Phodong : Learning about symbolism in Tibetan Buddhism

It was an extremely perilous journey on that very wet day when we started from Gangtok. I am so thankful to our enthusiastic and cautious driver , who assured us we would make it to Phodong and Labrang , although it would take us longer than usual due to land slides the previous night.

Phodong Monastery 

Imagine travelling 40 km to see a lovely Buddhist temple and get a glimpse of splendid architecture only to find it locked with not a single soul in sight! A young monk appeared after about ten minutes and asked us if we’d like to go inside . We were more than happy and he pulled out a bunch of keys and let us in . What a sight that was ! Grand , ornate and simply out of this world . He informed us that photography was prohibited inside.

Rear of the monastery

Famous for the chaam dance in the month of December , the rest of the year is a quiet period , with very few visitors. The old original monastery was destroyed and what stands today is one that was built in the 1970s. This temple is painted in the five colours ‘panchavarna’ ( white , red, blue , green and yellow ) which have symbolic significance in Tibetan Buddhism.

Atop the front gate

The front gate with the Dharmachakra flanked  by deer gazing at the dharmachakra . The driver told us one represents a male deer and the other a female symbolizing harmony and fidelity.

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Guardian lions in front of the entrance to the temple were quite colourful , different from the plain white ones I have seen before.

The monk informed us that the external walls of the temple are adorned with the 8 auspicious symbols of Buddhism . The first one I spotted was the pair of golden fish .

Just below the roof
Bringing the eight symbols together ..can you spot them ?

He pointed out to this one and asked us to look closely , we did see some of the symbols almost instantly …dharma chakra , pair of golden fish , lotus flower , eternal knot ( in blue ) , the overall pattern of a vase , the little umbrella , conch . Am always confused about the banner of victory , so that remained elusive.

He then showed us a few relics from the original temple and let us a click a picture of them.

From the original temple door
The new temple door – top panel 
The painted gallery on the ground floor 

We were also show the long gallery where monks sit and watch the rituals and the Chaam dance during festivities. The wooden chair is probably for the Lama .

A closer look at the wall murals

It’s nice to be able to explore a place sans the maddening crowds. This visit taught me a little about symbolism in Tibetan Buddhism . Will post about Labrang soon. Till then , happy blogging and happy exploring 🙂




13 thoughts on “Phodong : Learning about symbolism in Tibetan Buddhism

  1. Alas, we found it locked and no one to let us in! We were told that the monk with the key lived some way away and it was only opened on full moon days and festival days. This was 10 years or so ago, though. Glad you got inside. It is a lovely place.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Phodong : Learning about symbolism in Tibetan Buddhism — thatmishmash – inner-realizations-blog

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