Founded by the first Dalai Lama in 1447 in Shigatse, Central Tibet, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery was renowned for its scholarship in Mahayana philosophy and the Tantric tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. In the 16th Century, the monastery became the seat of the Panchen Lamas, the second most important spiritual leaders of Tibet after the Dalai Lama. The Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959 and the subsequent Cultural Revolution resulted in the destruction of many of the Monastery’s precious scriptures, statues and paintings. During 1960s, twenty elderly Buddhist monks from Tashi Lhunpo fled religious persecution and followed the 14th Dalai Lama into exile by trekking across the Himalayas to India. In 1972 the monastery was re-established in exile in the Tibetan refugee settlement of Bylakuppe in South India with the Monks splitting stones for the new temple with pickaxes and mixing cement by hand. The monastery is now home to 413 monks and, with its new Dukhang (Temple), Choera (Debate Hall), Library and Science Centre.
Tashi Lhunpo is also famous for its unique tradition of masked dances and sacred music from the Gelug or Yellow Hat school of Tibetan Buddhism. The Power of Compassion tour by the monks features masked dances, traditional Tibetan musical instruments, the sound of sacred mantras, and elaborate, colourful costumes. Mudras – symbolic or ritual gestures – are used to generate wisdom, compassion and the healing powers of enlightened beings. Every mask, costume, colour, sound and gesture have spiritual significance. The performance is accompanied by explanations of the significance and meaning behind the dances and prayers and provides a fascinating glimpse into an ancient cultural tradition far removed from modern Western society.