Monday, July 13, 2009

Amarbayasgalant Monastery.



M
y tummy was full, the ride was bumpy, the scenery was spectacular and the traveller chat with Violeta, Sharon and Adrian was helping pass the time away. I was having a great time!

Our next destination was Amarbayasgalant Monastery.

Built between 1727 and 1736, the monastery was originally constructed to house the remains of Zanabazar, who was the first the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia. However, the monastery is not named after him.....it's actually named after two boys, Amur and Bayasqulangtu, who were playing in the spot that the monastery now stands on.

In 1937, when Mongolia was under a Communist regime, Amarbayasgalant went into partial ruin; huge numbers of rare religious relics, books, sutras, thangkas and Buddhas which had been collected for 200 years, were destroyed completely. It remained in ruins for nearly 50 years. After the fall of the Communist regime, restoration of the monastery began and in 1996, it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.





It was around mid afternoon by the time we arrived at Amarbayasgalant Monastery. The moment the monastery came into sight, all I could think of was who would build a monastery in the middle of nowhere, Mongolia and damn, I really have to pee :-)

As soon as the driver stopped the SUV, Sharon and I lept out in search of something to hide behind so we could relieve ourselves......we're in a small parking lot so behind a car was the spot to squat. TMI?

Feeling much, much better, I posed on the fence for a photo op.










We made our way towards the entrance. Along the way, we passed through the forecourt. A small incense burner and stele stood in the center of the grassy court area.














We entered the first of series of inner courts through a very modest building. Looking back at the structure, I could see the paint chipping off the walls and grass growing between the roof tiles. So, even though the monastery had been restored, it was still in a bit of a rundown state.














An old wooden door, with a simple khadag tied to the handle, marked the entryway to yet another inner courtyard.














In the entryway stood very colorful statues of two protector dieties.



























Through the entryway and we were in an inner courtyard. There we were greeted by beautiful pavilion style buildings.







In contrast to the exterior of the buildings which very Chinese in architectural design, the interior was very Tibetan in look and feel.







Back outside, the Tibetan influences were also evident. The topper on the building....


















The prayer wheels....


















and the monk. :-)
























Puji gave us a few minute to walk about the monastry and its grounds. Then it was back to the SUVs for the short ride to a nearby ger camp where we would be spending the night. From the ger, we could see the monastery in the distance.

The next morning, Maree, Cathleen, Eric and I woke up at the crack of dawn and climbed a hill to view Amarbayasgalant in the light of the early morning. From high above, we could see the modest monastery, nestled in the expansive Mongolian steppe. The sun was battling to break through the clouds ....a storm front was coming. In that singluar moment, there was a serene light cast over the entire landscape. What I saw before me was simply beautiful. The image that came across the camera lens almost looks like a painting....it's one of my favorite photos.