Standing at an altitude of 4,000 m (13123 ft) in Himachal Pradesh, the fortified Tabo Monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in the village of Tebo in the Spiti Valley. It is only 370 km from Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh, and 280 km on distance from Manali. This Gompa in this village named 'Tabo' a little further from Kaza the District headquarters of Lahaul- Spiti attracts everyone with its magnificence of beauty. The 'Tabo Mahavihara' is built of square bricks on 500 square yards of land on the left side in the Spiti valley surrounded by high mountain ranges, snow, or sandy land on the slopes of Himachal Pradesh. In 996 AD. Lochawa Ringchen Jangpo (Ratnabhadra) was a famous scholar. It is also essential to know about Ratnabhadra. Ratnabhadra was born in 958 AD in Kywang-Randi in the Guge region of present-day western Tibet. Prityavan-Chene-Po-Jen-nu-bund was born in the house of Chhug 'Mahabdant Ishwar Kumar' and Mata 'Kun-Jan-Sherab Tanama' (Samantha Bhadra Prajnashasani). Ratnabhadra is known as Rin-Chen-Tsang-Po in the Tibetan language. Ratna Bhadra was one of about 20 students of the time who studied all the parts of Buddhism – Abhidharma, Prajnaparamita, Vinaya, Tantra, Sutras, etc., and collected and compiled all the knowledge and translated all these into the Tibetan language. After getting free to be educated Ratnabhadra also established 108 Bou (Bihars) along with innumerable stupas in Guge, Pursal, Ladakh of Jammu and Kashmir province, Lahul Spiti, and Kinnaur-Kalpa, etc. Only Kinnar Kailash has five Viharas in the parikrama path. Some are damaged (charan-ridang ribba), the existing Chitkul and Thange viharas have been refurbished, so that taking care that their original form is not destroyed. Ratnabhadra was a wonder in itself. He is remembered as, the creator of the sculpture, mural-painting, thanka (the then panel-painting), was a scholar of Buddhism, philosophy, Tantra, and a scholar of local folk languages Jang-Jung, Bhot, and Sanskrit. Among the Mahaviharas, Tabo Mahavihara is the only monastery that exists in its full glory and ancient form one hundred and eight were built by Ratnabhadra. Not only this, it is presenting its historical memory with facts itself. The specialty of this monastery is not only to be ancient and historical. But its importance has also been overestimated because it is situated on two highways. It has been the center of artistic, cultural, and commercial activities. A two-meter high wall has been built around the Tabo Monastery. There are 9 temples in this area. Of these, 5 are considered to be temples of the original structure and four are later. The names of these nine chambers or temples are also like this.
Sugalha has been the main and important chamber of Khang Tabo. Inside the entrance, there are Gacha (sentinels) statues on either side. In front, four idols of the same size as Mahavirochana are sitting with their backs towards each other. There are two idols on either side of the main idol, which are believed to be the idols of Ratnabhadra and Atisha.
Gold has been used in the murals of Ser Khang, hence it is called the Golden Temple. The establishment of Mahakal or Vajra Bhairav in Gokhang or Gon Khang proves that this chamber was used for Tantrashodha, as the entry of common man was prohibited in this room. There are Buddha and Gacha (sentinel) images here. Only the pavilion is left in Quil Khor Khang. The inner walls are painted with mysterious pavilions. These rooms are completely based on the tantric method. The main deity of the temple is Virochana and other deities are depicted on the right and left. Many animals and birds and Gandharvas and eunuchs have also been depicted on the roof.
Dromaton Lha Khang was or was being renovated from time to time. There are also pictures of Shakyamuni, Amitabh, and Tara, etc. Vymas-Pa-Champo (Champo) is dedicated to Lhakhang Maitreya. Maitreya is seated on Kamalasana in the turning of Dharmachakra posture. Most of the temples of Tabo have sanctums.
The remaining four temples have been built later, whose construction period is said to be (1008.1064). These five buildings have their own Tathagata and four gods of each Tathagata have been made into a circle consisting of five, Vajra Dhatu Mandal by joining the five circles. These five Tathagatas are Mahavirochana, Akshomya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, and Amoghasi. (These five are their respective deities. It is surprising that the word Vajra has been used in the name of all. For example, the four goddesses accompanying Mahavirochana are Satvajri, Ratnavajri, Dharmavajri, and Karmavajri. Along with Akshomya are Vajrasattva, Vajraraja, Vajraraga and Vajrasadhu. Similarly, in the other three Tathagatas also there are deities named Vajra. There are also eight goddesses named Vajra in the parikrama. Four gatekeepers are also named Vajra. This mandala is called Mahamandal.
The second feature of this Mahamandal is the same depiction of a thousand Buddhas. In the murals of this unique piece of art, glimpses of the life of Mahatma Buddha, Jataka tales and Buddha teachings, etc. are available, which have been damaged due to leaking of the roof. There are many inscriptions on the walls that Frank discovered that mention the establishment of the Tabo. With Mahavirochana he does not have the deities that are described. Perhaps they have become victims of sabotage.
Of the later four temples, the Kar-Abunalha-Khang is known as the White Temple or Devi Temple. This 'Tabo' is outside the limits of the monastery. In this Temple, there are images of Buddha, Maitreya, and Manjushri in Bhumi Sparsh mudra which have been damaged. This building was later built for the jomo (monk).
Above the monastery were 19 caves for monks' accommodation, of which only one is now known as the Pho-gompa. Even if there is no worship in this public less cave, every traveler who comes to 'Tabo' definitely comes here. The tu-khang (auditorium) of this four-roomed cave is 7/50/4/20 meters. There are also pictures of Buddha, Shakyamuni, and Tara, etc.
According to Frank (1909), there were two stacks of manuscripts about 5 feet high at that time in Tabo. A heap contained hundreds of open pages in beautiful handwriting, which appeared to be a Tibetan translation of the twelve books of the Prajnaparamita. Frank has denied the damage to this monastery by the Sikh general Zorawar Singh, but Tuki (1933) does not accept this. Even then, Frank seems more reasonable. Because even after the great destruction caused by Zorawar Singh's attacks and Muslim idol-breakers, the damage to Tabo Mahavihar is proof that Tabo remained completely safe due to the literary works that took place here. The copies that Frank refers to are probably the result of translations of Rin-chan-Tsang-Po (Ratnabhadra) or his companions. Of course, Buddhism and the experiencers can be easily understood from them.
The books which are still present in Tabo's Tu-Khang (auditorium) are, "Adh Samayalankar Lok, Vinaya Sangraha" Pancha Sahasrika Prajnaparamita, Satsahasrika Prajna Paramita, Ashta Sahasrika Prajna Paramita, Boudhvaryavatar, Saddharmapushtika "Satyadayavatar". , Brief Circle Formulas".
Along with the propagation of Buddhism, in the last phase of the tenth century, wonderful and unique specimens of the traditional painting style, even after a thousand years, with shreds of evidence are completely preserved in this one monastery only. Later, the influence of painting developed in China is also evident in the four temples built later. The literature composed in its chambers later became a special part of the Tanjoor Granth collection compiled by 'Ratna Siddha'.
Tabo Mahavihar got the support of other communities as well as being the shelter of inland merchants, religious preachers, artists, and architectural craftsmen along with the royal shelter.
It is clear from the size of the chambers that this Mahavihara was not made for solitary practice.
Not only this, the paintings made in the original rooms of this Mahavihara look similar to the murals of Nalanda on the basis of style, craft, and subject matter. Therefore, according to the prevailing belief, they cannot be associated with the Kashmiri craft style. The influence of Kashmiri art is clearly reflected on the statues of Tabo as Vidhik is a mere sculptor.
The influence of Pal Chitra style in the murals is complete and clear. Along with this, the abundance of blue in the colors, the curves, the sharpness in the wavy lines, etc., in the later rooms, explain the influence of Chinese painting and indicate the time of construction of these rooms.
Presently there are arrangements for imparting educational and spiritual training to more than thirty teenage monks. Even today Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy and literature are studied here.
A 15-day festival of learning was organized by Buddhists to mark one thousand years since the founding of Tabo Monastery, in which the prominent Dalai Lama taught the Kala-chakra in 1996 to connect teenage monks studying in Tabo to the chain of Ratnabhadra. Lakhs of Buddhist travelers, inquisitors, journalists, and tourists from both the country and abroad reached Tabo to participate in this festival. Due to heavy rains, due to the blockage of the road from place to place, the courageous people reached Tabo by walking a lot of routes. Thousands of Buddhist lamas, lakhs of devotees, and tourists paid their respects by taking the crown of this cold desert to a delightful pilgrimage site by paying homage to the Kala-chakra that was completed in 1996.
This rich heritage site in the cold desert of Tabo Valley and covered with high mud-brick walls is highly revered by Buddhist monks and second only to Tholing Gompa in Tibet. Tabo Monastery is open daily from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm, including weekends and public holidays. Here the morning prayers start at 6:00 pm, which you must experience once. Classes for monks are held from 8:00 am to 9:00 am which you can attend after prior permission. The walls of Tabo Monastery are 3 feet wide and the monastery complex consists of 9 temples, 4 stupas, There are 23 stupas, a monk's room, and an extension containing a nun's room. The temples house a priceless collection of manuscripts, Thongkas (Buddhist scroll paintings), plaster, and frescoes. The walls of the monastery are decorated with frescoes that depict ancient tales from the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon. According to the Tibetan calendar, Tabo Monastery was founded by a great teacher, Lotswa Rinchen Tsang Po- the king of the Western Himalayan kingdom, after this The place was owned by his grandfather Jangchub. Tabo Monastery is a favorite place for Indian pundits who wanted to learn Tibetan. The period between the 17th and 19th centuries saw political and religious unrest. The monastery was rebuilt in 1975 after an earthquake in the area. A new do-Kang or assembly hall was added to the structure in 1983 as the growing interest of many Buddhist followers.
The remote village of Himachal Pradesh "Tabo" is discussed in every tongue in Himachal. This monastery is spread over a very large area and is a priceless treasure for the Buddhist community.
There are two routes to reach Tabo, crossing the Rohtang Pass from Kullu-Manali and entering the Spiti Valley by crossing the small pass Karakurram Pass on the banks of the Chandra river a little before Losar. Or one can reach Spiti after meeting the Rohtang Pass road in Keylong by the recently constructed Atal Tunnel and go to Tabo or another route to Tabo from Shimla would be Kufri, Narkanda, Rampur Bushahr, Juri, Bhaba. Samdo can be reached. The confluence of Spiti river and Sutlej takes place about 40 km from here. 'Tabo' is situated on the banks of this river Spiti.
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