This is one of the most anticipated days of the trip. Today, we will visit a couple of the great three monasteries of Tibet,
Drepung Monastery: Firstly, we will visit the Drepung monastery, one of the "Great Three" Gelug monasteries in Tibet. Jamyang choge, one of the Tsongkhapa's chief disciples, founded the monastery in 1416. The monastery is famous for housing the biggest monastery kitchen inside. Drepung, in the Tibetan language, means prosperity. As the name, Drepung started its "prosperity" early after the establishment. Just after a couple of years, the monastery had around 2000 monks studying and living here. Since then, the monastery spread its influence quickly and became one of the most vital monasteries in Tibetan regions. Drepung Monastery has been dedicating to promote the study of Buddhism. In Drepung Monastery, you can learn both Esoteric Buddhism and Exoteric Buddhism. The monastery is famous for the place where many Tibetan leaders study places, especially the Dalai Lamas. So Drepung Monastery is respected as the "Mother Monastery of Dalai Lamas." There are a considerable number of historical and cultural relics kept in the Drepung Monastery including lots of ornate chinaware from early Song, Ming and Qing Dynasty, several hundreds of Thangkas mostly made during Ming and Qing Dynasty. The most famous Thangkas are four giant hanging Thangkas themed by the "scholar's four jewels." Other relics include the Wenshu Bronzed Mirror and thousands of Buddha statues.
The most important historical buildings of the monastery include Ganden Potrang, Coqen Hall, the four Zhacangs (or Tantric colleges), and numerous Kamcuns, subjected to the Zhacang.
The 2nd Dalai Lama Gendun Gyaco built Ganden Potrang in 1530, so this became his presidential palace. The next 3rd, 4th, and 5th Dalai Lamas also lived here until the 5th moved to Potala Palace. Ganden Potrang contains a plot of buildings. The main building is a 3storied monastery. The first floor is for holding ceremonies; second is for Dalai Lama's workplace; the third is for the personal living space of Dalai Lama.
Coqen Hall lies in the central monastery. The major feature of the hall is the colossal bronze statue of Qamba Buddha, built in the appearance of Qamba Buddha at his age of eight. In front of the Buddha statue, there is a conch gifted by Tsongkhapa. On the 5th, 8th, and 15th of every month, the monks chant sutra for a whole day in the Coqen Hall. On the same day, the most massive kitchen will be open to tourists. Here, you can learn about kitchen utensils and cooking material. From the ground before Coquen Hall, you can get a panoramic view of Lhasa.
Zhacang is the unite of the academy in Gelug schools. It includes meeting hall and Buddha chapels with four Zhacangs that study different instructions of Gelug. Each Zhacang has its chapels, kamcuns, and dormitories.
Near Drepung, you can also enjoy the Buddhist Sculpture Carving workshop.
Sera Monastery: After visiting the Drepung Monastery, we will stop for a lunch break. Then, we continue the trip to explore the Great Three Gelug Monasteries. After a break, we will visit the Sera Monastery, another one of the Great Three Gelug monasteries in Tibet. The monastery covers 28 acres, or 11 hectares, of land. During its prime time, there were five separate colleges of instruction and 5000 monks. However, the present monastery is very small in size.
Monks' debate is the major attraction of the monastery that starts around 3 pm and lasts for a couple of hours. The young monks form small groups and practice their philosophy by debating one another. The debate is interesting due to the speaker's unique way of making his point. They make the point with their whole body. Different monks add much gesture to make their point making it very entertaining. You can't keep laughing while watching the debate.
Inside the temple, you can see three sand Mandalas and colorful Rock Painting of Buddha. Besides, you can visit the Tibetan religious scripture printing house. The roads of the Sera Monastery are full of beautiful trees, and the debating courtyard looks like a private garden for kings. The Sera monastery looks cleaner and better maintained than other monasteries. On the left wall of the main meeting hall lies the Tibetan Buddhist Circle of Life.
The buildings of Sera monastery include Assembly Hall, colleges, and palaces spread around. Up to now, there is one Tsochin Hall, three Buddhist colleges and numerous small halls and chapels, and over 600 monks study here. The Tsochen hall is one of the major highlights of the Sera Monastery.
Tsochen Hall, made up by square, Scripture Hall, and five Buddhist chapels, is the main hall and also the directorial center in Sera Monastery. The hall looks like a forest with over 100 wooden columns standing. On some critical days, monks assemble here and chant the scriptures. In the east part of Tsochen Hall, there lies a golden bronze statue of Maitreya Buddha with a serene face. There are three Buddhist Chapels in the backside of Tsochen Hall, where the middle one houses a colossal statue of Maitreya Buddha. The figure is 6 meters high. There are many other beautiful sculptures in this chapel. On the south wall's bookshelf, lies the Kangyur, the first Tibetan printed Buddhist sutra.
With an area of 1,702 sq meters, Sera Je College is the largest college of Sera with many stupas and statues of Buddha. The inside chapel houses the statue of Hayagriva, who is a respected protective deity in Tibetan Buddhism. There is a belief among locals that the Hayagriva drives away all evil spirit and bring blessings. So many locals come to worship the statue.