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