Barkhor Street#2 in Best Things To Do in Tibet
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- 3.5Food Scene
After days of visiting temples, palaces and monasteries, treat yourself to some souvenirs on Barkhor Street. Barkhor Street is one big circular street that goes around Jokhang Temple and is filled to the brim with shops and stalls catering to those who want to take a little piece of Tibet home. Here, you can find tons of jewelry, including silver and colorful stone jewelry, traditional Tibetan wooden masks, Tibetan knives and even yak wool blankets. There are also religious articles for sale too, including Buddha statues, prayer beads, prayer wheels and beautiful Thangka, or Tibetan scroll paintings.
The presence of all these cultural souvenirs as well as the street's spiritual significance has helped earn Barkhor Street the distinction of being the "window of Tibet." Bakhor's spiritual significance is all thanks to Jokhang Temple. Part of the pilgrimage to Jokhang includes walking the circular route of Barkhor clockwise from dawn to dusk while reciting mantras, often with prayer wheels. Don't be alarmed if you see people prostrating on the ground, it's part of prayer. You will most likely see these pilgrims carrying out this tradition during your visit here. You are more than welcome to observe and take the walk yourself, but don't stop the pilgrims praying. Give them space, refrain from walking with them and don't take pictures, as the locals find it disrespectful.
Travelers loved the lively atmosphere of Barkhor Street and were surprised to see so much culture in the city's most touristy area. For souvenirs, visitors said it's best to go from shop to shop or stall to stall, as a lot of them sell the same kinds of goods, making it easy to bargain. Aside from the shopping, travelers said the most enjoyable aspect of a visit here was watching locals participate in Kora, or the pilgrimage.
Barkhor Street is open 24/7 and is free to visit, though individual businesses have their own hours. You should not stick around at night. The windy streets that jut out of Barkhor make it easy to get lost.
More Best Things To Do in Tibet
#1 Jokhang Temple
Alongside Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple is one of the most important sites in Tibet. The Jokhang Temple was built in the seventh century to promote Buddhism in Tibet, and as such earned the distinction of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Jokhang translates to "house of Buddha," or more specifically "chapel of the Jowo." And it lives up to its name. The temple houses more than 3,000 images of Buddha, deities and other historical figures in the religion, including the Jowo Shakyamuni.
Jowo Shakyamuni, or also referred to as the Jowo Rinpoche, is considered to be the most sacred image of Buddha in Tibet. It is said that the statue was sculpted by Vishwakarma – the Indian god of architecture – between the fifth and sixth century B.C., when Buddha was still believed to be alive. This has led to the belief that the Jowo Sakyamuni, as one of the earliest accounts of Buddha, is the most accurate visual representation of Buddha. Research has shown that this story is factually inaccurate, but that hasn't stopped crowds of Tibetans from coming to the temple to pray. The statue depicts Buddha the moment he reached enlightenment – legs in lotus position, one hand gesturing meditation with the other gesturing the "earth to witness."