India, a land where varied cultures, traditions and religions live in perfect harmony, has a long Buddhist line of history. From the birthplace of Lord Buddha to his Samadhi, India had been an epicentre of Buddhist tradition. While some of these historical places now fall in neighbouring countries like Nepal, what India does no lack is a bee line of Buddhist monasteries. The monasteries, located mostly in north and northeastern India are quiet, serene places, where the teachings of non-violence still echo. The traveller in you would find in these places of architectural splendour and religious dimension, the peace and tranquility of a placid lake, which is both refreshing and rejuvenating.
The place, whish has a simple feel to it in tune with the Buddhist teachings, has a single chambered temple with a few residential huts around it. One of the most enchanting features of the monastery is a Maitreya Buddha statue, rising 15 feet from the base structure of the temple. The statue, which shines in a golden hue, is indeed covered with pure Gold polish from top to bottom and is embedded with many precious stones. The place also has a good collection ancient Buddhist literature including the rare text Kangyur, the Tibetan Buddhist canon running into 108 volumes. Though located 6 km away from Darjeeing in the Indian state of West Bengal, the monastery has a rich Tibetan Buddhist look.
Ghum Monastery: Photo by Luna Park
Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery
The monastery also has distinctive murals and wall painting describing the life and works of Gautama Buddha. The statue of Buddha inside the temple, which is located in the middle of residential settlements of the monks, is known to attract pilgrims and travellers from across the world. Another special feature of the place is also the rigorous 30-day retreat for the monks, which the place offers making them dedicated to the religion and its cultures.
Namdroling Monastery: Photo by Aditi Patnaik
The temple of Enlightened Gods which houses the four fold figure of Vairocana, one of the spiritual sons of Adibuddha is a must see among the nine temples. The stature of Vairocana depicted in the temple is sure to catch the sight of the traveller as the Lord sits there spinning the `Wheel of Law’. The place is also known for the stucco images which are carved on the walls and ceiling. Colourful paintings depicting the life of Lord Buddha made by travellers from Kashmir adorn the walls of the temple. There is also a sanctum just behind the assembly hall that houses five Bodhisatvas of Good Age.
Another important temple, the Golden temple, was once covered with gold polish and now attracts the tourists for murals, which cover its walls and ceilings. The temple of Mystic Mandalas is where monkhood as a concept initiated. For the traveller the place would be interesting as it is adorned with the massive painting of Vairocana who is depicted as being surrounded by the eight Bodhisatvas. The Bodhisatva Maitreya temple is known for the six feet high image of Bodhisatva surrounded by murals and paintings of utmost artistic beauty.
Tabo Monastery: Photo by Ajay Jain
Enchey Monastery: Photo by ruchiro
The monastery which has well preserved Stupas or pillars made of gold and silver, copper gilt statue of Lord Buddha and many priceless old Thankas can provide a feast to the eye of the traveller. The tall statue of Guru Padmasambhava, which was installed recently should not be missed. The temple of the monastery is known as Tshogkhang and its verandah contains some of the beautiful wall paintings featuring Buddhist ‘wheel of life’ (kalchakra) and the lords of four quarters, besides the prayer wheel. Then there is a nunnery, which is not common in Indian Buddhist tradition situated just below the monastery known as Chomoling.
However, what attracts tourists the most to the monastery will be the Hemis Festival, celebrated in commemoration of the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava , the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. During the festival, which takes place from June 9 to 11 every year, has many lamas and local people participating in it. The Lamas wear colourful costumes and perform on the sacred plays called ‘Chhams’ around the center flagpole, accompanied by music from cymbals, drums and horns. The fair held in association with the festival should not be missed as it has artistic items on display.
Hemis Monastery: Photo by CortoMaltese_1999
The three-storied fortified monastery has a total base area of 135 sq with a compound wall, which is 610 m long. The monastery houses 65 residential buildings for the monks. The most attractive feature of the monastery will be its main shrine room, which is richly decorated with several statues including a beautiful thousand-armed Chenrezig or Avalokitesvara. There are various religious texts available at the place.
A festive celebration of the Tibetan New Year, Losar, is unique to the place. The spectacle of a thousand monks dressed in scarlet costumes celebrating the New Year is a sight not to be missed. The heavy tranquility if monastery lifts its shroud with the festive spirits seeping in. With the dance, music and merry making, the monastery blooms during this period.
Tawang Monastery: Photo by Jyotishko ray
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