Guge Kingdom in Tibet

Guge Kingdom in Tibet
Tibet casts an instant spell. Within its fragrant plains and arid hills, it hides tales of deities and demons who engaged in epic battles; it hides stories of legendary kings and their deeds. In the stunning beauty of its serene landscape, its spiritual centres, a tranquil realm shrouded in mystical sagas of the past, gleams once in a while.

But while a traveller is in a quest for spiritual fulfilment in Tibet, the land’s beautiful history remains overlooked. There’s one such account that we encounter in Tibet, as we walk along ancient stone paths, past red hued monasteries, across the dry cold plains. It’s known as Guge Kingdom.

Established in the 10th century, it was ruled by 16 kings with armies of tens of thousands of soldiers during the 700 years when it flourished.

Ruins of what was perhaps a rich, strong and beautiful city, Guge is located at Ngari in Tibet. It’s capitals were located at Tholing and Tsaparang. The ruins cover an area of 720,000 square meters, located at an elevation of 3800m. Established in the 10th century, it was ruled by 16 kings with armies of tens of thousands of soldiers during the 700 years when it flourished. No one knows for sure how the kingdom came to an end but a visit to its ruins is a surreal experience even today. At Tsaparang there is a huge fortress atop a pyramid shaped rock of 600 ft. The fortress contains various tunnels and caves that have been carved into the rock and historians believe that these were residential chambers of people during the ancient times. Tholing, the other capital is known as Zanda today. It also has hills where there are numerous caves along with many chortens that are in ruins.

Tibet travel guge kingdom

It is believed that during the time Guge flourished as a Kingdom, it played a significant role in the economic, cultural and social development of Tibet. The Kingdom was based on the principles of Buddhism, and different forms of Buddhism were created and came to flourish here. Different philosophies and teachings spread across the Himalayas and subsequently found refuge in other parts of Tibet. It also served as a centre for Tibet’s trade with foreign countries. Today, among the ruins, archaeologists have discovered numerous rooms and even more caves along with fortresses, secret paths, temples and burial grounds. While the palace is at the top, below it are temples and subsequent residencies are at the bottom. This indicates the supremacy of the monarch in those times.

The discovery of five temples and palaces within these ruins indicate the religious nature of the people of this Kingdom. There is the White Temple, Red Temple, Samsara Temple, Imperial Palace, and Assembly Palace. Many inscriptions, statues and murals are on display within the temple and palace walls. The images of Sakyamuni (Siddhartha Gautam), the king, queen and prince can also be seen here. There are also many statues of gold and silver. These palaces were built in many stages during a long time between the 10th and 16th century. In the seventeenth century, a critical period in the history of Tibet came and the kingdom finally collapsed.

guge kingdom ruin tibet

Tsaparang, the ancient capital is situated at Ngari Prefecture in Western Tibet near the border of Ladakh. It is 278 km south-southwest of Senggezangbo Town and 26 km west of the 11th-century monastery at Thöling (the other ancient capital), and far west of Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar. The ruins are in the Sutlej valley about 1200 miles away from Mount Kailash.

These beautiful enigmatic ruins all contribute to the spiritual and historical essence of Tibet. Tibet, therefore, is an exotic land best described by its spiritual history—the brilliant religious centres and legendary monarchs, gaudy monasteries, the muted palace ruins and the hills and plains all glistening in the sun. Come and explore Tibet, its history and spirituality that somehow rise against its arid plains settled in the shadow of the mighty Himalayas.

Guge - The Lost Kingdom of Tibet. HD (English Subtitle)

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