Gongkar Chode Monastery was built in 1464, belongs to the Zung branch of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. It is located on a hill top cliff in the Gongkar valley on the southern side of the Tsangpo River, on the Lhasa Gonggar Airport road to the south of the main road, 75 kilometres from Lhasa.
The principal founder of the Dzongpa Tradition was Dorje Chang Kunga Namgyal (1432–1496). The main monastery of the Dzongpa is Gongkar Chode just south-west of Lhasa on the south side of the Tsangpo River.
In the 16th century, the monastery was beautified with wall paintings of the Khyenri school of Tibetan paintings done by the well-known artist of the times, Jamyang Khyentse Wangchuk (b.1524).
The monastic community (there were 260 lamas in the past, now only 30) perform an annual festival of Mandala rituals from the 6th to the 15th day of the first lunar month, according to the Tibetan calendar. Over a two-day period, 28 sand Mandalas are created according to the Carya, Yoga and Anuttarayoga Tantras. These are the concise deity cycles according to the Vajrapanjara namely, “the Hevajra tantra, black Hevajra, Hevajra in Dombhi Heruka's tradition, Hevajra in the Tsokye Dorje tradition, Hevajra in the oral instruction tradition, the fifteen goddess cycle of Nairatma, Samvara in Mahasiddha Luipa's tradition, Samvara in Krsnapada's tradition, the five-deity Samvara of Ghantapada, the 37 Varahi form of Samvara, Guhyasamaj-aksobhyavajra, the thirteen deity Bhairava, 49 deity Bhairava, the Vetalaraja form of Bhairava, black Yama, five deity red Yama, thirteen deity red Yama, six faced Yama, Mahamaya, five deity Manjusri, (Rigs gsum rig gtad), (gZa' yum skar yum), nine deity Amitayus, Vidharana in Virupa's tradition, Sarvavid vairocana, Panjara-tara and Vajra-tara”.
On the first day of the ritual, 45 dancers perform a dance known as the 'sun disk' and prepare the ground for depicting the Mandalas. The second day is devoted to preparing the Mandalas. The following seven days, 60 odd dancers perform a hundredfold offering services every day, and a thousandfold offering on the 15th day of the month (full moon) day. The large scroll painting of Shakyamuni is unveiled when white silk scarves are offered by devotees to it. Several types of ritualistic dances are performed by the devotees. Lots of fanfare follows in the form of golden procession, similar to the one held in Lhasa, with offering ceremonies, comprising banners, canopies, streamers, blowing of horns, offering of incense, variety of auspicious symbols and materials, the seven emblems of royalty, the eight auspicious symbols, and the eight substances. In the main assembly hall, "May I become the protector of all sentient beings without exception ..." is chanted. In the afternoon, fire rituals based on the Hevajra tantra are performed, which includes the fire dance by a retinue of the eight goddesses of Hevajra. In the evening, offerings are made to the protectors, followed by a three-day re-consecration ceremony.
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