Most of Tibet consists of an immense plateau with an altitude of 4000-5000 meters, fortified by the mighty Himalayas. Adrenaline rushing through our veins and the thrill of the adventure spurring us on, we got up early in the morning to explore one of the remaining gems of Tibet. The first ones to arrive at the Gyantse Kumbum, it was the magical hour as the first warm rays filtered over the mountain and lit up the golden domes of the temple. Drumming from within the temple hardly disturbed the sleeping lumps of fur posing as dogs, while pilgrims started their morning 'koras' and prostrations. The dark interior chapels were lit by yak butter lamps. The flickering lights danced on ghoulish masks and paintings of grotesque demons; portraying our self-created hell on earth. Using this fear and the accompanying superstitions as a control, the monks rush in to protect the flock from harm.
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9. The Potala palace present in LhasaThe palace in Potala is famous in Tibet and is a part of the UNESCO world heritage site since 1994. This place has artifacts in relation to the Tibetan history, culture and religion as well as art. It is popularly known for its precious murals, antiques, sculptures, and ancient precious jewelry, scriptures that is housed within.
The Jokhang is surrounded by the Barkhor, a fascinating maze of narrow streets, and the most popular circumambulation with Buddhist pilgrims and inhabitants of Lhasa. A little further is the famous Potala Palace: the primary residence of successive Dalai Lamas until 1959. Composed of the white palace that was once the residence of the Dalai Lama, and the Red Palace, which was entirely devoted to religious study and prayer, it has 1000 rooms and houses 200 000 Buddhist images.
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is the spiritual centre of Lhasa, and is the largest temple of Tibetan Buddhism. Visiting the Jokhang is an unforgettable experience. Outside the temple are pilgrims performing thousands of ritual prostrations, some of whom have travelled hundreds of miles this way. Many wear leather aprons and kneepads fashioned from tires, and hold pieces of wood to help them slide more easily without injuring themselves, but it’s easy to recognise those who have come far by the marks on their forehead (it’s estimated that it takes about 70 000 successive prostrations to travel one hundred kilometres !). Inside the temple the acrid scent of yak butter lamps pervades the air with a distinctive rancid smell, very characteristic of Tibetan temples. The walls are blackened by centuries of lamp smoke, but it’s still possible to distinguish the striking paintings of bulging-eyed "wrathful deities" wearing garlands of severed heads. In the temple, which you have to move round clockwise, our companions were mainly small old ladies who walk while constantly turning a small handheld prayer wheel. In the street you frequently see Tibetans of all ages walking while turning a prayer wheel in one hand and holding a child or a bag of shopping in the other. They contain written mantras (prayers), and turning them supposedly releases the prayer into the air just as if it was being spoken.