Gaden Monastery is one of the ‘great three’ Gelugpa university monasteries of Tibet, located at the top of Wangbur Mountain, Tagtse County. It was the original monastery of the Gelug order, founded by Je Tsongkhapa himself in 1409, and is traditionally considered to be the seat of Gelug administrative and political power. The Gaden Tripa or ‘throne-holder of Ganden’ is the head of the Gelugpa school.
Gaden Monastery consisted of two principal original colleges, Jangtse and Shartse, meaning North Peak and East Peak respectively. The three main sights in the Ganden Monastery are the Serdung, which contains the tomb of Tsongkhapa, the Tsokchen Assembly Hall and the Ngam Cho Khang the chapel where Tsongkhapa traditionally taught. The monastery houses artifacts which belonged to Tsongkhapa and Tsongkhapa’s preserved body was entombed there in a silver and gold encrusted tomb by his disciples in 1419.
Gaden Monastery was completely destroyed during the rebellion of 1959. In 1966 it was severely shelled by Red Guard artillery and monks then had to dismantle the remains. Most of Tsongkhapa’s mummified body was burned but his skull and some ashes were saved from the fire. Re-building has been continuing since the 1980s and the “red-painted lhakang in the centre is the reconstruction of Gaden’s sanctum sanctorum containing Tsongkapa’s reliquary stupa.
Circumambulating pilgrims on the lower kora will encounter Lama Tsongkhapa’s original meditation cave. Set in a hillside of scrubby juniper bushes, the cave now contains five self-manifested rock carvings on the wall. Tsongkhapa is the largest central image.
Gaden Monastery has been re-established in Karnataka, India by the Tibetan population in exile. The Monastery is located in the Tibetan settlement at Mundgod and this settlement of Tibetan refugees is the largest of its kind in India, first established in 1966 from land donated by the Indian government.
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