The Potala Palace is the highest ancient palace across the world situated at an elevation of 12,300ft (3750 meters) above sea level. The palace is around 100 meters above the Lhasa City. It was constructed in the year 1645 by the fifth Dalai Lama as a Tibetan government center. In this blog, we have unveiled all the important information about the amazing Potala Palace.
How to reach the Potala Palace
The palace is located in the northern region of Lhasa, only 1.5 kilometers away from Barkhor Street. Potala Palace will be your first attraction chosen by the tour operators on the Tibet tour. Reaching the palace is not a fuss as you can easily get transport facilities from the Lhasa Airport and Lhasa railway station. The palace is 70 kilometers from the city’s airport (Lhasa Gonggar Airport) and 20 kilometers from the railway station.
The Lhasa Airport is well-connected to the domestic cities of China such as Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu, Shanghai, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Chamdo and others. So, flying from any of these cites to Lhasa is the first choice. From the airport, you can get on an airport shuttle bus which will take around an hour to reach the Potala Palace.
If you do not want to take a flight, there is always an option of the train. You can take the Qinghai-Lhasa railway to the railway station in Lhasa and from there get a taxi to reach the Palace. If you are with a tour company, do not worry about anything. You will have a private transport service to pick you from the airport or railway station.
History of Potala Palace
The history of the Potala Palace traces back to around 1300 years ago. The palace has been reconstructed and renovated several times since its construction. Originally, the Palace was constructed under the rule of the Tubo Kingdom in the 7th century. It was when Srongtsen Gampo housed the kingdom with his two wives Princess Wencheng of the Tang Empire and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal.
Post the kingdom’s fall, the Potala Palace was ruined during regular wars but not after the 17th century. The reconstruction during the 17th century is marked as the most significant and largest of all reconstructions. The Fifth Dalai Lama took the responsibility to reconstruct the palace with some manpower from the Qing Kingdom. The construction continued for years and then Dalai Lama shifted the government to Potala from the Drepung Monastery and this made the Palace, the Buddhism and political center of Tibet.
Architecture of the Potala Palace
The Potala in the center of the Lhasa Valley has two chapels dating back to the 17th century – The Chogyal Drubphuk and The Phakpa Lhakhang. Mentioned below are the oldest and strongest surviving structures of The Potala Palace:
Also famous as The Potrang Karpo is an important part of the Palace building. It was the residence of The Fifth Dalai Lama. You will find several sacred gold stupas, The Tomb of Eight Dalai Lamas.
Also famous by its other name The Potrang Marpo, this part of the Potala Palace is used entirely for Buddhist prayers and religious studies. You will find different halls, galleries, chapels, libraries, etc. in the Red Palace. The most significant structure here is The Tomb of Thirteenth Dalai Lama.
Here are the different sections of the Red Palace you must explore:
The Great West Hall
It is the central hall in the Red Palace which glorifies the power of the Fifth Dalai Lama, the builder of this ancient palace. There are four chapels on its sides.
The Saints Chapel
In the Saints Chapel, there’s an ancient jewel-coated small statue/figure of Avalokiteshvara along with his two attendants. As you look on the floor below, you will find a Dharma cave having images of the Tubo Kingdom ruler, Songsten Gampo who as per beliefs studied Buddhism here.
In the South Chapel of the Red Palace, there is a central figure of Padmasambhava a saint and Indian Magician of the 8th century.
This chapel is dedicated to The Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelug tradition. The figure is surrounded by Sakya Monastery’s lamas who once ruled over Tibet.
West Chapel consists of five main golden stupas of different Dalai Lamas. The enormous of the five is the central stupa dedicated to the Fifth Dalai Lama measuring a height of 14.5 meters. Moving your eyes towards the left, you will see the funeral stupa of the Twelfth Dalai lama and the right is occupied by the stupa of the Tenth Dalai Lama. The last stupa is of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama measuring 22 meters in height.
In the North Chapel, on the left, you will find a crowned statue of Sakyamuni Buddha and the right has a golden throne of the Fifth Dalai Lama.
This gallery is located in the floor above the West Chapel.
This is the part of the Red Palace that provides the visitor’s access to the pavilion (central pavilion).
Third Gallery consists of several dark rooms with huge collections of various expensive statues and figures.
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