Nikhil Varma finds peace at the Nimdroling Monastery set against hills and gardens at Bylakuppe
Take a turn off the dusty highway that connects Mysore to the hills of Coorg and you will find yourself on a small pathway leading to the Tibetan settlement of Bylakuppe. The two km trek to the Nimdroling Monastery and the monastic college makes you feel like you are in Tibet. Buddhist monks clad in saffron robes and tourists zip past in autorickshaws and cars.
The massive monastery was established by Pema Norbu Rinpoche on land that was granted to Tibetan exiles by the Indian Government. Locals say it was consecrated and bequeathed the name by the Dalai Lama. Apart from the monastery, the settlement boasts of monastic colleges, a small recreational facility and a guesthouse.
The story of this settlement began in 1959, when the Dalai Lama fled to India seeking political asylum. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister agreed to provide assistance to the refugees. Lugsung Samdupling, one of the oldest Tibetan settlements was created in 1961 at Bylakuppe. The massive rainbow arch-like structure and the golden spires of the monastery are imposing and visible from a distance. The monastery houses nearly 5,000 monks and nuns and is renowned as an important centre for Buddhism. The path to the monastery leads one through a beautiful garden, surrounded by the living quarters of the monks. Inside the monastery, are beautiful statues of the Buddha Padmasambhava, Buddha Amitayus and Buddha Shakyamuni. The Padmasambhava is also known as the Second Buddha and is believed to have played a vital role in the spread of Buddhism to Tibet and Bhutan. The Amitayus are celestial buddhas known for longevity. Beautiful murals depicting the life of the Buddha are seen on the walls. Another standout feature of is the prayer wheels situated on one end of the monastery that borders paddy fields. It is believed that rotating the prayer wheels brings good luck and prosperity.
On the other side of the monastery, small stores sell Tibetan memorabilia. There are also stalls that sell piping hot momos, which taste delightful with a range of Tibetan homemade sauces. You could also sample some hot Tibetan breads called thupkas. Surrounded by the misty hills of Coorg, meditating in these monasteries could transports one to the land of snow-peaked mountains.
Bylakuppe is a five hour bus ride from Bangalore and is located near the town of Kushalnagar. Taking an auto rickshaw to the settlement from Kushalnagar is the easiest way to reach the settlements.
Where to stay
The settlement is fairly small and most tourists stay in Kushalnagar. You could stay in the monastery guesthouse for a small fee.