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Amarbayasgalant Monastery

The monastery was established and funded by order of Manchu Emperor Enkh Amaglan to serve as a final resting place for Zanabazar (1635–1723), the first Javzandamba Khutakt, or spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism for the Khalkha in Outer Mongolia and a spiritual mentor to both emperors’ ancestor. While searching for an appropriate site to build the monastery, the exploratory group came across two young boys, Amar and Bayasgalant, playing on the steppe. They were inspired to build the monastery on that very spot and to name it after the two children, Amar-Bayasgalant. More likely, the location was chosen because it stood at the place where the lama’s traveling Da Khuree was encamped at the moment of the his death. Construction took place between 1727 and 1736 and Zanabazar’s remains were transferred there in 1779. Amarbayasgalant monastery is dedicated to a Zanabazar’s main tutelary deity, Maitreya. Unlike Erdene Zuu Monastery, which is an ensemble of temple halls of different styles, Amarbayasgalant shows great stylistic unity. Originally consisting of over 40 temples, the monastery was laid out in a symmetrical pattern, with the main buildings succeeding one another along a North-South axis, while the secondary buildings are laid out on parallel sides. Amarbayasgalant was one of the very few monasteries to have partly escaped destruction during the Stalin’s purges of 1937. After which only the buildings of the central section remained. Many of the monks were executed by the country’s Communist regime and the monastery’s artifacts, including Thangkas, statues, and manuscripts were looted, although some were hidden until more fortunate times.