Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jokhang Temple And Barkhor Market

As I wrote about in my last post, the city of Lhasa in Tibet has many important Buddhist sites and lots of pilgrims (and an occasional western tourist) to visit them. The most sacred is the Jokhang Temple, which is located in the center of the city and is surrounded by the Barkhor square and market. In this photo you can see pilgrims prostrating themselves in front of the Jokhang:

The Jokhang was originally built in approximately 642 A.D. and houses many statues and other works of art/worship in its three floors of chapels. When pilgrims arrive at the temple, a common practice is to circumambulate the entire complex. Circumambulation is a devotional process practiced by many faiths of moving around a sacred object or place. Priests do it around the alter during a Catholic mass and you may have seen video of Muslim pilgrims circling the cube-shaped Kaaba in Mecca (no, I haven't been there - yet...). Once they have completed their walk around the temple, the pilgrims enter the building carrying offerings of money and yak butter. This is the front door of the Jokhang where the pilgrims are lined up to enter:

Wait. Did I mention yak butter again? Yes I did. It's everywhere in Lhasa. The pilgrims bring it in large containers and pour it into the yak butter lamps that are spread throughout all the temples. It gets on pretty much everything and the monks have a part-time job of constantly removing excess from the lamps. Actually, I'm not a big fan of the smell of burning yak butter but if I smelled it again one day I'm sure that it would instantly take me back mentally to Lhasa.

The architecture in Tibet is beautiful. My photos can't even get close to showing how breath taking it is. At most of the sites you're able to take photos inside and are even able to go onto the roof and take photos too. This is from one of the patios on the roof of the Jokhang:

...and another with a few random people in it:

Located just in front of the Jokhang Temple is the Barkhor square and market. I can imagine that it gets much more crowded during the summer months but here's what it looks like in early-to-mid November (you can see Potala Palace on the hill towards the top):

The Barkhor and market is a great place to wander around. It was super interesting to see all the (non-western) tourist items for sale at the stalls and to eat some of the local snacks. These are prayer wheels that are carried and spun by pilgrims:

I've had the chance to know a couple of Buddhists during my lifetime but I have such a better understanding and respect now that I've been to Tibet. It's an honor to be able to visit these sites while on my journey circumnavigating the globe.

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