His Holiness the Third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso, founded Namgyal Monastery in 1574, at Drepung Gaden Palace. The monastery was founded in order to assist the Dalai Lama in his religious activities. Its original name was Phende Lekshey Ling.
However, four years later, in 1576, the Third Dalai Lama established a priest-patron relationship with the Mongol King, Altan khan, and His Holiness instructed the monastery to perform the Vijaya Long-Life ritual for Altan Khan, in order to prolong his life. Vijaya is known as Namgyal Ma the victorious goddess) in Tibetan, and consequently the monastery was re-named Namgyal (Victorious) Dratsang (Monastic College).
His Holiness the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso (1617-1682) extended and enhanced the religious activities of the monastery by introducing many new elements of tantric rites and rituals into its tradition. Later the monastery was also entrusted with the responsibility for performing various important prayers and rituals for the welfare and prosperity of the Tibetan Government.
The tradition of performing the four major tantric rites — Guhyasamaja, Chakrasamvara, Yamantaka, and the unique rite of the Kalachakra — was instituted during the time of His Holiness the Seventh Dalai Lama, Kalsang Gyatso (1708-1757). Since that time the monastery has also been known as the Kalachakra Monastery and the number of the monks were fixed to one hundred and seventy five. Then the monastery was moved into the Potala Palace, the winter residence of the Dalai Lama, where it was better able to serve the needs of both the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government by performing important ritual prayers and ceremonies.
In 1751, after the establishment of the Kashag (the equivalent of the Cabinet in the Tibetan Government), His Holiness also recognised the special responsibility of Namgyal monks by conferring various ranks of monk official (tse-kor) on them. Since that time, the monastery has had the honour and responsibility of serving the successive Dalai Lamas and the Tibetan Government.
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