The datsan was opened in 1945 as the only Buddhist spiritual centre of USSR. In the course of time the little "Khambin's sume" changed into the Monastic centre with a residence of Pandido Khambo lama, the leader of all Russian Lamas.
It was there that the residence of the Central Spiritual Buddhist Board of the Soviet Union (Buddhist Traditional Sangha of Russia has been located since 1995, as well as that of Pandido Khambo lama, the head of the Russian Buddhists. Spiritual activity of the datsan is manifested in temple rites, medical practice, Buddhist education traditional system. Buddhist university «Dashi Choinkhorling» was opened in 1991 attached to the datsan.
Treasures of culture
Unique samples of old Buryat art, as thangkas, sculptures, ritual objects are gathered and preserved at the Ivolginsky datsan. Among the monastery's treasures there is a collection of old Buddhist manuscripts written in Tibetan language on natural silk, and a greenhouse with a sacred Bodhi tree.
Being a cultural and religion monument, the Datsan is protected by the State. The Datsan Centre consists of such temples as Sockshin-dugan, Maidrin-sume, Devazhin and Sakhiusan-sume. There are also a library, a hotel, the Choyra (Faculty of Philosophy), Dashi Choinhorlin (building of the Buddhist University), Museum of Buryat Art, suburgans (stupas), some infrastructure buildings and lamas' houses.
In 1927, the 12th Pandito Hambo Lama of the Ivolginsky Datsan, Dashi-Dorzho Itigelov, told his students and fellow monks to bury his body after his death and to check on it again in 30 years. According to the story, Itigelov then sat in the lotus position, began chanting the prayer of death, and died, mid-meditation. The monks followed Itigilov's directions, but when they exhumed his body 30 years later, they were amazed to find none of the usual signs of decay and decomposition. On the contrary, Itigilov looked as if he had been dead only a few hours, rather than three decades. Fearful of the Soviet response to their "miracle", the monks reburied Itigilov's body in an unmarked grave.
Itigelov's story was not forgotten over the years and on September 11, 2002 the body was finally exhumed and transferred to Ivolginsky Datsan where it was closely examined by monks and, which is now more important, by scientists and pathologists. The official statement was issued about the body – very well preserved, without any signs of decay, whole muscles and inner tissue, soft joints and skin. The interesting thing is that the body was never embalmed or mummified.
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