TABO MONASTERY-Se tenant Stamps-By India Post
Tabo Monastery is situated in the village of Tabo, in the secluded Spiti valley of the state Himachal Pradesh, India.
Spiti Valley forms one of the Trans-Himalayan frontier regions of northern India with a population of around 10,000 people. It is bounded by Ladakh in the north, Lahaul and Kullu district in the west and south-east respectively, and by Tibet and the Kinnaur district in the east.
In the past the region was included within the boundaries of Tibet.
Tabo village is at an altitude of 3,280 metres, it is a remote place, with often harsh and extreme weather isolating it from the outside world.
Tabo Monastery was founded in 996AD. With its original decoration and art images intact, it is considered to be the oldest continuously functioning Buddhist monastery in India and the Himalayas.
The unique beauty of its art and its pivotal historical role in the transmission of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and culture in the 10th and 11th century makes Tabo Monastery an historically significant site.
Within the ancient monastery’s compound are nine temples built between the late 10th and the 17th century and numerous stupas.
The main temple preserves an extraordinary wealth of documentation of the history and culture of the period. The iconographic program, dating from the restoration time of 1042, is complete. This includes paintings, sculptures, inscriptions and extensive wall texts.
The Nine temples:-
The Temple of the Enlightened Gods (gTug-Lha-khang)
This is also known as the assembly hall (du-khang) and is quite the core of the complex. This has a vestibule, an assembly hall and a sanctum. The central figure of this hall is the four-fold figure of Vairocana. In Vajrayana Buddhism, he is regarded as one of the five spiritual sons of Adibuddha- who was the self-created primordial Buddha. With awesome majesty he sits larger than life about two meters above the floor. He is depicted in a posture turning the wheel of law. On brackets arrayed along the walls and with stylized flaming circles around them are life sized stucco images of what are commonly called the Vajradhatu Mandala. Thirty-three in all these are other deities of the pantheon, for example Vajrasattva (rDo-re-dSems-pa) the ‘soul of the thunderbolt.’
With five Bodhisattvas of the Good Age placed within, the sanctum is immediately behind the assembly hall. The walls around the stuccoes are richly adorned with wall paintings that depict the life of the Buddha. These have a purely Indian artistic style as it is said that the artists were specially summoned from Kashmir.
The Golden Temple (gSer-khang)
Once said to have been layered with gold, this temple was exhaustively renovated in the 16th century by Senge Namgyal, ruler of Ladakh. The walls and ceilings are covered with outstanding murals.
The Mystic Mandala Temple / Initiation Temple (dKyil-kHor- khang)
The wall facing the door has a huge painting of Vairocana who is surrounded by eight Bodhisattvas. Mystic Mandalas cover the other areas. Here the initiation to monkhood takes place.
The Bodhisattva Maitreya Temple (Byams-Pa Chen-po Lha-khang)
This has an image of the Bodhisattva Maitreya that is over six meters high. The temple has a hall, vestibule and sanctum. The array of murals within also depicts the monastery of Tashi-Chunpo and Lhasa’s Potala palace.
The Temple of Dromton (Brom-ston Lha khang)
A small portico and long passage leads to its hall. The doorway is intricately carved and the inner walls are covered with murals. It lies on the northern edge of the complex and is regarded to have been founded by Dromton (1008-1064 AD) an important disciple of Atisha.
The above are accepted as the earliest temples of the Tabo complex and the following are later additions.
The Chamber of Picture Treasures (Z’al-ma)
This is a kind of an ante room attached to the Enlightened Gods temple. It is covered with beautiful paintings of the Tibetan style.
The Large Temple of Dromton (Brom-ston Lha khang)
The second largest temple in the complex, this has a floor area of over 70 sq m, while the portico and niche add another 42 sq m. The front wall has the figure of Sakyamuni flanked by Sariputra and Maha Maugdalayana. The outer walls depict the eight Medicine Buddhas and Guardian Kings. The wooden planks of the ceiling are also painted.
The Mahakala Vajra Bhairava Temple (Gon-khang)
This enshrines the protective deity of the Galuk-pa sect. Fierce deities fill the room and it is only entered after protective meditation. At times it is called the ‘temple of horror’.
The White Temple (dKar-abyum Lha-Khang)
The walls of this temple are also adorned leaving a low dado for the monks or nuns to lean against.
Date Of issue:-31.12.1999.