Woman Monk at Ganden Monastery. Tibet 2011© Nora de Angelli / www.noraphotos.com
Ganden Namgyeling is one of the 'great three' Gelukpa, (The Yellow Hat Sect), university monasteries of Tibet, located at the top of Wangbur Mountain, at an altitude of 4,300m.
A visit to Ganden Monastery is incomplete without walking its hour long pilgrimage route. The beauty of the views over the Lhasa River Valley from this 4,500-meter high peak, pays a rich tribute to Tsongkhapa's prudence in locating his monastery here. The walk introduces many aspects of a Tibetan pilgrimage route. The path is signposted by a rich array of colorful prayer flags fluttering in the breeze. Either side, rock faces are rubbed with yak butter offerings and small shrines in rock fissures are filled with tsha-tshas, small religious offering tablets made of clay deposited by pilgrims.
Some pilgrims prostrate at every step, others before holy emblems or as tradition demands; for example, at the sky burial site it is customary to roll over on the ground to rid oneself of sin.
Ganden Monastery consisted of two principal original colleges.
It contained more than two dozen major chapels with large Buddha statues. The largest chapel was capable of seating 3,500 monks. Tenzin Gyatso, the present Dalai Lama (born 1935), took his final degree examination in Ganden in 1958 and he claims to feel a particularly close connection with Tsongkhapa.