LHASA, Aug 28: The usually quiet city came to life with hundreds of people, if not thousands, thronging the Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). They came as early as five in the morning for the Shoton festival that started this year, according to the Tibetan calendar, on August 25.
“This is a regional Tibetan festival and it´s celebrated in different parts of Tibet,” says Zou Yuheng, a staffer at the TAR Information Office, explaining that Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, which is the largest monastery in the world, is the main venue for the festival.
Built in 1416, Drepung Monastery is situated at the foot of Gambo Utse mountain. The monastery looks from afar like a heap of rice, and hence its name. Dre in Tibetan means rice and pung signifies collecting. To reach the monastery on the first day of the five-day festival, people have to walk for two to three hours as all motorable roads leading to it are closed off. What makes the journey even more strenous is the fact that almost half the going is up a steep hill. Some people opt to head for the monastery surroundings on the eve of the festival and pitch tents for the night.