Drepung Monastery, 7km west of lhasa, dates back to the early 15th century.
In its time it was the largest of Tibet's monastic towns and, some maintain, the
largest monastery in the world. Drepung, Sera and Ganden Monasteries functioned
as the three 'pillars of the Tibetan state'.
According to religious records, during the foundation of Drepung, Tsong Khapa
discovered a magical white conch shell with counter clockwise swirls, believed
to be buried by the Buddha Sakyamuni. Tsong Khapa bestowed this religious
treasure to Drepung, and it can still be seen today in the â€œGreat Sutra
Drepung had seven colleges and, at its height, housed over 10,000 monks. It
has many splendid murals, elaborate statues and other rich treasures. A giant
golden statue of Buddha â€œJiangba Tongzhenmaâ€ sits near the precious conch
Prior to 1959 the number of monks in residence here was around 7000. During
the Cultural Revolution there was a concerted effort to smash the influence of
the major monasteries and much of the monastic populatin was wiped out. Today
around 700 monks reside here and in nearby Nechung Monastery, a 10-minute walk
Drepung was listed as a national cultural relic in 1982.
The best way to see the chapels is to follow a group of pilgrims. Try and
catch the lunch break when the monks feast on tsampa and yak butter tea.
Afternoons often see debating. There is an excellent 1.5 hour long Kora(pilgrim
path) around the monastery.