The Potala Palace, the most gigantic architectural structure in Tibet, was the fortress and residence of the Dalai Lama, the political center of power in the country and at the same time, thanks to its abundance of works of art and treasures, also an impressive testimony to Tibetan religiosity. The unity of religion and power in the person of the Dalai Lama is embodied here in perfect form. As a mountain fortress at the same time, the Potala Palace also reflects the fact that Tibet has waged numerous wars that were in stark contradiction to humanistic religious ideals. But the Potala has other functions: it is not only a fortress, residence and administrative center, but also a monastery, a mausoleum and a museum. Its name was not chosen by chance: Potala was the name of the legendary mountain in India where Avalokiteshvara, whose earthly incarnation is considered to be the Dalai Lama, was born.
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The structure, 320 m long and 110 m high with eagles soaring around it, is divided into the White and Red Palaces. The White Palace of Potala with its defensible plinth in its present form came into existence under the 5th Dalai Lama beginning in 1645 with the participation of a large number of fortress workers. Little remains of the older fortress on this mountain from the time of Songtsen Gampo (7th century) – although legend has it that the meditation cave (see below) and the Phagpa Hall are relics from that time. The White Palace contains rooms with strictly practical functions, including sleeping quarters, offices, and the Dalai Lama’s audience hall. It also contains the monastic circuit, administrative offices, and warehouses. The most important shrines are in the Red Palace, erected under the regent of the 6th Dalai Lama before 1694. Since then, the external appearance of the Potala has not changed much.
The main entrance to the Potala Palace, through which pilgrims follow, leads up the side of the fortress mountain (called the Red Mountain) that faces the Old City to the eastern side of the White Palace. Tourists in the booked program are taken along the road from the west to the north side of the Red Palace to enter the holy of holies, so to speak, through the back door. From there, one must move along the tour route, leading to all the important rooms with an unusually large number of magnificent pieces of art.
The Great Western Hall
The center of the Red Palace is the Great Western Hall, the Hall of Enthronement. Its walls are decorated with paintings depicting episodes from the lives of the Dalai Lamas, Tibetan kings and incarnations of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. The four rooms surrounding the western hall may, on the basis of their religious meaning, be considered a history of Tibetan Buddhism: the hall of Padmasambhava tells of its origin and is dedicated to the Indian saint who arrived in Tibet in the 8th century, subdued the demons of the local religion and charged them with guarding Buddhism. The next room is the hall of the reformer Tsongkhapa, whose successor later became the 1st Dalai Lama. The third room is dedicated to him and his four subsequent incarnations. The fourth room contains the tomb stupas with the bodies of the 5th, 10th and 12th Dalai Lamas. They are 14-meter high, abundantly gilded and adorned with precious stones pagodas with relics. The central stupa of the 5th Dalai Lama is the most magnificent decoration of Potala. In similar caskets in the Red Palace rest the mortal coats of the eight Tibetan priest-kings. From outside, their exact location is shown by the gilded roofs of the Red Palace.
The stairs on the northeast corner of the west hall lead through an intermediate floor with wall paintings, which, among other things, depict the construction of the Potala, to the upper floor with other significant halls and remarkable depictions. Here in the northeast corner is also the meditation hall of King Songtsen Gampo. This room, with its layouts of rocks, designed like a grotto, goes back to the time of the founding of Lhasa and the origins of the Potala Palace, as well as Tibetan Buddhism in general. Plastically, the king is depicted between the thirty-eighth Avalokiteshvara and the 5th Dalai Lama; further on, statues of Songtsen Gampo’s wives, Padmasambhava and other personages are visible.
A circular corridor leads on to the Hall of Peaceful and Wrathful Gods, and to two halls full of many valuable metal sacrificial offerings. Above them is the hall of Phagpa. At its left entrance you can see the foot and hand prints allegedly left by Padmasambhava, Tsongkhapa and the 12th Dalai Lama. The main statues in the room are three sandalwood statues of Avalokiteshvara, which are said to have emerged as natural formations from a split tree trunk; therefore believers see these figures as manifestations of the beyond, and the reverence for them is correspondingly great.
The 13th Dalai Lama’s Stupa and Private Quarters
If one walks to the left one can reach the sepulchral stupa of the 13th Dalai Lama who passed away in 1933. Then follow the private room of the 6th Dalai Lama, a lively man who disobeyed the monastic vows and was presumably assassinated. Amitayus, the Buddha of Longevity, is venerated in this room today. A staircase leads to the attic floor with Maitreya Hall, in which stands the throne of the 8th Dalai Lama. The rooftop platform offers a beautiful view of the city. A circular corridor then leads to the private quarters of the 13th and 14th (current) Dalai Lama. Since the latter fled Tibet in 1959, the rooms allotted to him have retained virtually their original appearance. Through the courtyard and the extremely luxurious portals you can walk up the stairs on the south side of the palace and go down into town. Opening hours: Daily. 9.30-12.00, 15.00-17.00.
The Potala Palace is the highest ancient temple complex that used to be the residence of the great Dalai Lama (it is a Buddhist structure) the palace is listed in the UNESCO.
One of the most beautiful Buddhist palaces in the world, the Potala, is located in Tibet. The building received its name in the 11th century. In 1994 the Potala temple was included in the list of human heritage of UNESCO. It is situated at an altitude of more than 3 thousand meters. The Potala Temple is the official winter residence of the Dalai Lama. It was here that all the ceremonies and meetings with the Tibetan government were held. Currently, a lot of tourists come here from around the world in order to see with their own eyes the beauty and power of the Tibetan temple, to get acquainted with rare exhibits.
History of Potala
This beautiful temple complex is located in the colorful Lhasa Valley on Mount Marpo Ri. It is one of the tallest monumental structures in Tibet. According to mythical legend, Songtsen Gempo (a Tibetan ruler in the 7th century AD) meditated in a cave on Mount Marpo Ri. Later he decided to build a temple complex on the hill. The structure had its original appearance until the 17th century. With the help of the Dalai Lama in 1648 the temple was restored and slightly reconstructed. Today it is the structure can be seen by travelers who arrived in Tibet. About 7,000 workers and 1,000 artists were involved in the construction of the structure.
In 1922 the Supreme Leader of Tibet repaired the halls and other places of worship in the White Palace, and workers also restored the Red Palace. This great structure was damaged only once, in 1959, when the Chinese invaded.
In addition, the temple remained in perfect condition even after the Hongweibi raids, which destroyed many Tibetan palaces in the 1960s and 1970s. 20th century. In the Potala temple complex, all the exhibits and sanctuaries remained intact at this time.
The castle was once used to train administrators and religious instructors. The White Palace contains small chapels that are valued for their preservation and sacredness.
The Potala Temple consists of the White Palace and the Red Palace. In the White Palace you can see the rooms of the monks of the Supreme Head of Tibet, the Sun and the Great Oriental Pavilions.
It is worth noting that the Sun Pavilion consists of the eastern and western parts. In the western part are the rooms of the thirteenth Supreme Leader of Tibet, and in the eastern part are the rooms of the fourteenth Dalai Lama. Tourists can see brocade blankets, jasper and gold tea devices, porcelain sculptures, statues of Shakyamuni Buddha, and much more in the Sun Pavilion.
The Great Oriental Pavilion is the largest in the White Palace. It was here that cultural celebrations and political meetings were held. The walls of the Great Oriental Pavilion are decorated with murals on the themes of “the life story of a princess” and “how a monkey became a man”. In the center of the Great Pavilion stands a large statue of the Dalai Lama.
In the Red Palace the monks of the Dalai Lama recited prayers in the name of Shakyamuni Buddha. Many pavilions with memorial shrines and other unusual rooms can be seen here.
Red Palace has eight sanctuaries, among which are worth highlighting the rooms of the thirteenth Dalai Lama and the fifth Supreme Leader of Tibet. Their appearance is simply amazing. They are so large and luxurious that any tourist is sure to remember the memorial shrines at Potala for a lifetime. The stupa of the fifth Dalai Lama is more than fourteen meters high (a five-story house). It is made entirely of real gold. Tibetan memorial shrines alone are a large part of the world’s wealth.
The stupa of the thirteenth Dalai Lama rises to a height of about 14 meters. It was built in 1934.
In the Red Palace, travelers will see various attributes, unique scriptures, unusual products and handicrafts, icons of Buddhist saints, and frescoes depicting the construction of the Tibetan temple complex.
The highest and most spacious hall of the Red Palace is considered to be its western part. It was here that the Dalai Lama once received guests, organized ceremonies and held sacrifices. Among the exhibits are a banner with imperial paintings, cloths made of brocade and gold threads. One can also see a statue of the many-armed and many-faced Avalokiteshvara, made of silver and gold.
The most ancient attraction of the temple complex is the Pabalakan (Avalokiteshwar) Pavilion and Favana Cave (27 sq. km.) The pavilion is located directly above the cave, which allows tourists to view the beauty of the complex. The Fawana Cave contains rare statues of the princesses of the Tufan Kingdom: Ludongzang, Chizul, and Wencheng.
Most of the roofs of the palace pavilions are gilded and have a traditional Chinese shape with flying corners, which are often decorated with animals from legends.
The Potala Palace is a monument of Buddhist architecture. Many exhibits here are unique and amazing. Having been to this Palace, travelers want to return here again.