famous statue of Buddha that it houses. It also marks the advent of Buddhism in to Tibet. It was only after the temple was built that Buddhism grew to its present position in Tibet.

The temple was built by the first King of Tibet Songtsem Gampo as premises for the Buddha statues that were bought by his Nepalese and Tang wives. The temple was built in 647 and had only eight shrines. But it has been extensively renovated many a times under the Yuan, the Ming and the Qing dynasties.

The temple is mostly Timber and is divided into four stories. The tops of the domes are golden while the entire temple is open air. There is a central square which allows complete view of the entire temple. Two steles recording the alliance between Tibet and the tang dynasty and ways to prevent small pox are erected on the central courtyard. The architecture of the temple is essentially Tang as well as Nepalese.

It is also believed that the original temple was built seeking inspiration from the Indian vihara design. Apart from the shrines there is are two golden deer guarding the wheel of dharma that stand atop the main hall. This hall is said to be 1300 years old and has a pathway of lights leading up to it. The temple was looted several times by the Mongols yet this hall survived all the destruction. The hall is supported by many pillars that are decorated with various religious items. It is here that the famous Sakyamuni statue sits. The statue depicts the great Buddha at the age of twelve. There were only three statues of Buddha that he allowed to be made during his life time.

These were likeliness of him at the age of eight, twelve and then after attaining Nirvana. Since Buddha did not believe in idol worship no more statues of him were made during his life time. This great statue was designed by Gautam Buddha himself. It was bought by the Tang wife of the Tibetan king. This hall is considered to be the most auspicious place in the entire temple and devotee's flock here to pay homage. Many worshippers can be seen lying prostrate in front of the statue as well as the hall.

There are golden dragons depicted all over the temple. Typical Tibetan spherical prayer bells are also found here and devotees are seen rotating them in order to worship Buddha. Legend also has it that the temple was built on a lake that was filled up with soil transported on sheep back. In fact the name of Lhasa is also said to be derived from the former name of the temple which was Ra-Sa-Vphrul-Snang.

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