Join us in highlighting the #PotalaPalace,
the seat of the Tibetan Government in Tibet.
This year, join SFT as we commemorate Feb 13, Tibetan Independence Day, with ‘Celebrate Potala’ as a theme to mark the Potala Palace’s historical importance and to highlight the Tibetan people’s vision for a free and democratic Tibet. The Potala Palace was home to the Dalai Lama and the independent Tibetan Government for centuries until China’s illegal military invasion of Tibet in 1959. In the mid-7th century, the 33rd King of Tibet, Songtsen Gampo, transformed Lhasa from a strategic provincial town into the nation’s capital. Songtsen Gampo laid down the first foundation of his palace and the palaces of his queens on Marpo Ri, or “Red Hill,” in Lhasa. The Potala Palace was later build on Marpo Ri by the Great Fifth Dalai Lama in the 1640s.
Today, China attempts to portray the Potala Palace solely as a tourist attraction. However, for the Tibetan people, the Potala Palace is more than an attractive monument, it is a representation of Tibet’s independent past and a symbol of Tibet for Tibetans around the globe. The Potala Palace is the manifestation of Tibetan architectural genius and it’s designs are a testament to the scientific understanding of Tibet’s natural landscape and weather conditions in ancient times.
The return of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to his rightful place in the Potala Palace would reaffirm the status of Tibet’s official capitol building. A worldwide commemoration of this symbolic and empowering palace will help renew our spirits to reaffirm a global vision for a free Tibet. Join the movement today – secure Tibet’s past and shape Tibet’s future.
In the mid-7th century, the 33rd King of Tibet, Songtsen Gampo, a charismatic ruler and a stout strategist, laid down the first foundation of his own palace, and those of his queens, on the same hill (‘Marpo Ri’ or “Red Hill”) where the Potala Palace was later built. He transformed Lhasa from a strategic provincial city into the national capital of Tibet. Under Songtsen Gampo’s rule, the Tibetan Empire grew to be a military power and trade presence to be reckoned with.
7th Century AD
Construction of the Potala Palace that exists today began during the reign of the 5th Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, in 1645 around the same time as the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, was building the Taj Mahal in India. The palace was named after Mount Potalaka, a holy hill in South India believed to be the abode of Avalokiteśvara. Tibetans believe the Dalai Lamas are manifestations of Avalokiteśvara.
In 1682, at the age of sixty-five, the Fifth Dalai Lama died before completing the construction of the Potala Palace. He had entrusted the responsibility to Sangye Gyatso, the new Desi (or Regent), with the advice to keep the death a secret. Sangye Gyatso carried out the wishes of the Fifth Dalai Lama keeping the death a secret for fifteen years until construction was completed.
The 13th Dalai Lama is enthroned in the Potala Palace. After the expulsion of the Chinese representatives and troops in 1913, Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama, redeclares Tibetan independence.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is enthroned in the Potala Palace at age four. He assumes full temporal (political) duties on 17 November 1950, at the age of 15.
After China’s military invasion, in 1959, the Potala witnessed the brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by the occupying Chinese army, forcing His Holiness to escape into exile. An unprecedented shelling of Lhasa led to the death of many Tibetans and the destruction of the Norbulingka and Potala Palace among other buildings.
The Potala Palace is designated a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and also named one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World” by the newspaper USA Today in 2006.
Despite over half-a-century of China’s occupation, Tibetans in Tibet and in exile continue to struggle for freedom and hope for the return of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to his rightful place – the Potala Palace.
At SFT, our vision remains to work towards a day when Tibet is Free, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama returns to his rightful place in the Potala Palace. You too, can help us make this a reality, by taking action and supporting our campaigns, such as the February 13th Tibetan Independence Day campaign.
Here are some things you can do: