Potala Palace Gets Its Annual Milk Bath This Week
Lying on its Red Hill, proud and defiant over the city of Lhasa, the Potala Palace is one of the most iconic landmarks of Tibet, right up there with Mount Everest and Tibetan Buddhism. Starting this week, the palace will be undergoing its annual whitewash, giving it a facelift after the intense tourist season this year, which saw more than 1.6 million visitors pass through its gates and along its corridors and halls.

Starting their work on Wednesday October 24, around 500 workers, made up of local residents and volunteers, will spend around twelve days working on the revamp of the outer walls of the palace. And the paint they are using is not your average whitewash paint that can be bought in any hardware store.

According to the director of the palace maintenance department, Dawa Ngodrup, the paint is a special mix that has been traditionally used for centuries on the walls of the palace. Made from a mixture of milk, honey, sugar, and lime, this ancient form of monastic paint has a distinctive sweet smell, and has been used on the palace since it was first constructed in the 17th century.
While the traditional mix has been used for centuries, in more recent years, cheaper long-life milk had been used, mainly due to the cost of the painting work. However, this year, the paint is being mixed with fresh milk instead, and the sugar content is being reduced, in an effort to reduce the amount of mould that can sometimes form in the paint before it can dry properly.

The redecorating process of the palace is done annually, usually in time to be completed before the Lhabab Duchen, which falls on October 31 this year. Celebrated in the 22nd day of the 9th month in the Tibetan lunisolar calendar, it is one of the four great festivals that celebrate the major events in the life of Buddha. The Lhabab Duchen is celebrated to commemorate the descent of Sakyamuni Buddha back to earth from heaven. The event often sees a huge number of pilgrims heading for Lhasa, and all across the region, ladders are painted on rocks and cliffsides, to symbolize Buddha’s descent from heaven.

One local resident who has been volunteering for the painting sessions for the last ten years said that it was an “act of kindness” in volunteering to do the work for free. As one of the region’s most famous buildings, and a major site for Tibetan Buddhists, the Potala Palace is a major landmark in Lhasa to both residents and travelers alike. Volunteering for the painting work is an act of love for their unique heritage.

The Potala Palace lies on Moburi, known as the red Hill, and sits on the site of an ancient fortress constructed in the 7th century by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo, which was used by the king and his consorts after their move from the Palace of Yumbulakang, in Shannan Prefecture. The modern-day palace was constructed in the 17th century by the fifth Dalai Lama as the new seat of governance in Tibet. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Tibet.

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TAG: 500 workers repaint potala palace Potala palace repainting team whitewash made of milk used on potala palace


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