Another important Buddhist monastery in Tibet is Palcho monastery that lies in Gyantse, Tibet. Palcho monastery is also known as Pelkhor Choede and Palkhor Monastery. The main reason for popularity of Palcho monastery is its characteristics is the combination of characteristics of Han, Tibetan and Nepali Buddhist architecture. Palcho Monastery is also popular for its relations and high status in Tibetan Buddhism. The important reason for its high status is that it houses three sects of Tibetan Buddhism, i.e. Gelug, Sakyapa, and kadampa together.
The precinct of Palcho monastery is quite a complex structure and is considered as the largest structures similar to Tshuklalang Monastery and also includes Kumbum. Being the largest such structures, Palcho Monastery is destination for thousands of Buddhist pilgrims and is also considered as one of the important Buddhist pilgrimages sites in Tibet. Even many architects scholars stated that the 108 chapels located in several floors of Palcho Monastery is one of the most notable features that can be found in the Palcho Monastery. And it also includes an ancient fort i.e. popularly known as Dzong Fort.
It is believed that there are several proof that Palcho Monastery was originally built and constructed in nineth century. The Palcho Monastery was named originally after Pelkhortsen who was the successor of Yarlung Dynasty after the assassination of his late father. But in accordance to history of Tibetan Buddhism, the main temple was built in around 14148-1428 in a period of a decade and it was constructed by second prince of current Gyantse Rabten Kunzang Phak. It was during that time, the Shakya sect was considered as the powerful and thus Palcho monastery was considered as an important center in Shakya Sect.
The kumbum i.e. one of the main attraction of Palcho monastery was constructed shortly after the construction of main temple along with several other buildings under the second Prince Rabten Kunzang Phak. Prince Rabten Kunzang Phak was considered to play an important role in the development of Palcho monastery and in his reign, two gigantic paintings of Shakyamuni Buddha along with his important disciples Manjushree, major Bodhisattva were shown in public display under the supervision of second prince. These two paintings are mostly displayed in Gyantse festival and similar events that is organized in Tibet.
Architecture of Palcho Monastery
Being the fusion of Buddhist architecture of Han Buddhist art, Tibetan as well as Nepalese Buddhism, the important and most popular attraction of Palcho monastery is the symbol of Gyantse i.e. Kumbum. The kumbum is a 32 m high Buddhist structures. The main temple is a nine tier building with notable features of 108 gates as well as 76 chapels and shrines with number of Nepal Tibet Buddha statues, Buddha images, paintings of Shakyamuni Buddha i.e. Thangkas. Being the important Buddhist pilgrimage sites like Jokhang temple, Potala Palace, Palcho monatery represents three important Buddhist sects i.e. Shakyapa, Gelugpa, and Kadampa.
Some of the important structures found in the Palcho monastery are:
- Kumbum i.e. Symbol of Gyantse
- Ksulaklakang Monastery or Main Temple
- Hall for Buddhist monks
- Gyantse Fort
In Palcho monastery, there are more than 10,000 Tibetan Buddha statues, Nepali Buddha statues, Buddha images etc. The main attraction of the whole Palcho monastery is the gigantic statue of the Shakyamuni Buddha which is around 8 meters and was made of 14000 kilograms of Copper. Another important of features of Palcho monastery is Saka Dawa festival which is organized to commemorate the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha and is organized in the 15th of April every year. In this festival, around 500 Buddhist monks and devout chants Buddhist mantra and also archery and horse racing competition are held. Palcho Monastery was one of the few Buddhist sculptures that existed during the active development of Buddhism in Tibet.