Located around eight kilometers west of Lhasa, at the foot of Mount Gephel is Drepung Monastery. Drepung means ‘rice heap’ in Tibetan. The monastery was named ‘Drepung’ because its white buildings looked like ‘rice heaps’ on the brown hillside. One of the largest and an important Gelugpa monastery, Drepung Monastery was founded in 1416 by Jamyang Choge Tashi Palden. At the height of its popularity it was the largest Buddhist monastery in the world and housed more than 7,000 monks. Many learned monks residing at this monastery created important Buddhist literature. The Ganden Phodrang at the monastery used to be the official residence of the Dalai Lama before the building Potala Palace.
The large monastery occupies several acres of land. It is divided into a large assembly hall (Coqen), seven colleges or Zacangs (Loseling, Gomang, Deyang, Shagkor, Gyalpa, Dulwa and Ngagpa) and the living quarters or Kamcuns of the monks residing at the monastery. This historic monastery houses some of the most important Buddhist relics and statues, including a conch that once belonged to Sakyamuni Buddha. The best way to explore this monastery is to follow the pilgrim’s route. It takes around three to four hours to explore the whole complex.