I don’t remember exactly when I first saw Ustuu-Huree. As far as I can remember , there was always a place for Ustu-Huree in my heart. For me, it is not just a place of personal pilgrimage or ancestral relic. When I accidentally hear or read the words “Ustu-Huree”, these majestic ruins immediately appear before my eyes. Prior to a trip to Ustu-Huree, I always get butterflies in my stomach as if I’m going out on a date with a loved one after a long separation. While praying, closing my eyes, I see the ruins of Ustu-Huree. I believe that the energy that it radiates, gives me strength and helps persevere through life’s challenges. It is enough to visit this place once and you will understand what I’m writing about. You will surely want to return, enthralled by the temple.
Thousands of people from all over the world come to see Ustu-Huree annually, to visit the festival of world music there. Every year since 1999, a festival was held there to raise funds to restore the temple. It was restored, but first, some history.
The majestic Buddhist monastery was founded in 1905 by the Noah Noyon of the Haidyp. The temple complex was built by Chinese architects which took them two years. The Tibetan Lama Kuntana Rimpoche was also invited to work on the project. During those days religion played much greater role in the lives of Tuvan people than it plays today. Residents of all villages of the Daa kozhuun (district) assembled to help construction efforts. To this day, for residents of Dzun-Khemchik, Sut-Kholsky, Ovursky, Bai-Taiginsky, Barun-Khemchik, Cha-Kholsky and Ulug-Khemsky districts, which were once part of the Da’a kozhuun, Ustu-Huree remains the greatest shrine.
After a serving the people for a quarter of a century the monastery was closed in 1930. In 1937 communists completely destroyed it, but the clay walls remained. Lamas who served in Ustu-Huree, were repressed and executed.
Despite the ban on religious practice, the ruins of the temple served as a reminder for the Tuvan people about the faith of their ancestors. 55 years after the destruction of the temple in 1992, His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV visited Tuva. The power which came from the ancient ruins impressed him, and he said that the lamp of the temple had not yet gone out.
Encouraged by this message religious Tuvans began to revive the temple. In 1999, Igor Dulush with a team of like-minded people first organised the Chadan Festival to increase public awareness of the need to restore the temple. The festival is held annually in the Chadane, helping local and other folk musicians showcase their art for a good cause.
A new temple was built according to the model of the destroyed Ustu-Huree temple near the ruins. The visit of the Dalai Lama and the festival gave new life to the temple. Today, prayers are held there, lamas receive believers and collectively revive the ancient monastery.
The territory of the temple Ustu-Huree is an amazing place. In my school years, my classmates and I fulfilled a pilgrimage there in temperatures far below zero. We were going to have fun, but with good in mind. We crossed a 6-kilometre path in one direction easily and cheerfully, and were praying on the way back home. We had nowhere to get warm, but none of us fell ill after this trip, despite the unfriendly weather. In fact, the trip gave us energy, as opposed to taking it away!
Ustu-Huree is a special place of power, where each of us, irrespective of religion and nationality acquires peace of mind and harmony with the world. It is surely worth coming to Tuva just to experience this ancient relic.