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Jokhang Temple

By Devik Balami at
Jokhang Temple

Jokhang Temple is a most sacred and important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Barkhor Square in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet. The other name for Jokhang temple is the Qoikang Monastery, Jokhang Monastery, and Zuglagkang. The temple was built with the mixed architectural style of Indian Vihara, Tibetan and Nepalese style.

The temple was constructed during the reign of King Songtsen Gampo and it was meant for Gampo's two queens: Princess Wencheng of the Chinese Tang dynasty and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal. It is said that both the princess have brought Buddha statues and Buddhist arts from China and Nepal as a part of their dowries. These statues and arts were stored in this temple.

Establishment of Buddha statue in Jokhang Temple

In the earliest history, it has been recorded that the Tibetans believed that their country was controlled by Srin Ma, a wild demoness. It was believed that she was opposite of the propagation of Buddhism in the Tibet. Hence, to draw away her evil intentions, King Songtsen Gampo intended to build twelve temples across the country. The temples were built in inner and outer arrangements. The four temple was built in the central Tibet while another four temples were built in outer areas and on the country's frontiers, another four temples were built. Lastly, the temple of Jokhang was built in the heart of Srin Ma to control her.

It is also recorded that King Songtsen Gampo in order to maintain good relations with the neighboring country, he married the princess of Nepal and China. Princess of Nepal, Bhrikuti came to Tibet along with the statue of Akshobhya Buddha as a part of her dowry. The Buddha statue was deified in the temple in the middle of a lake known as Ramoche which later known as Ramoche temple.

Princess of China, Wencheng came to Tibet along with the statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. The Buddha statue was deified in the temple of Jokhang. Later the temple became the holiest shrine in Tibet.

After the death of King Songtsen Gampo, Queen Wencheng moved the Buddha statue from Ramoche temple to the Jokhang temple to secure it from Chinese attack.

Features of the Jokhang Temple

The earliest architectural design was based on the Nepalese style, Indian Vihara Design, and Tibetan Buddhist style. The temple faces towards Nepal in honor of Princess Bhrikuti. When the temple was built, it had only eight rooms on two floors to house Buddhist scriptures and Buddha statues. The temple had brick floors while columns and door frames were made of wood.

As the dynasty in Tibet changed, the Jokhang Monastery also changed accordingly. During the Ming Dynasty, the Jokhang Monastery was renovated and the floors were also added along with Buddha Hall.

The Jokhang temple begins with an arch gate that is followed by the Buddha Hall. Further, there is an enclosed passage, and finally, there is a hostel for the monks.

The entrance gate is guarded by four Guardian kings known as Chokyong. Two kings are placed on each side of the gate. The main shrines are placed on the ground floor. On the first floor, there are residences for the monks and a private room for the Dalai Lama. The walls are painted with Buddhist arts. The roof is covered with gilded bronze tiles, figurines, and decorated pavilions.

The main hall on the ground floor houses a gilded bronze statue of Jowo Shakyamuni. The statue has a bejeweled crown and wears a pearl-studded garment. The Buddha statue is in the seating position on a lotus throne and is portrayed in Bhumisparsa posture. In the adjoining hall that surrounds the main hall, there are statues of Bodhisattvas.

The temple complex has more than 3,000 statues of Buddha and other deities in addition to Buddhist manuscripts and other objects. The temple walls are decorated with religious and historical murals.