Baldan Bereeven Monastery belongs to the Buddhist sect monastery Gelugpa. It's located in the valley of the Baruun Jargalant River, in the sum of Omnodelger, province of Khentii. Its name is the translation of the Tibetan word "drepung" meaning "pile of rice". Originally, its architecture was the same as the Drepung monasteries' one in India and Tibet.
The site has also an esthetic value, since the monastery is surrounded by the picturesque, sacred mountains of the Khentii range : Munkh Ulziit, Arvan Gurvan Sansar, Bayan Baraat, and Bayan Khangai. The locals think that these four mountains have animal shapes : a lion at East, a dragon at South, a tiger at West, a garuda at North. The monastery is located on the hillside of a steep cliff of Mount Munkh Ulziit, on which we can see several stone sculptures representing Buddhist gods, mantras, and the symbol of soyombo.
Baldan Bereeven Monastery was created in 1654 at Tsevendorj's suggestion. The lama Tsevendorj studied with Zanabazar, the first Bogd Gegeen of Mongolia, in Tibet. He wanted to create a monastery with a similar architecture to that of Lumbini, Buddha's birth place, in order to house the Mongolian pilgrims who couldn't travel so far. Originally, Baldan Bereeven had about 1500 lamas in its community.
The construction of the main temple, called Dash Tsepel Ling, began in the mid-1700's and finished in 1776. The temple Tsogchin Dugan, "large room", was achieved in 1813 ; it was a reproduction of the famous Tibetan Utai Gumbun. The Tsogchin Dugan was one of the largest buildings of whole Mongolia. It was 30 metres (98,43 feet) long, 30 metres (98,43 feet) wide, and nearly 12 metres (39,37 feet) high.
In 1850, once the renovation of the main temple completed, Baldan Bereeven, as a cloistered school, reached its peak. It housed four different schools and more than twenty temples, and almost 8000 lamas lived and studied here. At the beginning of the 20th century, an epidemic decimated more than half the community.
But the misfortunes of the monastery went on. As from 1921 and the beginnings of communism in Mongolia, many lamas were chased, particularly in the early thirties with the religious persecution policy. First, the Government chased the Buddhist church. The latter lost its independence and had to pay important taxes, before being totally decimated in 1937 during the purges led by Horloogiin Choibalsan. Most of the lamas still alive were killed and buried in mass graves or sent in labour camps. Only the youngest ones could go back to their family. Many relics were smelted and transformed in bullets that the Soviet Union Army used during World War 2.
Baldan Bereeven today
The ruins of the monastery have been abandoned for almost 60 years. After the democratic revolution of 1990, a few old lamas who had studied here while they were children came back on the site. The restoration of several main temples started. Today three temples have been restored and we still can see the ruins of almost fifty other temples, stupas, and other religious monuments.