Potala Palace – residence of the Dalai Lama
The ancient city of Lhasa, which in Tibetan means “Land of the Gods”, is located 3700 meters above sea level. It is also called the “City of the Sun”, which shines all year round in the mountainous Tibet. The residence of the Dalai Lama – the Potala Palace is at the top of Red Mountain. “Dalai” means “sea of wisdom” in Mongolian, “Lama” means “Principal Monk” in Tibetan, and “Potala” is “the place of Buddha’s habitat.”
In 1950 Lhasa became a part of the Tibet Autonomous Region. According to some scientists it was founded 1400 years ago on the caravan trade routes from China to India and Nepal. The climate here is milder than in other parts of Tibet. In the fertile valley between the mountains, farmers grew wheat, beans, vegetables, raised mountain yaks, sheep and goats.
The founder of the Tibetan Empire king Songtsen Gampo ordered to build the first Potala Palace in the 630s. Local farmers and wage workers had to cut down trees and deliver them to the top of a steep mountain. The palace was built of wood, and according to religious tradition it had 999 rooms (only the supreme deity could have 1000 rooms). In the VIII century the lightning hit the first palace and it was burned down. It could be restored, but internecine war completed the destruction.
At the same time the Tibetan empire disintegrated, the Buddhists were chased, so, the secret religious sects appeared. Since the XIII century Tibet was dependent on the Mongols, and became free in the XIV century, when the rule of the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty in China ended.
At the end of XIV-early XV century, a monk founded a new Buddhist sect Gelugba in Tibet. In the XVI century the head of the sect was named the Dalai Lama. Until 1950 Tibet was under his political and spiritual rule. In the XVII century there was an urgent need to create his own residence. So, people decided to build a temple-palace for the Dalai Lama.
In 1645, the fifth Dalai Lama ordered to build a new palace complex at Red Mountain. It was built by more than 7000 workers and 1500 artists and craftsmen without any machines, only yaks, mules and their own hands. In 1694 the construction of the palace was largely completed. Potala Palace is snow white at the bottom and dark red at the top with golden roofs. The White Palace, the residence of the Dalai Lamas, is in the eastern part. The Red Palace, where religious ceremonies take place, is in the center. There are eight stupas with the relics of deceased Lamas. Golden stupa of Dalai Lama V is 15 meters high and is covered with almost four tons of gold leaf. White hostel inhabited by monks is in the western part of the palace.
In 1994, UNESCO included the Potala Palace on the World Heritage List.