We arrived at the monastery at the end of a long day, after a long uphill drive as a thick mist rolled in. This was to be our last monastery of the trip and we didn’t know what to expect: our driver said it was quite special. He also told us that we could take photos of the interior which was very welcome news after the restrictions at so many other monasteries we had visited. Information about the monastery and its artwork and religious importance is available in guide books and on Wikipedia. None of our guide books came close to describing what we experienced here.
We saw no adult monks, just small boys in monks clothing. Just as we were climbing the steps to the monastery, a very young monk began to whang a small gong, and then progressively bigger and bigger ones, evidently alerting other monks to come to the main building. Many many young monks came running through the courtyard and proceeded in and we followed. The oldest monk was about 16, the youngest may have been as young as 4. While we were adjusting our eyes to the dim interior and taking many photos, the monks seated themselves on the floor at the two long tables lined up facing each other across the aisle. The service then began, conducted entirely by these young boys. They chanted, blew horns, rang bells, pounded drums and gongs, performed various rituals at the altar and read sutras; all the while a few were sneaking apples and cookies from their cubbies in the table and throwing same at neighboring boys, proving that young monks can still be little boys. When the service ended the monks all came out boisterously rushing off to their various other tasks.
The sun had come out briefly as we left the service. We took what exterior photos we could in the setting sunlight. We briefly visited the stupa garden below the monastery before we returned to our car and left.
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