Ivolginsk Buddhist Datsan, with Main Temple (1940s), Ivolga, Russia


This photograph of the Ivolginsk Buddhist datsan (monastery or lamasery) was taken in 2000 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. This primary Buddhist center in the Republic of Buriatiia (Russian Federation) is situated 25 kilometers to the southwest of Ulan-Ude near the Ivolga River. It was founded in 1946, after the destruction or closure of previous Buddhist monastic communities, in what appears to have been a cultural gesture by the Soviet regime. The temples, shrines, and other structures of the datsan follow regional Buddhist principles in form and decoration. The main temple (tsokchen-dugan), visible on the left, rises in three levels. Although built in the late 1940s with light-colored brick, the temple displays traditional proportions and ornamentation. The first level is devoted to study and prayer. The second level preserves sacred texts. The third level, the gonkan, serves as an inner sanctum devoted to the guardian deities. The gonkan is surrounded by an open gallery to allow ceremonial processions around the sacred space. The ridge at the top of the roof is surmounted with a ganjir, a stupa-like figure based on the lotus flower.

Last updated: January 11, 2016