Friday, February 28, 2014

Tso Pema/ Relwasar Part 2: Around the Lake

 After our expedition to the caves, we headed over to the town of Tso Pema to continue our exploration of this holy town. Our first stop was Zigar Drukpa Kagyud Monastery. This is a new temple dedicated to Padmasambhava. The big guy behind me in the photo, is of course Padmasambhava, which as I mentioned in my last post is considered a second Buddha.This giant statue is quite new, it was just completed in 2011.

The temple overelooks the lake, Tso Pema, where Padmasambhava supposedly was reborn in a lotus flower (Tso- Lake, Pema- Lotus). The lake is quite small, it takes just 10-15 minutes to circumambulate.

Circumambulate, by the way, was a word I've had to learn here living with Tibetans (Kora in Tibetan), which means to walk around a temple or holy place in a clockwise motion, something which is always done whenever possible. We generally walk around our temple after meals as a general sort of habit. Someone suggested to us that we circumambulate the lake in Tso Pema fifteen times. However, we actually did it just twice, mostly incidentally because we were walking around the town and trying to visit all the temples.

There was something poetic about these tiny little boys riding their bikes in front of the "Danger: Non-Ionizing Radiation" sign. Not sure what that means, and I'm guessing it's not particularly dangerous, but it just looks and sounds scary...

The next temple we visited was very special. This temple is called Zangdok Palri Palace Monastery and my Tibetan co-teacher belives it to be an actual 3-D mandala thanks to it's seemingly purposely colored walls of blue, green, white and red; and its temple upon temple upon temple construction. The palace is actually three temples stacked on top of one another. 

Red and green (blue?) walls of the palace monastery

Buddha of the main hall in the Palace Monastery

In fact, just around the lake, there are at least four Tibetan temples and monasteries. The photo above was taken in the last one. While here the architecture was not as spectacular as some of the other temples, they did have prayer wheels around the whole exterior of the temple. There is something really great feeling about spinning a wheel, which may or may not have something to do with the Buddhist mantras inside that activate for your salvation when you spin them. 

But as I mentioned before in my first post, Tso Pema/ Relwasar is not just famous to Tibetans, it is also important in Hinduism and Sikhism. Here, above, you can see one of the many Hindu temples around the lake. I don't know much about about these temples, but they are sure fun to look at and walk around!

To get here, we rented a private taxi to pick us up early in the morning at 6:30 am and take us there and back. This was convenient to visit the caves and do everything within a few hours as we only had one day. The price for the driver was Rs1,900, or $30USD to take us from Chauntra (between Bir and Joginder Nagar) to Tso Pema. However, there are public buses which are much cheaper that can take you as well. The town is just 30 minutes from Mandi, a moderate sized city in Himachal Pradesh.

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