Gandantegchinlen Monastery in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia - Atlas Obscura

Gandantegchinlen Monastery

Established hundreds of years ago, Gandan remains the premier Buddhist monastery in Ulaanbaatar. 

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Gandantegchinlen, or Gandan as locals and visitors alike refer to it, was once one of the only permanent buildings in this city of tent-dwelling nomads. It served as the main Buddhist temple here until the communist era when religion was suppressed and most Buddhist temples in Mongolia were destroyed.

The monastery was originally established in the early 19th century outside of Khüree (now known as  Ulaanbaatar). Its name translates as ”the great place of complete joy.” The monastery complex is made up of a number of shrines, temples, and assembly halls.

Gandan was closed in 1939 during the anti-religious persecutions in Mongolia, and many of its buildings were razed. In 1944, the monastery was reopened, and for nearly 50 years it was the only active monastery in the country.

Since the 1990s, Gandan has been rehabilitated in stature and reopened to worshippers. After much recent renovation, it is worth visiting to experience the current role of Buddhism in Mongolia. The addition of the Battsagaan Grand Assembly Hall adjacent to the main temple adds to the grandeur of the complex.

Inside the main temple stands Avalokitesvara, the tallest indoor standing Buddha statue in the world at 26 meters (85 feet). The statue is known locally by it’s Tibetan name, Chenrézik. Walk clockwise to see the hundreds of smaller statues that surround the temple interior.

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Photography is allowed and there is no longer an entrance fee.

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