Jampa Gompa

Thubchen Gompa

Luri Gompa




The newer of the two great gompas, Thubchen is a single-storied gompa, its external structure less complex than that of Jampa. Its external dimensions are 30 x 19 meters. Unlike Jampa, it is not elevated above ground; rather, its entrance is a few steps below ground level, and is reached directly from the lane outside. An entrance chamber, on the east wall, may have been added at a later date. Traditionally, the porch of a gompa is painted with the images of the four directional guardians and often with a Wheel of Life, but statues of the customary four guardians appear in this antechamber, instead. These figures are of late date, crudely executed.

Its vast prayer hall, the du-khang, with an open floor plan resembling that of a basilica, is impressive in every respect. The du-khang is approximately 28 x 18 meters, and is 7.6 in height. This huge space is illuminated by a large central skylight. Within this space, supporting the ceiling, are thirty-five large wooden pillars, evenly spaced in rows, seven in each row from east to west, and five in each from north to south. These pillars are nine meters high. Cross-beams at the top of the pillars are carved and painted in traditional Tibetan style. Below the skylight is a wooden frame from which projects a superb set of carved lions, their heads, shoulders and forepaws seeming to emerge from the wood--fangs bared and claws outstretched.

A large chorten, seven meters high, is sited in the southwest corner of the hall. Along most of the western wall, a series of platforms supports nine statues of deities and spiritual leaders: on the highest dais are Shakyamuni, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, and Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), and a somewhat lower one bears statues including Vajradhara, the white Tara, Amitaya, and Hayagriva. In the northeast corner of the du-khang is an opening into a small room, now empty, possibly a former gon-khang--an inner chamber dedicated to a protector deity, usually a form of Mahakala, and reserved for initiates. The wall closing off this room appears to have been shifted, and paintings within have been almost completely lost.

The surviving paintings in the vast du-khang consist of twelve triad sets, each with a large, central Buddha--Shakyamuni, Vajrasattva, or other deity. Each central figure is flanked by two standing Bodhisattvas or disciples, delicate and elegant in execution. The best preserved of these is an image of Shakyamuni Buddha, with Avalokiteshvara on the Buddha's right side, and Manjushri on the left. There are seven of these triads on the east, or entrance wall, eight on the south wall, and one still visible on the north wall. Interspersed among these triads are approximately two hundred smaller figures. Along the east wall are superimposed medallions centered on smaller images of deities, and below the large figures is a frieze with roundels of protector deities and guardians. The paintings on the north wall are of later date and different style. In contrast to the intense mysticism of Jampa, with its air of magic, the Thubchen du-khang conveys a thoughtful serenity, embodying the spirit of Mahayana Buddhism.

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