Ivolginsky Datsan, Russia

I‘ve been dreaming about visiting Ivolginsky datsan since the time when I watched a short documentary about Hambo Lama Itigelov. Seeing the beauty of the temple, I decided that I have to go there no matter what. Ivolginsky datsan is the spiritual capital of the Buddhist traditional sangha of Russia. The monastery is located in Republic of Buryatia, Russia, about 30 km from Ulan-Ude near Verkhnyaya Ivolga village. On a sunny winter day me and my friend from Ulan-Ude, Sin, took a bus from Ulan-Ude to Ivolginsky datsan.

Ivolginsky datsan is quite young. It was founded in 1945 only; the Resolution No. 186-g of People’s Comissars of Buryat-Mongol Autonomus Soviet Socialist Republic stated to open a Buddhist temple “Khambin’s Sume” near the Srednyaya Ivolga ulus. Faithful Buddhists began to collect money and religious attributes. With the raised money they built a wooden house which became a temple.
The first open ceremony was held on December 12th, 1945. Later, in 1951 the government officially identified a land for the monastery. Several houses were built for lamas. In 1970 the octagonal Tsogchen Dugan was built, and then the main temple.

Today Ivolginskiy datsan includes a Buddhist monastery, “Dashi Choynhorlin” Buddhist university, the Palace of 12th Pandito Hambo Lama Dashi-Dorzho Itigelov, a number of temples, museum of Buddhist arts. “Dashi Choynhorlin” university was opened in 1991 with faculties of philosophy, tantra, iconography and medicine.

Frankly, once I entered datsan, I was greatly disappointed. First, there was a local fair, located just after the entrance, where local merchants were selling their stuff. Second, a sign “50 rubles for taking photos (the price depends on the event). I did not expect to see this here. The difference between Tsugolsky datsan and Ivolginsky was so great that I was confused for a while. Nothing like the harmonious atmosphere of Tsugol. Immediately I recalled the words of the lama in Tsugolsky datsan: “We don’t need their money. We are here not for the money.”

There was a Buryat yurt near the entrance, which played a role of the datsan’s administration office. I wanted to get booklets about history of the datsan, but instead spent the time talking to a beautiful Buryat girl who worked there. Then left for exploring the monastery. First of all, of course, we made a circle around the monastery, turning all the wheels with mantras.

Then we just wandered here and there, looking at the building, going inside the temples, step by step approaching the palace of Hambo Lama Itigelov. This building is the most beautiful architectural creation I have ever seen in my life.

The construction of the palace lasted five years. The present building is the copy of Divazhin dugan of Yangazhinsky Datsan, designed and created by Hambo Lama Itigelov. His imperishable body “acquired” the house here. Hambo Lama Itigelov’s Palace was built in accordance with the tradition which was founded in 18th century, when in the first Buryat datsan “Baldan Braybun” the palace for the first Pandito Hambo Lama Damba Darzha Zayayev was built.

On June 15, 1927 at the age of 75 Pandito Hambo Lama Itigelov in the presence of lamas from Yangazhinsky datsan asked to read the “Good wishes to the departing” prayer for him, which is read for those who are about to die. Lamas could not find strenght to do it, so he started to chant by himself. Lamas joined in the prayer, and Hambo Lama departed from the world. After the ceremony, in accordance with the will of Itigelov, they put him in a lotus position in bumhan (sarcophagus) and left in a grave in the Huhe Zurhen area (in the Ivolginsky region of Republic of Buryatia). In 1955, in accordance with the will of Hambo Lama Itigelov, the XVII Pandito Hambo Lama Nyima Lubsan Darmaev with a group of lamas unearthed the sarcophagus with the body of Hambo Lama Itigelov and convinced of the incorruptibility of the body. After all the necessary rites, they placed Hambo Lama Itigelov’s body in bumhan again. In 1973, XIX Pandito Hambo Lama Zhambai Dorjo Gomboev with lamas of Ivolginsky Datsan re-examined the body of Itigelov. It was still imperishable. The body was placed in bumhan for the third time.

Later the location of the bumhan with the body of Itigelov was lost, and was found only in 2002. On September 10, 2002, XXIV Pandito Hambo Lama Damba Ayusheyev with a group of lamas of Ivolginsky Datsan in the presence of lay people (experts, criminologists and others) revealed the bumhan with Hambo Lama Itigelov’s body and performing the necessary rituals, carried him to Ivolginsky datsan, where his imperishable body is preserved up to now.

Me and my friend walked around a bit more, then drank milk tea in the monastery. After resting for a little, we then hitchhiked back to Ulan-Ude.

P.S. See all photos from Ivolginsky datsan by following link:


10 thoughts on “Ivolginsky Datsan, Russia

  1. Gorgeous architecture and such beautiful colors against the blue skies and snowy background!

    What time did you visit? It looks like there wasn’t anyone around that time.

  2. It was either mid or the end of January! Afternoon. No, there were people around, praying and bowing to Buddha images.. I just didn’t take any photos of them.. I didn’t want to disturb them to ask permission for taking their photos..

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