Drepung Monastery

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                              Drepung Monastery
 
            On the slope of the Wuze Hill in Genbei five kilometers northwest of Lhasa, the Drepung Monastery was
built in 1416 and is the largest of the monastery of the Gelug Sect. It covers and area of 250,000 square
meters.

           At its height, Drepung was the world's largest monastery, having over 10,000 monks in residence. In
1530, when the Second Dalai Lama made Ganden Palace his main residence, Drepung monastery
became not only the primary residence of the Dalai Lama but also the political base for the Gelug
monastic sect. As a result, the tombs of the Second to Fourth Dalai Lamas are at Drepung Monastery.
From 1645, when the Fifth Dalai Lama established the Potala Palace as Tibet's political and spiritual
headquarters, the bodies of later Dalai Lamas were entombed here instead. After the Chinese
Communist invasion of Tibet in 1959 and the forced closure and destruction of its 6,500 monasteries,
some 250 monks from Loseling managed to escape the holocaust and rebuild their institution in Karnataka State, South India. The traditional
training program was thus preserved. Over the years many more young spiritual aspirants have fled Chinese-occupied Tibet and sought entrance
into the monastery, thus helping to preserve their traditional culture. The number of monks presently in the re-established Drepung Loseling has
increased to more than 2,500.
          Drepung Monastery is of great historical importance not only in that it produced some of Tibet's most renowned spiritual leaders, but also in that it
always enjoyed significant political influence. This was the case not only when the Dalai Lama ruled from the monastery itself but also afterwards,
when the official residence was moved to the Potola Palace. For instance, the abbot of the Tshomchen wielded tremendous power within Lhasa's
government.

        Every year in early August, Tibetans celebrate their major festival - Shoton, the Yogurt Festival. The most
important event of this festival - Giant Buddha Show is held in Drepung Monastery.

              Notwithstanding the paucity of its current monastic population, the continued preservation of Drepung’s
architectural structures make it one of Tibet’s most important cultural legacies.



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