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Ganden Thangka Showing Festival

  • by Larry
  • Last Updated: 2023-10-21

The Ganden Thangka Showing Festival is a holy celebration taking place at the ancient Ganden Monastery which is the first monastery of the Gelug sect of Tibet. The pilgrims come here by thousands for a visit to their dream place every year. They pray around the monastery, worship Buddha inside the main hall, and show their respect to an exquisite Thangka of Buddha displayed on a hill beside the temple.

Upfolding the Thangka image
Grand Ganden Thangka Showing Festival

Brief Introduction of Ganden Monastery

Ganden Monastery is one of the earliest and largest monasteries in Tibetan Buddhism, ranking first among the six famous monasteries of the Gelug Sect. Located at the top of Wangbur Mountain, Ganden Monastery lies to the northeast of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, at a distance of about 36 kilometers. Ganden means "Joyful Victory Temple". It was built by Jen Tsongkhapa - the founder of the Gelug Sect in 1409 after he promoted religious reforms in Tibet. After the completion of the monastery, Tsongkhapa lived here, wrote books and spread the Buddhist theory system of Gelugpa.

Ganden Thangka Showing Festival

The Thangka Showing Festival in Ganden is one of the most wonderful feasts for Tibetan Buddhists and those who have strong faith in Buddhism. In order to join this ceremony, some poor people would come there for several weeks in advance, by walking forward days and nights. It's a grand pageant where thousands of devout believers gather there for their religious beliefs. If you're interested in experiencing unique cultures or making some changes in your life, it's a good choice for you to go on a trip to Ganden Monastery on the 15th day of the sixth month of the Tibetan Calendar.

Many locals and travelers will set off from different areas of Lhasa at midnight and come for the festival before dawn. Many people choose to stand on the top of a mountain nearby to watch the sunrise. On a clear day, the sunlight will appear on the horizon and light up the holy land with golden light. You may be mesmerized by the wonderful views there.

Just before dawn, many devout believers lit up mulberry branches and hung prayer flags on the hillside... On this particular day, people devoutly write the names of their family members on the colorful prayer flags printed with blessing scriptures and hang the prayer flags on the high hills of Wangbur Mountain. Let the wind keep blowing pious expectations and wishes...

People hang the prayer flags on the high hills of Wangbur Mountain
People hang the prayer flags on the high hills of Wangbur Mountain.

The crowds will flood into the Ganden Monastery once the celebration begins. They step into every hall there with awe and pray for blessings by the wisdom light of Buddhas. During the festival, the pilgrims will dress up in their finest clothes and decorate their livestock with fine decorations.

Then the pilgrims will slowly move on from the architectural complex of the monastery to the chosen mountain to watch the Thangka exhibition. The mountain is dotted with countless people, most of them attempting to get closer to the Thangka. Then the monks will blow horns and beat drums to open the prelude of the Thangka show. Lots of incense is lit and spreads an intense smell, which creates an atmosphere of solemnity and peace.

People use the smoke of simmering mulberry to pray for belssing
People use the smoke of simmering mulberry to pray for blessings.

After that, the old and respectable monks will step into the stage center in their unique robes. The crowds will cheer up and roll their prayer wheels as they know that Thangka showtime is finally coming. The presiding monks will chant mantras before it was unveiled to the visitors. Then this excellent piece of artwork will hang on the wall of the mountain. The pilgrims will try to touch the magical fabric with their foreheads praying for blessing.

Upfolded Buddha image
The pilgrims will try to touch the Buddha Thangka painting with their foreheads praying for blessing.

Finally, the monks will fold the Thangka and take it back to the monastery to store it carefully for a year. However, this is not the end of the festival. Like most festivals in Tibet, it’s high time for family gatherings, eating and having fun. Once the thangka is brought indoors, some visitors start to disperse and leave while most of the rest people will go to the mountainside, where they can enjoy a meal with their family and friends.

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