Potala – a pearl of Tibet

Once Potash was the palace, fortress and the place of religious worship. Its towers sparkling gold rise from the Tibetan fog, like strongholds of the enormous castle. At a certain lighting they seem captured by a flame. Great illusion. The Potala Palace which is coming up at dawn from dense fog seems continuation of the hill towering over Lhasa, the name Lhasa is meant by “the earth of gods”. The remote location of the palace, its grandiose sizes and dazzling gilded roofs (above) – all this creates around it a mysterious aura. According to a legend, these well-known gold towers and spikes standing вряд on skates of roofs and on parapets of pagodas are established here to frighten off demons. Lhasa – the capital of “a world roof”, Tibet, – is at the height of 3600 m above sea level in the place so remote that even today the few inhabitants of the West know about its existence. Over a brisk city market and a labyrinth of twisting small streets, in some distance from them, still there is grandiose Potala Palace crowning the sacred mountain of Putuo. Around the city the fertile valley on which the river winds was stretched. Villages in the valley are surrounded with marshy meadows, willow groves, poplar thickets and fields where grow up peas and barley. The valley is surrounded from all directions by mountains, it is possible to overcome them only on mountain passes. However the fact that it is difficult to reach Potala only adds her charms. Ancient walls, the faded whitewashing and the gleaming Potala’s gold (this name in translation from Sanskrit “Buddha’s mountain” means) are an outstanding example of traditional Tibetan architecture. Throughout centuries this the magic, put from stones construction in which construction 7000 workers took part was unknown in the West. Its height makes 110 m, and width about 300 m. To make impression of bigger height, enormous walls of fortress are inclined inside, and windows are covered with a black varnish. They settle down equal, parallel ranks at identical distance from each other, and, the row, the already windows is higher. The huge hole formed behind the hill as a result of production of a stone necessary for construction was filled with water. Now this lake known under the name of the Basin of the tsar dragon. Since 1391 and up to occupation by China in 1951 the political and spiritual power in Tibet belonged to Dalai Lamas though from 1717 to 1911 they were vassals of the Chinese emperors. Lhasa – the center of the Lamaism representing mix of Tibetan Buddhism and the local religion called the check. The modern palace monastery of Potal which was always the residence and fortress of Dalai Lamas replacing each other was constructed in the 17th century on the place of the lock built here for one thousand years before by the first governor soldier of Tibet Sangsten Gampo. The palace was destroyed and restored several times until Dalai Lama of V (1617-1682) ordered to build a present complex in the form of the palace in the palace. Construction of the external White palace called so because of the whitewashed walls was complete in 1648. The internal Red palace which name comes from dark red color of its walls, nearly 50 years more young too, it is constructed in 1694. When Dalai Lama of V suddenly died, it was carefully hidden from builders that they did not distract from work. At first they were told that it is sick, and after a while reported that “it moved away from the world to devote meditations each hour of wakefulness”. Potala represents the labyrinth consisting of the painted galleries, wooden and stone ladders and richly decorated chapels in which nearly 200 000 invaluable statues are stored. Today Potala is visited as the museum or as the temple, but once in the palace there was all necessary for the monks living in it. In the White palace there were their dwellings, service premises, seminary and printing house where the machine with the wooden printing forms which are cut out manually was used. Paper was made of bark of a volcheyagodnik or other bushes which grew in the neighbourhood with the temple. The red palace is still used for church services, in the past it was the center of all complex. There the hall for carrying out monastic meetings, chapels, altars and extensive storage of Buddhist manuscripts were located. The hall of sacrifices, the biggest room in the Red palace, became the place of the last rest of some Dalai Lamas: their embalmed remains are stored in it in special funeral pagodas. From eight pagodas, or mortars which remained intact the santalaceous mausoleum of Dalai Lama of V is allocated with the magnificence. Height of this tomb covered with gold exceeds 15 m, and the weight of 4 t. It is trimmed by diamonds, sapphires, corals, lyapis-lazurite and pearls which approximate cost exceeds gold cost ten times. Up to the Chinese occupation Tibet remained the theocratic monarchy, last on the earth, – the state in which the governor carries out both the secular, and spiritual power (just as now in Iran). Potala was at the same time both the house, and the winter residence of the governor, the visible certificate of its spiritual and terrestrial power. Dalai Lama of XIV was a 15-year-old young man when in 1950 China occupied its country. Limited powers of authority which it carried out till 1959 were conferred to it. Then after the failed revolt he had to run to India together with tens of thousands of devoted supporters. Since then Tibet is under the administration of China. In 1965 it became the Tibetan autonomous region of China. Though the divine governor also abandoned Potala, its magic does not disappear. It seems, it has some supernatural spirit which is not connected with bricks and bleached walls: Potala remains the main riddle of this mysterious country.

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