The Drepung Monastery is one of the great three Gelugpa University Monasteries (Sera, Drepung, Ganden). It is located at the foot of Gambo Utse Moutain in the western suburb of Lhasa, about 8km from Lhasa.
Drepung was founded in 1416 by Jamyang Chojey (1379-1449), a disciple of Tsongkhapa, the founder of Tibetan Gelug Buddhism. Important leaders of Tibetan Buddhism, including Dalai Lamas themselves, studied there. At its height, the Drepung Monastery housed about 10,000 monks. Since today, it is a monastery and a Buddhism school.
Architecture & Art
With 250,000 square meters, Drepung is the largest Gelugpa Monastery in Tibet - with its white buildings spread across the hill. Most important buildings are the Ganden Potrang, the Coqen Hall, the 4 colleges (Zhacang) and the residences of the monks (Kamcuns).
Ganden Potrang, built by the 2nd Dalai Lama in 1530, was once the residence for Dalai Lamas until the 5th Dalai Lama built the Potala Palace.
Among other statues, the Coqen Hall houses a bronze statue of the Qamba Buddha at the age of eight.
Four colleges, forming the so-called Zhacang, are teaching the disciples of Gelug. The courtyard of Zhacang is used as a debate courtyard, where monks debate on Buddhist scriptures in the afternoon.
The monastery is also known for the famous Shoton Festival taking place on 30th of June in the Tibetan calendar (usually mid-August in the Gregorian calendar). The Shoton Festival is a Tibetan festival with Drepung as one of the main sites. The origin of the festival is based on a practice in Tibetan Buddhism that exists for a long while. Between April and June in the Tibetan calendar, monks may focus on studying inside monasteries. They should avoid going outside not to step on and kill tiny living things. After this period of time, when the monks go out again, they are offered seasonal fresh products, like yoghurt, by everybody. That's why the festival is also called Yoghurt Festival.
At the Drepung Monastery, during the festival, a giant Buddha Thangka (80x40m) is rolled out on the Thangka Exhibition Platform. A big celebration follows, including opera performances. Monks and tourists attend and celebrate together.