What can I say. This doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing, though in some cases that’s what we had to do to see our way around! Imagine Tibetan buddhas and demons in the blank areas (and you’ll just have to imagine what my unskilled drawings of those would look like). What I’ve drawn were the unusual parts, unusual because they are so different than designs traditionally found in Tibetan holy sites.
The wall decorations, including the parts I sketched, were well preserved, and easy to see – except that our battery-powered light sources got low and we had to rely on torch-light until we were ready for our ascent. The actual size of what you see in the drawing was maybe as high as a two-story building. Big. The lines of the center “starburst” were made up of mostly of red coral and turquoise. Our Tibetan guide Chonyi described it as the “jewel.” Because of the stone inlay design it did bear strong resemblance to the jewelry common to Tibet. The white “wave” segments away from the center were apparently made of carved bone, probably yak bone. And the gold dots you see were just that – dinner-plate-sized protrusions covered with precious metals.
The room where we found it was a sort of portrait hall with one prominent wall (featuring this design). The other walls tapered steeply in an efficient and cautious geometry. The ceiling, walls, and floor of the cave-like room were made of earth and covered with some kind of natural plaster. Stones were embedded in the floor but their formations seemed random. Hard to examine because cave debris had settled on it. Apparently the ancient Naljorpa, or wizard, who protects the site from an external cave nearby, is not also a housekeeper.
An inscription, credited to Dolpopa Sheyrab Gyalten and in Tibetan, of course, read
“The ground of emptiness is naturally noncomposite radiant light”
Another inscription, outside the entrance to the hall, was a dedication. It read
“Erected in 1633 by Taranatha’s volunteer army with the mission that the wisdom treasure [terma] inside be protected during hostile times ahead”
We were able to make rubbings of the inscriptions, but it will take some time to render them here. I only hope the interior hall, which has never to my knowledge been photographed or preserved in any way, was not destroyed in the earthquake.