Though a plain and utilitarian substitute for its far more
splendid namesake in Lhasa, also known as the Jokhang, the Tsug-Lag-Khang
is nevertheless fascinating and peaceful. Situated opposite the residence
of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tsug-Lag-Khang is known to the local
Indians as the Main Temple.
It houses three main images: that of the Sakyamuni Buddha, Padmasambhava and Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion, of whom the Dalai Lama is the current emanation. The principal image is that of Sakyamuni Buddha, measuring three metres high and made of gilded bronze. To its right are the images of Padmasambhava and Avalokitesvara, which are both, facing Tibet.
THE LEGEND OF TSUG-LHA-KHANG
The image of Avalokitesvara has a moving history. King Songtsen Gampo commissioned the original jewel-encrusted image in the Jokhang (Central Cathedral) in Lhasa, in the 7th century. Since then it had become an object of unparalleled devotion for people throughout Central Asia.
When Red Guards ransacked the Jokhang during the Cultural Revolution, this image and others were tossed into the streets. From these heaps of broken statues and other religious artifacts, some Tibetans managed to salvage and smuggle out a wrathful and a peaceful aspect of the face images of the Avalokitesvara. Passing through many hands, these face images finally found their way to India via Nepal in 1967.
One year later, another wrathful image of Avalokitesvara and one of Amitabha, the Buddha of Boundless Light, reached India through Nepal in a similar way. These faces are encased as precious relics into the newly sculpted image of the Buddha of Compassion in Tsug-Lag-Khang.
The new Avalokitesvara image, which was consecrated in 1970 (the Iron Dog Year of the Tibetan calendar), is made of silver and has eleven faces, a thousand arms and a thousand eyes. In addition, Tsuglag Khang houses the entire set of the Buddhist canons, Kagyur and Tengyur. Kagyur is the direct teaching of the Buddha while Tengyur is the collection of later commentaries on Kagyur by Indian Buddhist scholars.
In 1992 a new prayer hall was added to the Tsuglag Khang complex with fine frescoes of the Kalachakra tantra cycle. The Central Cathedral is also the site of public prayers, sermons and certain religious festivities, including monastic dances. A constant stream of devotees turn prayer wheels as they circumambulate the cathedral.