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4 October 2011 / leggypeggy

Pilgrims—it’s a long way to Lhasa

A monk making his way to Lhasa.

The pilgrimage plays a significant social role for Buddhists in Tibet, and no place is more sacred than the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. From all over theTibetan Plateau, pilgrims make their way to the temple and the revered image of Jowo Rinpoche. It’s an important way to affirm their faith and earn merit.

A village often selects those they think should go on pilgrimage. The journey is not easy. First off, all of Tibet is at a high altitude, with many passes measuring between 4800 to 5200 metres (16,000 to 17,500 feet). An individual might take several years and travel thousands of kilometres to reach Lhasa. Along the way, they will prostate themselves every few metres. To protect their bodies from the rough road surfaces, they usually wear leather aprons and knee pads and wooden hand pads.

We saw thousands of pilgrims in Lhasa itself and hundreds more making their way to this holy city. Those on the road were always all smiles and very happy to wave and shout at us. It hits home how far they have still to go, when you encounter them three to five days drive from Lhasa, Most were travelling in groups of two to four and many had mini ‘support’ vehicles that carried their belongings and arranged food and shelter (sometimes camping) for them. We even noticed one support van with a solar panel resting on the canvas roof.

The pictures show a monk on his way to Lhasa, a pilgrim support vehicle and a group of pilgrims. There may be a duplicate image—sorry about that.

Apparently after the pilgrims have completed their long haul and reached Lhasa, they usually return home by vehicle. Not surprising.

There’s a item on the Ramoche Temple. I’m also going to write blog items on the Jokhang Temple and the Potala Palace.

Also don’t forget to pick a number before 29 February 2012.

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