One of the last places that one would expect to see a large settlement of Tibetan monks and Buddhist monastery is Karnataka, a state that is far flung from the Himalayas. But this is exactly where one can find it.
The first time I had heard of Namdroling Monastery and the Tibetan settlement in Bylakuppe, a town in the Mysore District of Karnataka in India, I was totally astonished. I actually went “What!!”. It was even more astonishing to find out that it is the second largest Tibetan settlement in the world, outside of Tibet. It consists of two large settlements established in 1961 and 1969. It is also the home to the Namdroling Monastery, the largest teaching centre of Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism in the world. The monastery is home to close to 5000 monks and nuns. Reading thus of it, I immediately filed it as a place to visit as soon as the opportunity came, given that it was just a few hours drive my home in Bangalore.
Our first visit to Bylakuppe and Namdroling Monastery was in 2008. We had loved the place, especially the Namdroling Monastery. But memories of the visit, though there, the details of the place were fading away. So we decided to renew it during a recent family holiday trip.
We were on a family holiday to Kodagu (Coorg) in the month of May with our friends Raghu, Uma and their kids. It was on this trip that we chose to revisit the Namdroling Monastery. We anyway had to go via Kushalanagar and the monastery was just a few kilometers detour from it. As we went on the road inwards to reach monastery, we could see that quite a lot of “development” had happened; a number of buildings had come up when compared to our memories from the last visit. Once there, we parked our cars and walked towards the gate leading to the monastery.
From the gate, familiar sights rekindled our memories of the previous trip. We were glad that things had not changed visibly within the main area. Well, something had changed for us; last time, our kids were much younger and had to be “managed” throughout. Whereas this time, they were walking in on their own; one in his mid teens and the other entering adulthood 🙂 .
We of course had to take pictures of ourselves at the gate!
We had reached the place a bit around 12:30pm. There was a good amount of visitors even though it was a Friday. I could imagine what it would be like on a holiday. We made our way in through the gates and to the main temple area. The first building to greet us was the Zangdong Palri Temple.
Here is a side view of it.
Then came the temple which is the main draw for visitors; the Padmasambhava Buddhist Vihara.
The structure itself may not look very impressive. But as you start to see the various intricate paintings outside and inside, your impression will change. Here are a couple of paintings on the outside wall.
Here is one from the inside.
Even the pillars were colourfully decorated.
The handle on the heavy doors are the front are also a piece of art.
When we had reached the main temple, it was prayer time. So visitors were asked to wait at the steps till the monks were all seated inside the temple. Once we were allowed inside, we could see that there were several hundred monks seated in the hall. Visitors were only allowed upto an area within the hall owing to the ongoing prayers.
The main attraction for visitors are usually the three large statues of Buddha. The status in the centre is Buddha Shakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, who was born to King Shudodhana and Queen Mayadevi at Lumbini.
The statue to the left of Buddha Shakyamuni is Guru Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche. He was born twelve years after the passing of Lord Buddha. He is considered to be the heart emanation of Buddha Amitabha.
The statue to the right of Buddha Shakyamuni is Buddha Amitayus, the Buddha of Long Life. Though Buddha Amitayus achieved Buddhahood countless aeons ago, his activity still remains connected with extending the lifespan of beings.
We were there for well over an hour. All through this we saw and heard the monks continuously chanting from their scriptures. Though the language of chanting itself was unfamiliar, there was a sense of comfort just in hearing it. Thus so after the initially walking around admiring the beauty of the temple from inside, many of us settled down in one corner of the hall to just sit and meditate for a while.
We eventually had to head out as we had further to travel to get to our destination at Kodagu. But not before we took one more picture of the main temple 🙂 .
The monastery and especially the temples, are places of worship and not meant to be tourist attractions. Though most of us will be visiting them are tourists, it is important that we respect these places as such. Sadly, I saw most visitors forget this.
The main temple is a very calming place. If you have time, make some time to sit in silence for a while. If you intend to do so, think of getting a cushion, especially if you find sitting directly on the floor for a while difficult. The last thing you want on your mind when trying to meditate, is the pain in your legs or hips 🙂 .
There are a number of places to eat nearby. We chose to eat at a restaurant back at the main highway though as we anyway had to head that way.
It does get sunny on the pathway from the car park to the main temple. So carry a hat.