Here we introduce everything you need to know about visiting and staying in Ongiin Khiid monastery in Gobi – things to do, places to visit, Ger camps and tours.
Ongi Monastery is located on the bank of Ongi River in distance of 18km from Mandal-Ovoo soum of Dundgovi province. The Basin of Ongi River streams through 437 kms, covering territories of 5 soums of Uvurkhangai province, 2 soums of Umnugovi province and Saikhan-Ovoo soum of Dundgovi province. The Ongi Monastery was built on the pediments in front of Sant Mountain, where its soil is semiarid and composed of sandstones and screes.
History of Ongiin Khiid Monastery
In 19th to early 20th century there was a complex of the following monasteries ;
- Bragri Lama Damtsagdorj (Ongi Monastery) was in the north
- Middle Monastery which was situated in the middle
- Khoshuu Monastery in the south about 20km from other two.
On the north bank of Ongi River, Khutagt Lama Monastery was built in 1760s. First two monasteries and the Khutag lama monastery actively cooperated in every ceremony.
Khutagt Lama Ishdonilkhundev with his subordinate Bragri Lama Damtsagdorj built the monastery in 1760-1810. They named the monastery ‘Gundujinbolin’. Bragri Lama Damtsagdorj was born in 1781 and studied Buddhism under Khutagt Lama Ishdonilkhundev’s instruction. He went to Ikh Khuree and Tibet for further education. When he returned, his teacher Ishdonilkhunev started to build the monastery for him.
In early 20th century, number of temples reached to 17. There were around 10 financial units and over 1000 monks were practicing Buddhism here. This proves that the monastery was quite big and influential throughout the country. The dwellings where monks lived were located on the eastern, western and southern area of the Monastery. Monks studied Buddhism in 4 monastic schools, religious philosophy, mysticism, medicine and mathematics.
Political Repression for Ongiin Khiid Monastery
The repression of religion started to reach the Monastery since 1925. According to reports mostly high ranked monks, about 200 of them, were captured and executed. In addition, numerous monks disrobed and lived as herdsmen. The communists confiscated their properties such as herds and flocks.
Later in 1998, the monks descendants founded Ongi Monastery Fund. Moreover, they erected a Stupa for a memory of the monks who was sentenced during the purge in 2000. They restored a temple called ‘Zuun Gudengiin Dugan’ in the middle of the ruins. Also they established a ‘Ger museum’ next to the Zuun Gudengiin Dugan in 2001. When you visit the museum, you will find religious tools used by Bragri Lama Damtsagdorj and other remaining items from the original monastery.
Hiking in Ongiin Khiid Monastery
As you’re taking a look at the ruins you walk a lot and even climb up to the mountain where they built an ‘Ovoo’. The monks and local people worship it on the 3th of the first summer month every year. There are four more worshiped Ovoos around the Monastery and situated in different locations on mountains. You can pick them up as your hiking routes.
Additional cannot miss activities:
If you have a time to spare there are several spots you can hike up to. First one is The Mountain with Deity (Burkhant Shashir Mountain). In 2011, the monks erected the 2m tall-statue of Luvenjalbuu, a water god on that mountain for a purpose of calling the water of Ongi river. The river was stopped streaming because of draught and local mining activities.
Next two routes are more appropriate if you do by car since the locations are little bit longer for hiking. The ruin of China Town (Shaazan Hotyn tuuri) is located in 16 km from the ruins of Ongi Monastery. The historians and archaeologists did not study well this place. Even some say that once Ogodei king, Genghis Khan’s third son was residing around here in 13th or 14th century. Anyhow, the place is the proof of sophisticated production of china potteries and decorations. Next you go to the meditation cave where monks used to meditate in. It is about 8 km from the Monastery.
Also native people believed that this area is the global spiritual center. Be respectful to the sites. At any time you need to put sunscreen on and wear your sunhat and dress in loose fitting clothes. During summer days it gets really hot and windy as well. The best months to visit will be June or September when it’s not so hot and not so cold.
Tourists Ger Camps
There are several tourist camps and local families are running in this place. The most distinguished one is the Secret of Ongi and they really provide good services for tourists. Next one will be Ongi Energy, located right behind of the Secret of Ongi.