Gandan Monastery was first established in 1835 in Ulaanbaatar by the 5th Jebtsundamba, Mongolia’s highest ranking reincarnated lama. Following its creation, a number of temples were built for the study of philosophy, medicine, astrology, tantric ritual, and daily worship. The monastery served as Mongolia’s center for Buddhist teaching during the early 20th century.
Mongolia’s socialist government adopted strict policies banning religious activities in the 1930’s. During this period, all of Mongolia’s monasteries were closed, and monks experienced severe persecution, were jailed, and even executed throughout the country. Gandan was closed in 1938, but reopened in 1944 and served as the only functioning monastery during the socialist regime. Buddhism was again recognized in 1990 when the democratic government was installed. The monastery stands at the forefront of Mongolian Buddhism, propagating Buddhist teaching throughout the region.
The monastery is currently home to 400 monks and is the site of a Buddhist University, consisting of a college of philosophy, medicine, and astrology. The complex also contains a tantric college and a number of different temples.