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The Republic of Buryatia

Ivolginsky Datsan

Иволгинский дацан
Иволгинский дацан
Иволгинский дацан
Иволгинский дацан
Иволгинский дацан
Иволгинский дацан
Иволгинский дацан

Ivolginsky Datsan, the spiritual capital of the Buddhist traditional Sangha of Russia, is located at the foot of the Khamar-Daban, in the vast steppes, in a quiet area 30 km fr om Ulan-Ude.

Founded in 1945, Ivolginsky Datsan is currently referred to as the spiritual capital of Russian Buddhists.  It is also the largest Buddhist complex in Russia. Its construction began the history of the revival of Buddhist tradition in Russia, following its almost complete destruction in the first decades of the Soviet era.

More than 150,000 Buddhists lived in Russia at the turn of the 20th century; there were more than 150 sume (smaller temples) and 30 datsan.  However, after the revolution of 1917, all religious denominations, including Buddhism, were persecuted.

Surprisingly for many people, after the end of the Second World War, the authorities made a number of concessions. Although the Buddhist community was not allowed to restore the old temples of the eighteenth century, the authorities have provided it with a land plot in a swampy area near the village of Verkhnyaya Ivolga. A wealthy Buryat family donated their own small house to the temple. It was maintained and developed by volunteers and lamas, who were also unexpectedly amnestied after the war. It was fr om this building that Ivolginsky Datsan began to grow.

Tuges Bayasgalantay Ulzy nomoi Khurdyn Khiid, the name of the monastery in the Buryat language, can be translated into English as “The Monastery, where the Wheel of Teaching Turns, Filled with Joy and Bringing Happiness.”  In the Tibetan tradition, “datsan” are considered to be “faculties” of Buddhist universities, wh ere philosophy and medicine are taught. However, in Russia, the term is applied not only to Buddhist universities but also to monasteries, probably because of the long isolation of Buddhism from external influence.  Today there are about 3 million Buddhists in Russia; it is the third largest denomination in the country.

Ivolginsky Datsan is a monastery complex consisting of eight buildings, including temples, a library and Russia’s only Buddhist university wh ere students study philosophy and traditional Tibetan medicine.  The Datsan is famous outside of Russia, not only for the contemporary spiritual education it provides, but also because of the name Dashi-Dorzho Itygelov, the leader of Russian Buddhists in the early 20th century and an associate of the 14th Dalai Lama.

Before his death in 1927, Itigilov asked the monks to do two things for him: to read a special funeral prayer and “visit his body in 30 years”. The monks didn’t dare read the funeral prayer when the teacher was still alive. Then Itigilov assumed the lotus position, started reading the prayer himself and passed away. He was buried in the very same position, in a cedar sarcophagus in Khukhe-Zurkhen, not far from Ulad-Ude.  In 1957, when he was examined for the first time after his death, there was already a small sume temple and several houses for lamas at Ivolginsky Datsan. There were no signs of physical decay on the exhumed body. They completed rites and changed the clothing on the body and reburied him. The next time the incorruptible body was exhumed and reburied once again in 1973.

In September 2002, the sarcophagus was dug out again. Scientists, who are always skeptical about stories of miracles, suggested an expert examination of the body should be performed.  Analysis showed that Itygelov’s joints had not lost their flexibility and his skin remained soft. Experts could not explain the phenomenon. The monks knew the answer. They carried Itygelov’s body to the Datsan and, together with volunteers, erected a new building for it, which proved to be the most beautiful building in the Datsan.

Pilgrims come to the Datsan from near and far to see the incorruptible body of the 12th Pandido Khambo Lama. Itygelov is said to assist those who ask him for help. And the Datsan continues to grow.

«Visit Buryatia», Tourist Information Center /

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Address: The Republic of Buryatia, Ivolginsky District, Verkhnyaya Ivolga settlement

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