Ganden monastery is another of the six great Gelukpa sect monasteries in Tibet. Ganden is located 47km / 29 miles east of the Tibetan capital city of Lhasa. Ganden was founded by Tsongkhapa, who was the Tibetan buddhism reformer who started the Gelukpa sect. Tsongkhapa had his disciples build the monastery and it was finished in 1409. Ganden was the first of many Gelukpa monasteries to be built in Tibet. Tsongkhapa spent most of his last years at the monastery. He died at Ganden in 1419 and his remains are still kept there today.
Contrary to popular belief, the Dalai Lama is not the head of the Gelukpa sect. The abbot (commonly called a "tripa" which means throne holder in Tibetan) of Ganden monastery has always been the leader of the sect. The tripa is not a reincarnation like the Dalai Lama. Instead he is appointed. Each tripa of Ganden monastery serves a 7 year term. The Ganden Tripa traditionally has been one of the highest political and religious leaders in Tibet. The current Ganden Tripa is Khensur Lungri Namgyel who was born in Kham (east Tibet) in 1927. He is the 101st Ganden Tripa.
Before 1950, Ganden had around 5000 monks. Today it has around 500 monks. During the Cultural Revolution the monastery was completely destroyed. It was rebuilt in the early 1980's. Ganden is well known for its kora. The kora (pilgrim trail around the monastery) gives you an awesome view of the Lhasa river valley from 4500m / 14,760 feet. During Tibetan New Year, thousands of pilgrims from across Tibet go to Ganden to walk the kora.
Getting to Ganden is easy. Buses leave from in front of the Barkhor in Lhasa every morning from 6:30am to 7:30am. A roundtrip ticket costs Y20 ($2.50USD). The trip takes about 70 minutes. The entrance ticket for the monastery costs Y45 ($5.75). Buses return to Lhasa at around 1pm. The kora around the monastery takes about an hour.