Dharamsala; In light of the news reports of a massive fire that was believed to have emerged from Jokhang chapel (chapel that houses the Jowo-Buddha Shakyamui’s statue) in the temple premises, in the heart of Lhasa city, reliable sources have told the Central Tibetan Administration leadership that the source of the fire is not the Jowo chapel but from an adjacent chapel within the Jokhang temple premises known in Tibetan as Tsuglakhang.
Images and videos circulating on social media show the Jokhang temple premises, one of the holiest Buddhist temples in Tibet engulfed in flames. A bystander is heard wailing and chanting a prayer in the name of Tenzin Gyatso (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama).
It is reported that the fire that broke out at 6:40 pm (Lhasa time) on February 18, the second day of Tibetan New Year was doused and there was no casualties and damage to property is yet to be ascertained.
CTA President Dr Lobsang Sangay who is currently on a six-day official visit to Japan sighed relief that the fire did not affect Jokhang chapel but cautioned Tibetans in Tibet to remain alert at large public gatherings especially during occasions such as Losar.
“At this point in time I cannot comment much until the cause of the fire is brought to light, but it is disturbing to see tragic accidents take place at Jokhang temple premises, one of the most hallowed sites in Tibet and a UNESCO World Heritage site,” lamented Ven Karma Gelek Yuthok, Minister for Religion and Culture.
State-run Xinhua news agency today reported that the Barkhor market in Lhasa is reopened to the public today after a temporary closure following yesterday’s fire and that the situation is brought back to normal.
“It is mandatory to have adequate safety measures put in place at holy sites such as Jokhang, considered the spiritual heart of Tibetan Buddhism and at places of large congregation,” said Dr Sangay. He also expressed hope that more information about cause of the blaze will be divulged in the coming days.
The Jokhang chapel at Tsuglakang (temple) has a history of more than 1,300 years and houses many cultural treasures, including a life-sized statue of the 12-year old Buddha also known as Jowo Sakyamuni.