Amarbayasgalant Monastery is one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in Mongolia.
The Monastery was a great place to learn about the Dharma and achieve spiritual advancement, with over six thousand novices and ordained monks who followed the rules of Lord Buddha’s Vinaya. The beauty, decorations and construction of the monastery made it one of the most magnificent architectural monuments in Mongolia, and all of Asia.
Amarbayasgalant monastery’s Location
The monastery is located in Baruunbüren sum (district) of Selenge Province ‘s northern Mongolia, at the foot of Mount Büren-Khaan. The nearest town is Erdenet, which is about 60 kilometers to the southwest.
The Amarbayasgalant Monastery, which was erected for the memory of Bogd Undur Gegeen Zanabazar ‘s talents, wisdom, intellect, accomplishment, talent, artistic skill and wisdom by the Manchu Emperor Enkh-Amgalan khaan in 1725. Mongols revered Bogd Zanabazar as a great leader.
The remains of Undur Gegeen Zanabazar (1635-1723) were transferred to the monastery in 1779. The mummified body of Zanabazar was revered and worshipped by pilgrims from all over the Tibetan-Mongolian Buddhist realm.
“Amarbayasgalant” translates to “peaceful happiness”. While searching for a location to construct the temple, the scouting party encountered Amar and Bayasgalant – a boy and girl. The group decided that since these children were so content playing in the steppe, they would build the monastery at that site and name it after them.
The monastery originally consisted of 50 temples and 6.000 monks during the time when Buddhism was flourishing in Mongolia. Today, 28 of them are still standing. Hundreds of monks were persecuted during the anti-Buddhist purges in 1937-1938, their rare gods, artifacts, thangka paintings, statues, and documents were taken without replacement or restitution.
The Amarbayasgalant monastery was later taken under state protection in 1943 and reconstructed. The temple has kept the ashes from the burials of III, IV Bogd, leader of Mongolian buddhism. They have become religious artifacts of buddhist era.
Architecture of monastery complex
In its peak years, Amarbayasgalant monastery consisted of 40 temples, 500 log cabins, and gers housing 2,000-3,000 monks. Today 28 temples remain in four main courtyards; all that remains of the original complex built in the 1930s (before it was largely destroyed during a communist purge).
After the neglect of 50 years, the restoration for the monastery began in 1988 with both UNESCO and private sources providing funds. The two-story, 32m by 32m main temple Tsogchin Dugana is an architectural masterpiece exhibiting amazing roof tile work and intricate enamel ceilings.
There are four middle pillars in Tsogchin Dugana that act as a rain duct and connect with tunnels under its floor. Six temples are open to the public, but foreigners must pay an admission fee to enter. The rest of the temples used to house mummified bodies of the first Bogd Gegeen Zanabazar, third and fourth Bogd Gegeens.
The monastery houses numerous important original scripts of cultural heritage, including the 108 volumes of Ganjuur and the 226 volumes of Danjuur, which were composed in 1628 and cover ancient philosophy, medicine, geography, art, science, music, and astronomy. This beautiful temple was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996.
In mid-August, the Amarbayasgalant Monastery in Gongoriin Bumba holds one of the major religious events, with hundreds of locals participating.
The monastery’s entranceway is framed by a golden inscription in Mongolian, Manchu, and Chinese that reads “The monastery Amarbayasgalant was erected at the Imperial Command.”
The local worshippers removed Zanabazar’s mummy during the communist purge and hidden it away in the mountains.
The monastery is connected to Ulaanbaatar via 325 kilometers of paved and 35 kilometers of dirt roads, which take about 6-7 hours to travel. Alternatively, you may visit the monastery as you journey to or from Khovsgol Lake.
The stupa called “Jarun hashor” or “lost the promise” is next to Amarbayasgalant monastery. According to legend, an old lady with a good heart wanted to build the stupa to accumulate merit. First, she asked permission from the king and received permission to proceed.
Then, she started building the stupa with help from 4 boys and 1 servant. The refusal of the local ministries and their pleas to the king held that a poor lady erecting a stupa would damage not only the king’s reputation, but also that of the ministries.
The reply from the king noted that he had already given her permission and therefore would not renege on his promise–hence why this monument is called “Jarun hashor” or “lost promise.” It is also referred to as “Eye Stupa” because it’s said if you look into the sculpted eye on its exterior, all your sins will be forgiven.
These days, around 50 monks live in the monastery, compared to over 2000 in 1936.
Greetings! My name is Enkhjin, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many amazing countries, including my homeland of Mongolia. That experience has broadened my perspective and now I want to share my country with others who are interested in learning more about it.
If you have questions about Mongolia, don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll be happy to help in any way that I can!
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