The 19th century was a low point for Mongolia; the once-proud empire reduced to a backward vassal state of the Manchus. Danzan Ravjaa was a progressive monk of the period. He founded monasteries, wrote poetry, and promoted education and social reform. But his unconventional life of women, theatre and alcohol was cut short by a cup of poisoned vodka.
In 1937, the treasures of Ravjaa — Buddhist art, statues and manuscripts among them — were buried in the desert by the caretaker of his legacy to protect it from destruction by the new communist authorities. The caretaker’s grandson Altangerel faithfully kept the secret of their location until this year, when he judged it finally safe to reveal their existence. Some of the relics were excavated by a group of Austrian Buddhist adventurers in August 2009 in a fundraising exercise for Altangerel’s Danzan Ravjaa Museum in the Gobi.
Michael Kohn’s new book Lama of the Gobi tells the story of this important historical figure who is still venerated by the people of Mongolia. It is now available from Amazon.
“A readable and intriguing introduction to the fascinating life and times of Danzan Ravjaa, Mongolia’s wildly unconventional poet-mystic, packed with legends and anecdotes… Should find a place on the bookshelf of world spirituality between Milarepa and Rumi.” – Christopher Atwood, Assistant Professor of Mongolian Studies, Indiana University