Saturday, August 11, 2012

Monastery, Temples & Ruins Oh My!

Two sites in Ulaanbaatar that guidebooks tell you to visit is the Choijin Lama Temple and the Gandan Monastery. Both are centrally located in the city so you do not have to take a taxi. First I visited Choijin Lama Temple, located right behind the new Blue Sky Hotel. As you can see in the picture, you get a real sense of the modern world creeping in as you walk closer to the ancient temple entrance. The Choijin Lama is a non-active Buddhist Monastery with five temples. It was built in 1904 and completed in 1908. It was then converted into a museum in 1938 by Stalins government. It has a nice collection of sculptures, woodcarvings and embroidery all dating back as early as the 17th century.
This is the entrance where you pay your Tug 5,000 or $3.75 US entrance fee. It is called the temple of Manarajas. There are four huge statues of kings but I don't have any photos because I wasn't sure I could take them.
Pretty detailed columns as you enter the main temple.
Some of what you would see inside the different temples.
The temple of Yadam
 Just outside the entrance is this sculpted wall.
The Gandan Monastery is about a 20 minute walk from the UB Hotel. Scott has seen his fair share of monasteries in his travels but he humored me and joined over a weekend. When you get out of the center of the city you enter more of the neighborhoods so I took some photos. Closer to the monastery is part of the Ger District (pronounced "gehr", rhymes with "hair") which I find fascinating. 
Behind the walls are mostly gers.
In 1938, the communists suppressed religious communities in Mongolia and destroyed over 900 monasteries. In 1944 the Gandan Monastery reopened and is one of the few remaining active monasteries in Mongolia with hundreds of monks. 
As you enter into the monastery you immediately see the Migjid Janraisig Temple in the distance. This building has become a symbol of independence for the Mongolians.
Individual prayer wheels.
Young monks.
Door to the Vajradhara Temple.
Dedanpovran Temple was built in the early 1900's and the Dalai Lama lived here in 1904. 
Tourists are encouraged to feed the pigeons so it is hard to avoid the numerous amount of them around the main square. I just don't get the fascination of feeding these birds. 
The Migjid Janraisig Temple.
If you want to take pictures inside the Migjid Janraisig Temple it is $8.00 US which is ridiculous! We opted to not take any photos but I was "stealth" enough to snap this on our way out. Although the building looks big, it is pretty small inside mainly because the entire center section showcases this massive golden Buddha of Migjid Janraisig, decorated with jewels. The statue is 82 feet high and weighs 20 tons. It is very impressive but not worth $8.00 US.
Big Golden Feet near the Migjid Janraisig entrance.
Dechengalpa Datsan was originally in the center of UB and rebuilt at Gandan in 1992. 
As far as religious monuments go, I was pretty underwhelmed by both the Choijin Lama Temple and Gandan Monastery. Mongolia, in general, is not a place to go and be wowed by their architecture but more by the beauty of the countryside. It is not that expensive to see either site so it is still worth visiting but just don't expect too much.
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