Gandan is fully active and the largest functioning monastery including the Mongolian Buddhist University. The highlight of visit to Gandan is 26-meter-high majestic gilded indoor statue of Megjid Janraisig. This overwhelmingly glorious deity was crafted in 1911 to celebrate independence and freedom from Manchu. Literally it can be translated as Great Place of Complete Joy. The first temple of Gandan Monastery was established in 1835 by the order of 5th Jebtsundamba, the highest reincarnated lama of Mongolia. In the beginning of the 20th century Gandantegchinleng Monastery was the centre of Buddhist learning in Mongolia. Many prominent Buddhist scholars in Mongolia as well as in Buddhist scholars in the world were educated and trained by its various colleges and their works on Buddhist philosophy, linguistics, medicine, astrology and tantric practice became the most authoritative and accurate Buddhist texts.
In 1938s, the communists suppressed religious communities in Mongolia. They destroyed around 900 monasteries, though less handful were turned into museums. The monks were killed, jailed, or forced to join the army or laity. Five temples of Gandan Monastery were destroyed. The remaining temples were used to accommodate Russian officials or used as barns to keep their horses.
In 1938, Gandantegchinleng Monastery was closed, but reopened in 1944 as the only functioning monastery during the socialist regime. Because Gandan Monastery was used as a showcase for visitors
After the democratic change took place in 1990 Buddhism regained its full right of worship. Gandan Monastery embarked on an ambitious restoration program around the country. Then in the whole country 140 monasteries and temples have been (re)established and many sacred statues were reconstructed so far
Currently Gandantegchinleng Monastery includes a Mongolian Buddhist University (established in 1970); three colleges of Buddhist philosophy;
The original statue, made of copper, was built after appeals to the Mongolian public; its intent was to restore the sight of the 8th Jebtsundamba, also known as Bogd Khan), who had claimed the title of Emperor of Mongolia. The statue was built by Bogd Javzandamba’s principal minister, Chin Wan Khanddorj. Russian troops dismantled the original statue in 1938. After the end of the Soviet era, the statue of Avalokiteśvara was rebuilt in 1996, funded by donations by the Mongolian people. It features 2,286 precious stones and is gilded with gold leaf.
Since 1992, the Supreme Leader of the Centre of All Mongolian Buddhists and Abbot of Gandantegchinlen Monastery has been Lama Gabju Choijamts Demberel.
The monastery is surrounded by the Gandan ger suburb.
The monastery was constructed by order of the 5th Jebtsundamba Khutuktu in 1809. The first temple was the Gungaachoilin Datsan. Only one wooden pillar remains from this temple. In 1838, the Gandantegchenlin Temple was built along with the private residence of the Jebtsundamba Khutuktu. The 13th Dalai Lama stayed in the residence in 1904. In 1840, the Vajradhara Temple was built. In 1869, the Zuu Temple was built. In 1913, the tall Avalokiteśvara temple was built. In 1925, the temple for keeping the remains of the 8th Jebtsundamba Khutuktu was built. It is now the monastery library.
In the 1930s, the Communist government of Mongolia, under the leadership of Khorloogiin Choibalsan and under the influence of Joseph Stalin, destroyed all but a few monasteries and killed more than 15,000 lamas.
Gandantegchinlen Khiid monastery, having escaped this mass destruction, was closed in 1938, but then reopened in 1944 and was allowed to continue as the only functioning Buddhist monastery, under a skeleton staff, as a token homage to traditional Mongolian culture and religion. With the end of Marxism in Mongolia in 1990, restrictions on worship were lifted.
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