When in was established in 1416, Drepung Monastery served as residence to the Dali Lama, and remained so until Potala Palace was completed in the 17th century. From a distance the structure resembles a towering mound of white rice, earning it the name “Monastery of Collecting Rice”. The temple sits on the outskirts of Lhasa and is both the largest and most influential of the region’s monasteries, providing residence to over 10,000 monks at its peak. Today Drepung is home to approximately 700 monks, and remains an active pilgrimage site for visitors from all reaches of the world.
The first floor assembly hall contains a magnificent statue of the 15th Dali Lama that is bathed in sunlight all day, then illuminated by the light of yak butter lamps at night. The space is also frequently used for scripture readings around midday. The complex is surrounded by a number of courtyards that are often occupied by monks debating scriptures.
The monastery is famously known for hosting the annual Shoton Festival that takes place every August. During this time, monks flock to the mountains for contemplation, and a vibrantly colored tarp is unraveled along the hillside.