January 6, 2014

0944 RUSSIA (Republic of Buryatia) - Ivolginsky datsan

In Buryatia, a republic located in the south-central region of Siberia, along the eastern shore of Lake Baikal, ethnic Russians make up two thirds of the population in nowadays, while the ethnic Buryats are 30%. Because many Slavs are Russian Orthodox, and most urban Buryats are either Buddhist or Orthodox, these two are the most widespread religions in the republic. The historical evidences give reason to believe that, from the 2nd century BCE, proto-Mongol peoples were familiar with Buddhism. Anyway, at the beginning of the 17th century, Tibetan Buddhism penetrated from Mongolia to reach the Buryat population of the area just east of Lake Baikal, and over a century it spread throughout the region. A second branch came directly from Tibet, from the Labrang Monastery in Amdo, so the Buddhism in Buryatia is the northernmost extension of Mahayana Buddhism in Central Asia, primarily the Gelug tradition from Tibet.

After the October Revolution, the new Soviet state destroyed the Buddhist culture of Buryats, the spiritual values created and accumulated over centuries being erased in a short period of time. Nevertheless, in 1945 was open the first Buddhist spiritual centre in Soviet Union, Ivolga Datsan, located near Verkhnyaya Ivolga village, at 23 km from Ulan-Ude (in the postcard). In the course of time the little Khambin's sume changed into the Monastic centre with a residence of Pandido Khambo lama, the leader of all Russian Lamas. Its spiritual activity is manifested in temple rites, medical practice, and Buddhist education traditional system. Buddhist university Dashi Choinkhorling was opened in 1991 attached to the datsan.

In the second image of the postcard is shown the cham dance, a  mystical masked and costumed dance associated with some sects of Buddhism, presented to Buddhist festivals. The dance, 1,300 year old, is accompanied by music played by monks using traditional Tibetan instruments. The dances often offer moral instruction relating to compassion for sentient beings and are held to bring merit to all who perceive them. It often depict incidents from the life of Padmasambhava, the 9th century Nyingmapa teacher and other saints.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of a large series issued for XXII Winter Olympics in Sochi 2014, about which I wrote here.

Buddhism in Buryatia - Wikipedia
Ivolginsky Datsan - Wikipedia
Cham - Core of Culture
Cham dance - Wikipedia

sender: Polichev Daniil (direct swap)
sent from Ulan Ude (Republic of Buryatia / Russia), on 21.12.2013

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