In its origin form, the Tibet Chorten was a monumental stone or mud brick structure.These hemispherical burial mounds entombed the remains of holy men and could also mark the sites of important events in the lives of these figures.
Tibet Chorten Form
The oldest of these structures are preserved in India, where they are called Stupas. This burial tradition was transmitted throughout Asia and was adapted in Tibet in the form of the Chorten, and in China, Korea, and Japan in the form of the pagoda.
Over times, these mounds evolved into stylized buildings with symbolic meaning, emerging as a means of incorporating the sacred structure into Buddhist altars. In Tibet, these hollow votive are generally made of metal, though wood and butter are are used by artists to construct many types of ritual objects. The perish ability of this sculpting material conveys a symbolism based on the illusory nature of all things, even those that are considered to be most sacred.
Chorten is considered holy on two levels. First, the object itself is intrinsically sacred because they are said to represent the Dharma, the body, speech, and mind of the Buddha. As a representation of the Dharma, the Chorten remind people who encounter it to focus on their path to enlightenment. Even the way in which the eye of the viewer or worshiper of the chorten tend to travel from its base to its dramatic crescent at its top show the transition to an enlightened state.
Because of the chorten’s original role as a massive grave marker for holy men who had established came enlightenment, the votive versions are closely associated with the concept of the attainment of Nirvana
In addition to their inherent value, chorten are holy because they house sacred artifacts, such as relics and remains of holy men, and “tsa”. Both monumental and votive Chorten is venerated by circumambulation, a form of worship in which Buddhists walk around the object being celebrated. the act of circumambulation is often accompanied by the chanting of mantras (prayers) and the burning of incense.
Structurally, chorten follows a set form; composed of five main: a base, a domed cylinder, thirteen round discs, a lotus umbrella and a crescent moon holding a sun. These sections represent the five elements: earth, water, fire, wind and space, respectively. The thirteen round discs are also said to symbolize the steps towards enlightenment, encompassing The Eight-fold Path, The Four Noble Truths, and enlightenment itself.