Buryat People and Buddhist Religion
Today the same as many centuries ago Lake Baikal remains a crossroads of cultures where native Soyots still herd reindeer in the north of Irkutsk region and Buryat people maintain many of their old traditions. The wilds of Siberia also offer a gateway to Mongolia and its ancient and amazing culture. It is hard to imagine that these wilderness areas and exotic cultures are only a five hour jet ride from Moscow or Khabarovsk.
The Buryats numbering approximately 350,000 are the largest ethnic minority group in Siberia and are mainly concentrated in their homeland the Buryat Republic and the Buryat autonomous district on the territory of Irkutsk region. Buryats are of Mongolian descent and share many customs with their Mongolian cousins including nomadic herding and setting up yurts (or gers in Mongolian) for shelter. Today, the majority of Buryats live in and around Ulan-Ude which is the capital of the republic although many live more traditionally in the countryside. The Buryats still preserve their shamanism religion and many practice Buddhism.
Close to Ulan-Ude there is Ivolginsky Datsan - the Buddhist Temple located in a picturesque and peaceful place named Ivolga only 23 km (14 mi) from Ulan-Ude. Ivolginsky Datsan was the only Buddhist monastery tolerated by the Communists. It has more than 1,000 Buddha statues from small ones to the one that is 2 meters (6.5 ft) high. The building is a gleaming three-story temple crowned with yellow eaves and guarded by stone tigers, caretaker of the heart of Buddhism in Russia. The Ivolginsky Datsan is considered to be the center of Buddhism in Russia.
On September,11,2002 the body of Khambo-Lama Itigilov who passed away while meditating in a pose of the Lotus 75 years ago here after having been raised from the burial site by local Buddhist monks was found in a fine condition and same stiffen pose of the Lotus. Now the Lamaistic Datsna monks plan to construct special glass sarcophagus in which the body of Holy Khambo-Lama will be kept.