Literally meaning The “Rice Heap” Monastery, the Drepung Monastery is situated at Mount Gephel’s foot. It is five kilometers from the western suburb of Lhasa. The monastery is of great consequence, as it is counted among the “great three” Tibetan Gelukpa universities monasteries. The others are Sera and Ganden.
The Drepung Monastery is ranked the largest among all the Tibetan monasteries. A journalist named Freddie Spencer Chapman reported after his visit to Tibet from 1936-37 that at that time the monastery housed 7,700 monks and during special event, the number went up to 10,000!
It is said the Drepung Monastery and its peers Ganden and Sera lost much of their spiritual credibility and independence in eyes of the Tibetans as the monasteries operated under the watch of the Security Services of China. Due to this, all three monasteries were re-established in 1950 in exile in the state of Karnataka, India. Ganden and Drepung are situated in Mundgod and Sera in Bylakuppe.
The monastery is a sacred place that today houses about 700 monks. The main attraction is the annual Shonton festival that is celebrated with galore. During the festival, a dramatic revealing of a huge thangka painting on the hillside takes place.
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