India’s little Tibet, Kushalnagar. A photo essay.

The meagre possessions of the novice monks

The meagre possessions of the novice monks, awaiting them for the chanting session.

It’s a strange feeling to find a slice of the roof of the world in the sultry climes of South India. Big, dark Kannadiga eyes are suddenly replaced by the sloping slits that the gentle Tibetans view the world through. Home to over 10,000 Tibetan refugees and roughly 4000 monks and nuns, Bylakuppe in Kushalnagar is the largest Tibetan settlement in India.

Our introduction to this fascinating world started with a beautiful sight. An incredibly old Tibetan lady, whose face was carefully contoured by hundreds of wrinkles; sat catching her breath under a tree inside the Namdroling Monastery compound. Also known as the Golden Temple – it is a huge tourist attraction and though it is inundated with curious outsiders, there is a sense of calm that resonates once you step inside its perimeters.

The grounds are dotted with red robed monks of all ages, going about their daily routine. The complex is well maintained and landscaped, and apart from the temple, houses a few other buildings including the living quarters of the monks.

The temple itself is an amazing sight. Three awe-inspiring golden statues of the Buddha look down from a high alter. The walls, both inside and out are covered with typical Tibetan art- bright, dramatic scenes in vivid colours. Every inch of the temple has all sorts of colours mingling and recreating scenes from Tibetan mythology. The alter looks down at a large hall where rows of neatly placed mugs, cymbals and prayer books wait patiently for the monks who own them to arrive, for the next chanting session.

If you arrive at mid-day- here’s a tip. Take a seat along the walls of the temple and wait for 1 o clock. You will soon be audience to a spectacle like no other. Over 2000 monks will shuffle in and take their seats. And at the stroke of 1, the chanting starts.

It is other-worldly, to say the least. The deep reverberations of the chants that have a mystical rhythm to them will transport you to a plane thousands of miles away from the humdrum of daily life. It is an experience that is not to be missed.

 

The Namdroling Monastery, the centre of TIbetan life in Kushalnagar

The Namdroling Monastery, the centre of TIbetan life in Kushalnagar

Vivid colours, adorn the walls and entrances of the sanctum

Vivid colours, adorn the walls and entrances of the sanctum

 

Depictions of the Buddha's life

Depictions of the Buddha’s life

Prayer flags line the sky in Kushalnagar

Prayer flags line the sky in Kushalnagar

Colourful doors mark the entrance to treasures inside

Colourful doors mark the entrance to treasures inside

 

 

Colourful paper flags decorate the hallways

Colourful cloth decorates the hallways of the monastery

Beautiful and ornate- the door handles of the monastery

Beautiful and ornate- the door handles of the monastery

The calming Buddha inside the sanctum

The calming Buddha inside the sanctum

Rows upon rows of prayer mats line the hallway to the alter

Rows upon rows of prayer mats line the hallway to the alter

Over 2000 monks will take their seats by 1 pm to chant in these halls

Over 2000 monks will take their seats by 1 pm to chant in these halls

Monks arriving for the chanting

Monks arriving for the chanting

 

Prayer books and other holy paraphenelia at a monk's station

Prayer books and other holy paraphenelia at a monk’s station

 

The prayers begin in the glow of The Buddha

The prayers begin in the glow of The Buddha

Giant gongs and prayer drums clang and clash in lieu of the chanting

Giant gongs and prayer drums clang and clash in lieu of the chanting

 

Prayers and rituals underway

Prayers and rituals underway

 

A sense of calm before the chanting begins

A slow start soon to be picked up with the reverberating sound of cymbals

Deep in prayer and reflection

The older monks are deep in prayer and reflection. While the younger students try to concentrate, without much success.

 

The monks rock back and forth to the beat of the gongs and the rhythm of the bowls

The monks rock back and forth to the beat of the gongs and the rhythm of the bowls

A sense of calm descends on the congregation

A sense of calm descends on the congregation

Deep in prayer, the novice monks diligently chant verses.

Deep in prayer, the novice monks diligently chant verses.

Advertisements