The Main Temple of the monastic complex (chos-'khor) at Alchi, also called Assembly Hall or Dukhang (Du-khang), is the largest structure in its centre. The temple consists of a main hall measuring 7.5 x 7.9 metres and a niche or apse in the back-wall of 3.3 x 2.4 metres. It is also the oldest monument preserved at Alchi, but there is no decisive clue for the temporal interval between this temple and the Sumtseg that dates to the early 13th century (> Alchi Monastery History).
In the niche at the back of the temple is a sculptural configuration centred on Vairocana (> Alchi Main Temple Sculpture Gallery). The main hall of the Alchi Dukhang is painted with different mandalas of the Vajradhatu and related cycles, among them the Dharmadhatu-vagishvara-mañjushri-mandala, the Durgati-parishodhana-mandala and a mandala of Prajñaparamita. The entrance is flanked by an only partly preserved Life of the Buddha (left) and a large depiction dedicated to donors and their feasts (right). Below the thousand Buddhas painted on the sides of the niche is a depiction of the Abhirati paradise of the Buddha Akshobhya together with an excerpt from the Akshobhyavyuha-sutra. Curiously, although the columns, capitals and brackets are original, none of the original ceiling decoration has survived.
The Main Temple also preserves extensive carvings of the doorframe as well as the remaining parts of the veranda, the sides of which are closed up today.
In addition to the veranda, the area in front of the Main Temple testifies to a long history of alterations. As the in situ survey with the architects from the Graz University of Technology has revealed, these alterations include the addition of flanking buildings and the courtyard in a relatively clear chronological sequence.
- Goepper, Roger. 1999. Akshobhya and His Paradise: Murals in the Dukhang of Alchi. Orientations 30 (1):1621.
- Tropper, Kurt. 1996. Die Akshobhyayuhasutra-Inschrift in Alchi. Ein Beitrag zur Kanjurforschung. MA (Diplomarbeit), Institute of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, Vienna University, Vienna.
In the sculptural configuration of the niche a four-headed Buddha Vairocana is flanked by four goddesses and a number of offering deities in clay . The other four Jinas placed on the side walls have painted secondary images (> Configuration of the Alchi Main Temple Niche). Today the niche is closed off behind a glass partition and piled high with furniture. All the images lower down and the central Vairocana (particularly the faces) have, at some stage, been repaired and repainted, while the images higher up have largely preserved their original form and colouring (> Alchi Main Temple Sculpture Gallery).
Below Vairocana, a lotus stem emerges from a vase flanked by two nagas. As on the main wall of the Lalung Serkhang, this stem not only supports the lotus of the main image but develops into a scroll that also frames all the secondary images on the main wall of the apse. The delicacy of the scroll as well as the frames of the main images, all preserving much of their original painting, contrasts with the sturdy build of the sculptural figures.
The sculptural configuration of the niche is complemented by deities painted on the side walls flanking the four Jinas. Although only a part of the figures is visible today, the lower ones now being concealed by the furniture, it is clear that they belong iconographically to the sculptures.
- Luczanits, Christian. 2004. Buddhist Sculpture in Clay: Early Western Himalayan Art, late 10th to early 13th centuries. Chicago: Serindia.
Page last updated: 16.12.2005