Join our tours to Ivolginsky Datsan:
On the three-day tour “Pilgrim Track: A Visit to Khambo Lama Itygelov”, you will discover the world of the lama, learn the phenomenon of his imperishable body, as well as pave your own spiritual path.
The complete name of the datsan is “Tuges Bayasgalantay Ulzy nomoy Khurdyn Khiyd”. In English it sounds as “The monastery is the wheel of teaching, giving happiness and full of joy”.
Ivolginsky datsan is a monastery complex consisting of seven temples, a Buddhist University, priests’ houses, a museum of Buddhist art and a hotel. The whole complex occupies the area of three hectares (7.5 ac). There is the residence of the head of Russian Buddhists – Pandito Khambo Lama, and his house is also included into the complex.
Ivolginsky datsan is sited at the foot of the hills surrounding Lake Baikal. The roofs of the temples and the colourful stupas look astoundingly beautiful amidst the wilderness. In winter time the monastery is even more spectacular – coloured temples nestled in the snow against capped mountains. While staying in Russia in 1982 Dalai Lama noticed that Ivolginsky datsan is one of the greatest places of interest he had seen in the USSR. The datsan is protected by the government as a monument of religious architecture.
The main temple of Ivolginsky datsan is Sogchen. It is built in accordance with the idea of “mandala”. Twelve stone lions protect the temple. There is a pantheon of a thousand of Buddhas including a huge sculpture of Buddha Shakjamuni in the altar. The statue occupies the central place inside this temple. Below the statue there is a picture and a throne of Dalai-Lama XIV, where nobody is allowed to sit. There is a ceremony open to visitors every morning around 9 AM in the temple.
The temples are surrounded by prayer drums (Khurde). Before entering the datsan visitors have to walk clockwise around it and spin prayer wheels at the same time while walking. Each turn of the drum equals multiple prayer repeat.
Locals make the journey to the monastery regularly for different kind of consultations: the best time for starting a new business or a place of education, a name for a baby or a date for a wedding, a good day for a surgery, day and time for a funeral etc.
A few years ago the datsan became a place of pilgrimage due to the imperishable body of the 12th Pandido Khambo Lama Dashi-Dorzhi Itigelov. In 1927 he took the lotus position and plunged into deep meditation. Before he had ordered disciples to exhume his body after some time and had promised to come back alive. 30 years later the body was taken out of the grave. It was found to have been miraculously preserved, as if he’d only died yesterday. Forensic medical examination experts drew up a report, which stated that the skin of the body, the nails and the hair were safe, the tissues of the Lama were soft and flexible. So he’s been declared a sacred object of Buddhism. An individual temple for him was erected; the project is carried out by old Buryat sketches.
The relic might be seen only 8 times a year during major Buddhist holidays (accessed from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.):
8 February 2016
17 March 2016
21 April 2016
21 May 2016
8 July 2016
5 September 2016
22 October 2016
23 November 2016
26 February 2017
It’s known that in 1932 when Joseph Stalin was in power in the USSR the campaign of complete eradication of religion by 1937 was declared. Thus most temples were shut down and monks were sent to gulags in the 30s. In 1944 a group of Buryat monks collected the signatures of 16 old lamas who were former exiles, went to Moscow to meet the country leader and asked for permission to erect a new Buddhist temple. Incredibly, they managed to get his agreement! Ivolginsk datsan was founded in 1945 by the authority of Stalin.
Dalai Lama ХIV once said: “It [monastery] was built, when Stalin was at the helm. I do not understand how it could happen, but this fact has helped me to realize that spirituality is deeply rooted in the human mind, and it is very difficult, if not impossible, to uproot it…”
Ivolginsky datsan really embodies the cultural diversity of Russia and of the Buryatia republic: a beautiful Buddhist enclave near Ulan-Ude. It’s definitely worth going to see the architecture and feel the vibe of the settlement. Wander around the monastery village and attend various ceremonies, bringing you to a place that you surely didn’t expect to find in Russia.
It is worth a half a day trip or longer, if you’re into Buddhism. You may want to pack some snack, there isn’t a lot of choice in the cafe (they serve soft drinks, boozas and other local specialties).
In winter one should put on warm clothes because of strong winds in the steppe, especially in February and March.
Open hours: 9:00 am – 18:00 pm
Entrance fee: free
How to get to Ivolginsky datsan:
Longitude: 107°12’12.51″E (107.203475);
Latitude: 51°45’32.11″N (51.758920)
The datsan is located 19 mi/30 km from Ulan-Ude. Marshutkas №130 and 125 leave from the bus stop at Odigitrievsky Cathedral (Lenina Str., 2, near the Uda river) one after another for the forty minute journey to Ivolginsk village. Get off at the last stop and get on another marshrutka (which is the only there) and you are at the Monastery in 10 minutes. The last marshrutka departs at 9.30 p.m.
You should be able to reach Ivolginsky datsan comfortably within an hour by car from Ulan-Ude. The road runs across rolling plains, past wooden houses, and village churches.
Other Ulan-Ude attractions:
5 Top Tourist attractions in Ulan-Ude for a one day city trip.
The Ethnographic Museum of Buryatia, one of the Russian largest open-air museums.
Five major museums in Ulan-Ude, that provide information on the history, geography and culture of Buryatia and its capital.
Lake Baikal, the oldest, the deepest lake with the most diverse flora and fauna in the world.