These pictures were taken during a summer trip to Lhasa, Tibet and simply present a tiny microscopic fraction of the scenic beauty we saw in this land!
No visit to Lhasa could be considered complete without a stop at one of the holiest sites in all of Tibet – the Jokhang Temple.
And so one morning, we headed out on a pilgrimage to the heart of Tibetan Buddhism. As we approached the square housing the temple, we passed by many rows of shops that sold everything from prayer wheels and incense to mandala paintings and little statues. This was so similar to the scene you encounter en route to a Hindu temple, with one slight difference that made us smile. We saw Buddhist monks shopping for textiles and instead of walking on, we stood there just gawking at this trio, pretending to shop so we appeared discreet.
As we got closer we saw people throwing juniper leaves into huge clay burners, leading to the air smelling of juniper incense. The smell was evocative of the scent of incense sticks at Hindu temples. And what we saw next was identical to a scene I have experienced at many a temple since my childhood. We saw adults, children, the elderly all prostrating repeatedly in front of the temple. Some were doing it a few times, many several hundred or thousand times and a few for several days too. This was indeed the best visual depiction of devotion.
After circumambulating the temple a few times, we walked in and encountered swarms of people smiling with warmth and genuineness towards us. The children were enthralled by Sathya, since she was petite and they kept looking in her direction and smiling. The Gods could not have extended a warmer welcome to us.
The temple was dimly lit with yak butter lamps and in this dimly lit space we saw many of the jewels. The many paintings, the holy statue of Sakyamuni, statues of King Songtsem Gampo, Princess Wen Cheng and Princess Bhrikuti and of course the Dharma Wheel. There was one other realization that dawned on us as we observed the swarm of faces dimly lit by the lamps…there was a look of genuine contentment painted across the spectrum, and any hardships or troubles that existed seemed lifetimes away within this place of worship.
We proceeded to the top from where we got some beautiful views of Barkhor Square and the throng of worshippers lining to come inside.
As we walked away from the temple towards another line of shops beyond the square, we were awakened into reality with a poster of Aishwarya Rai, the Indian movie actress. And in the distance we heard hindi music playing. But my spiritual journey was not yet complete. It was completed when I saw and got a silver Tibetan Ganesha, the only one of its kind sitting at a table among the many Buddha statues.
To learn more about visiting the Jokhang Temple, click here:
Who? Anyone who is in Lhasa, Tibet
What? The Potala Palace, the winter palace of the Dalai Lama for many centuries is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also the highest palace in the world standing at 12,000 feet.
How? The Potala Palace is the most imposing structure in Lhasa and you can get there by taxi, walking or taking one of many guided tours. Each day, only a limited number of visitors are allowed, so it is best to get your tickets ahead of time. Since we wanted to understand Tibetan history, context and religion better, we hired a guide to take us in.
The palace is located at
No.35 Gongqian Alley, Beijing Middle Road, Chengguan District, Lhasa 850000
Why? Visiting the Potala Palace is such a physical and spiritual journey on so many levels.
– The altitude at which the palace is located makes it a physically challenging climb, but you are rewarded with some amazing vistas of Lhasa.
– It is of course a home of the Dalai Lama, someone whose smile and endurance we have known and followed. A visit to one of his homes gives an inside peek at so many aspects of Tibetan life, duty and religion.
– The palace originally built as a gift from a king to his wife has over 1,000 rooms and is divided into the white and red palaces. The lower white palace is the center of government and the upper red one is the center of religion.
– As you walk from room to room, there is a plethora of art and murals depicting Tibetan life, religion and history.
– There are many shrines in here and the tranquility felt is amazing. Our special moment was when one of the monks at a shrine called out to us (We were the only ones he called!). He proceeded to say that the Tibetans would always be friends with the Indians since the Dalai Lama now lived there and proceeded to offer special prayers ending with the ultimate blessing of white scarves that he placed around our necks.
– As my younger daughter put it, the visit to the Potala palace while enriching was bitter-sweet, especially since you can walk a space freely that the rightful owner can’t.
To learn more about this UNESCO World Heritage site, click here.