December 23rd, 2009 – by: mabby
Early morning pilgrims. (see the pigeons?)
I woke up before just before the sun rose at 8:30, washed up and walked towards the Potala Palace. Pilgrims would circumambulate sacred sites and temples in the morning, all in a clockwise direction, so i thought i'd start my first morning in Lhasa
meeting them in it's most famous icon. The sun rose opposite the palace, and both the adobe red and white palaces were brimming in glory. This was after all Lhasa's cardinal landmark, and is considered to be one of the great wonders of the world. Truly, the sight of the fortress-like structure will surely make anyone's jaw drop, and it had left me just as lonely planet described, "it's hard to peel your eyes away from it". Since my schedule to climb it was still the day after Christmas, i just stood there for another hour or so taking pictures and watched Tibetans as they prostrated in front of the Dalai Lama's adobe.
I walked the clockwise direction and headed to the Barkhor which was a kilometer away.
The Barkhor was Lasa's most interesting kora or pilgrimage circuit. Tibetan's walked (still in a clockwise direction) in the streets that surrounded the Jokhang Temple which was in the center of it all. The place was vibrant, colorful and soothingly noisy. The Barkhor is both the spiritual heart of the holy city, and the main commercial district for Tibetans. Stalls of prayer flags, beads, paintings, jewelry & prayer wheels lined the streets. The air was filled with the intoxicating aroma of juniper inscence and yak butter. I followed the pilgrims, circuiting more than 5 times in total. It was though everyone was in a spiritual trance, including me who somehow despite feeling new to all this overwhelming culture, ironically felt a sense of peace.
It was such a humbling experience walking with the pilgrims, the simplicity and deep devotion apparent in their red cheeks. At one point, I stopped in front of the Jokhang temple to take photos of the prostrating Tibetans. Age just wasn't an excuse to stop them from prostrating. A child who was around 4-6years old, a old woman in her 70's, they had all brought brought their mats, lunch etc here. Despite all the spiritual happenings here, Chinese military soldiers and CCTV's were on every corner including the roofs of surrounding buildings. Ahhh. Chinese. (I'd rather not talk any further. I still want to go back. :))
On my way back to the hostel, I saw a begging Tibetan boy at one sidewalk and handed him a glowsitck lollipop which i had brought from home. His pink cheeks turned red as he flashed out a genuine smile. He made my day. :)