By Lobsang Tenchoe
DHARAMSALA, Feb 20: The Holy statue of Jowo Shakyamuni is intact after a fire engulfed the Jokhang Temple; Tibet’s most sacred temple in Barkhor Square in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet earlier on the evening of Feb 17, a source from the region told Tibet Express.
A fire broke out at the Jokhang Temple, a seventh-century Unesco world heritage site on the evening of the second day of the Tibetan Losar (New Year) on Saturday and soon video footages of the incident flooded across social media platforms and caused much grief and concern among exiled Tibetans.
“We were allowed to visit the Jokhang Temple after the incident. The holy statue of Jowo Shakyamuni is intact. But there is a drape set up behind the statue of Jowo Rinpochey which blinded the back side, therefore, it gave way for suspicion that it might have suffered some damage,” a Tibetan from the region who visited the Jokhang Temple after the fire incident told Tibet Express.
But the blaze has reportedly caused damage on the second and the third floor of the Jokhang Temple. The gilded roof of the Temple can be seen on ablaze on some videos of the incident on social media.
“It’s being said that the fire has partially gutted the second and the third floor of the Jokhang and I saw Chinese officials lugging charred remains from the second and third floor,” our source concluded.
The Chinese state-run media stated on Sunday that a fire broke out at the Jokhang Temple on Saturday around 6 pm (Lhasa Time) and claimed to have swiftly put out the fire.
Though the incident was widely reported by the international media, the Chinese authorities downplayed the incident with their reluctance to disclose any information on the magnitude of the damage caused by the blaze and instead resorted on censoring the information on the incident across social media platforms with a heavy hand, hence many questions such as what caused the fire and the magnitude of the damage still remains unanswered even after four days.
The Jokhang Temple, built by Songtsen Gampo, the 33rd Tibetan king dates back to more than 1300 years. Apart from the Jowo Shakyamuni, a life-sized statue of the 12-year old Buddha, it also houses a hoards of sacred relics.
After the Chinese occupation of Tibet, Jokhang Temple suffered damage during the cultural revolution and was later restored in the 1970’s.
The Jokhang Temple along with the Potala Palace in the Tibetan capital city were listed as UNESCO World Heritage site in the year 2000.