Crates of Buddhist relics have been dug up from the sands of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, near the Khamaryn monastery, about 500km (310 miles) south of the capital Ulan Bator. (Text and photos by Haroldo Castro)
The relics were buried by the monastery's caretaker, Lama Tuduv, before Mongolia's Communist rulers destroyed the site in 1938. Khamaryn monastery was rebuilt in 1991 and is visited by thousands of Mongolians, such as this man from Ulan Bator.
Originally, 64 boxes were hidden in 17 locations around Khamaryn. It took an hour to discover two crates, buried side-by-side, under a metre of sand. The boxes were within walking distance of the monastery.
The 64 crates are all that remain of about 1,500 that were stored at the monastery; the rest were destroyed. Forty crates have now been brought to light, and the other 24 remain buried.
Altangerel Zundui, grandson of Lama Tuduv, is the current caretaker of Khamaryn. He is the only person who knows the exact location of the remaining buried crates. Here he holds a carefully-wrapped sacred book.
The two crates uncovered recently contained sacred texts, statues and other items used in Buddhist rituals. This is a two-century-old statue wrapped in a silk scarf.
Many of the relics are considered sacred by Buddhists and were once owned by Khamaryn's founder, Danzan Rabjaa. He is known as the "saint and poet of the Gobi".
After being dug up, the relics were moved by camel back to the nearby monastery. Most of the relics will be displayed at the Danzan Rabjaa Museum in the town of Sainshand, in the eastern Gobi desert steppe. (Haroldo Castro's website: www.haroldocastro.com)
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