Monasteries are counted among the most sacred places of worship. Millions of people from different parts of the world flock to these temples of faith in search of peace. We bring you a list of the most amazing monasteries around the world.
Ganden Monastery, Tibet
Ganden Monastery is one of the ‘great three’ university monasteries of Tibet, situated at the top of Wangbur Mountain at an altitude of 14,108 ft. The other two are Sera Monastery and Drepung Monastery. In 1959, the monastery was completely ruined by the Red Guards and the mummified body of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Monastery, was burned. Reconstruction of the Monastery has been in progress since the 1980s. Ganden Monastery was founded by Je Tsongkhapa Lozang-dragpa (1357–1419) in 1409. Tsongkhapa built Ganden’s main temple, with large statues and three-dimensional mandalas. He often stayed at Ganden, and died there in 1419. Tsongkhapa’s preserved body was entombed at Ganden by his disciples in silver and gold-encrusted tomb.
Hanging Monastery, China
Suspended dangerously halfway up a cliff, some 75 m above the ground, the Hanging Monastery makes for one of the most extraordinary sights in China. Consisting of a complex of 40 rooms linked together by mid-air corridors and walkways, this remarkable monastery was built in the 5th century AD and has been ‘hanging’ there for the last 1500 years. According to legend, construction of the temple was started at the end of the Northern Wei dynasty by only one man, a monk named Liaoran. Over the next 1,400 years, many repairs and extensions have led to its present-day scale.
The entire 40 halls and pavilions are all built on cliffs which are over 30-metre (98 ft) from the ground. The distance from north to south is longer than from east to west and it becomes higher and higher from the gate in the south to north along the mountain. With brief layout, it includes the Qielan Hall (Hall of Sangharama), Sanguan Hall, Chunyang Hall, Hall of Sakyamuni, Hall of Three Religions and Guanyin Hall.
Punakha Dzong, Bhutan
Regally standing on an island between the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers, Punakha Dzong is one of the most picturesque of Bhutan’s ancient dzongs. Dzong refers to a structure which is a blend of both fortress and monastery. Every district in Bhutan has a dzong. The Punakha Dzong is joined to the mainland by an arched wooden bridge and contains many valuable remnants from the days when successive kings reigned the empire from this valley.
According to a local legend, the sage Padmasambhava prophesied that “a person named Namgyal will arrive at a hill that looks like an elephant”. Ngawang Namgyal, 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche, found the peak of the hill, which appeared in the shape of trunk of an elephant as prophesied, and built the dzong in 1637-38.
The Sumela Monastery is a Greek Orthodox monastery, standing at the foot of a steep cliff facing the Altindere valley in modern-day Turkey. Founded in the year 386 AD during the reign of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I (375 – 395), legend has it that two priests undertook the founding of the monastery on the site after having discovered a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave on the mountain. During its long history, the Sumela monastery fell into ruin several times and was restored by various Roman Emperors. It reached its present form in the 13th century.
Mount Athos is a mountain and a peninsula in northern Greece. The peninsula, the easternmost “leg” of the larger Halkidiki peninsula houses some 1,400 monks in 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries. An autonomous state under Greek sovereignty, entry into the area is strictly controlled and accessible only by boat. Only males are allowed entrance into Mount Athos and only male monks are allowed to live there. Of the twenty monasteries, one is Russian, one is Bulgarian, one is Serbian and the rest are Greek. There are also Romanian and Bulgarian communities of Christian hermits following a monastic rule (called sketae). The foreign monasteries and sketae are supported by their respective countries.