Ongi Monastery

This small mountainous area along the river, The Ongi River, in the western sum of Saikhan Ovoo, makes a good resting place to break a trip between the south Gobi and Arvaikheer. It is located in Saihan-Ovoo soum of Dundgovi province. Ongi was established in 1660 and composed of two temple complexes on the North and South banks of the Ongi river. At its peak, Ongi monastery grounds housed around 30 temples, 4 big Buddhism universities and over 1000 monks at a time. This monastery was one of the largest and most respected monasteries of Mongolia before its destruction by the communist authorities. During 1930s, communism spread out throughout Mongolia. As part of their ideological campaign and rise to power, Communists arrested most monks. In 1939, the monastery was destroyed completely, over 200 monks were killed, and many surviving monks were imprisoned or forced to join the Communist controlled army.

Other monks escaped and became ordinary people. In 1990, after the democratization in Mongolia, some monks returned to the monastery and began their Buddhist education as young children some 60 year prior. The water of the river was diverted to supply the local mines owned by the government. The river was dried up, which forced the local population to leave the place. The monastery then seemed to be about to sink into oblivion. Nevertheless, when the communist power fell in 1990, three monks who had begun their Buddhist education in Ongiin Khiid sixty years earlier, decided to go back there. Slowly and patiently, these monks built new foundations on the old ruins in order to restore Ongiin Khiid and to revive Buddhism in Mongolia. Today one temple has been completely rebuilt and two little museums have been set up inside some yurts. We can find a collection of objects, traditional religious items, and some architectural elements of the original monastery. Ongiin Khiid also houses a cold water source, Bar Khamba, reputed to be health-giving waters, notably for “intern” diseases, often bound to digestive apparatus. According to tradition, these waters are effective only if we drink them before the sun rises.