About sight: Potala

Potala located in highland city of Lhasa isn’t only one of the largest palaces in the world. First of all, it is a Buddhist sanctuary. Until 1959 there lived and ruled Dalai Lamas, but after anti-China rebellion the current Dalai Lama was forced to immigrate to India. Today the pa-lace is a museum.

Potala Palace was laid down by Songtsen Gampo, one of the greatest rulers of Tibet, in 637. For the first time he could unite separate lands of Tibet under his power and moved the capital from Cedang to Lhasa in the same 637. However, in the following thousand years the capital was often transferred to some other places and internecine wars again broke in Tibet.

In XVII century (one thousand years later) there appeared in Tibet another great ruler Dalai Lama V who again united separate lands. He decided to move the government of Tibet from Drepung Monastery to Lhasa making it again the capital.

By that time there remained nothing of the palace built by Songtsen Gampo, so Dalai Lama V laid down the other Potala in 1645. The palace has survived until nowadays. Since then Lhasa was finally established as the capital of Tibet. For several centuries the city was almost completely isolated from foreigners and every other contact with outside world.

East wing of the palace was completed 3 years after its foundation in 1648. There was also built the Kangyur Lhakang (scripture temple) housing sacred Buddhist texts in 108 volumes (collected words of Buddha written down on black paper with golden ink). Five years later there was finished all the lower part of Potala consisting of 9 floors, which was called White Palace (Potrang Karpo).

The upper part of Potala, called Red Palace (Potrang Marpo), was only completed after the death of Dalai Lama V, which was concealed by the regent for 12 years (it was announced that Dalai Lama secluded himself in the cell).

You can consider the finished 13-floor complex of Potala to be one of the largest palaces in the world. It height is 118 meters, its length is 336 meters. The exact number of rooms is un-known, however, they are certainly more than a thousand. Only about a quarter of them are open for visiting, but considering that Potala houses over 200 000 works of art, you should spare on Potala most part of the day. The pilgrims, following the traditions of kora, go around the rooms clockwise until they reach the roof of Red Palace giving a wonderful view of Kyi-chu Valley.

White Palace was a secular part of Potala. There located Kashag (Tibetan government), as well as Tse Lobdra, school for the boys of noble families. Red Palace was inhabited by the monks of the private monastery of Dalai Lama. Almost every room is a temple there. In the center of the palace there located memorial halls with tombs of Dalai Lamas (stupas).

On the opposite side of the palace there is a park with artificial lake. On the island in the middle of the lake there was built the temple of Dalai Lama V where he liked to retire.

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