What sort of an idiot plans a solo trip when all his batch mates are either going home for the term break or are compelled to spend the last term break with their close (really close) ones ? Me.
Where is the joy in that, you ask ? Well, you get to take a solo ride in a rickshaw at 0800 on a very chilly morning with a rickshaw driver named Munju, who, dressed in a jacket and monkey cap, takes one look at you because you are dressed just in a t-shirt and shorts and asks you very sincerely, “Sir, aren’t you feeling cold in that ?”, but proceeds to drive you to an elephant camp in the middle of the jungle while narrating stories about how he broke his back years ago, and about wild animals that stray into residences sometimes, about the monasteries in the area and about what will probably be the last visit of the Dalai Lama to Bylakuppe.
Wikipedia mentions Coorg (or Kodagu) as the Scotland of India, but my primary aim was to visit the largest Tibetan settlement in India, situated in Bylakuppe (nearest bus stand is Kushal Nagar) in Coorg district. The story goes that around 1959, when the Dalai Lama fled to India from Tibet because of the Chinese invasion, he asked then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru for assistance in the rehabilitation of thousands of Tibetan refugees. Nehru referred the Dalai Lama to S. Nijalingappa, then chief minister of Karnataka, who allotted around 5000 acres in Bylakuppe for the Tibetan refugees fleeing from the oppressive Chinese government. So although the official residence of the Dalai Lama is in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh, Bylakuppe while being the permanent residence for most of the Tibetan refugees in India , is also a center for advanced Buddhist studies.
The bus journey from Kozhikode to Coorg takes up an arduous 7 hours, arduous because the roads are really meant for driving tanks. There is a Karnataka state transport bus that starts from Kozhikode bus stand at 2330 every day except Sunday and reaches Kushal Nagar around 0600. From Kushal Nagar, autorickshaws will take you to Namdroling for around Rs. 50. Accommodation can be obtained in and around Kushal Nagar, but undoubtedly one of the best places to stay in, is the Paljor Dhargey Ling guesthouse located just opposite the Namdroling monastery. More information can be obtained here.
I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.
Lots of pilgrims from India and abroad visit the monasteries. It is however, a bit disrespectful on the part of the domestic tourists (the place is crowded on weekends) who generally make quite a racket in front of the monasteries, posing for photographs et al. Would they do the same in front of their religious places of worship, one wonders.
Tibetan prayer flags fluttering in the wind, are tied in a specific sequence. Wikipedia says that the horizontal prayer flags shown below are called ‘lung ta’ (meaning Wind Horse in Tibetan) and are arranged in a specific sequence of five flags (representing the five elements) from left to right: blue (sky/space), white (air/wind), red (fire), green (water) and yellow (earth).
Inside the monastery grounds, everything seems to be a riot of colours – the colourful paintings adorning the monastery walls, the monks and pilgrims in their bright robes and the green lawns.
I visited Sera Jey monastery in the afternoon and it was totally empty. Most visitors to Bylakuppe just choose to visit Namdroling and ignore the newer monasteries. Sera Jey was totally empty and the caretaker there was kind enough to open the monastery doors for a lone visitor. So it was that I sat totally alone inside the monastery while monks chanted their afternoon prayers in the chambers above in their typical booming, rumbling tone – an extremely surreal experience.
Do make it a point to sit inside the monastery during their prayer times (which begins at around 1400 hours). You are confined to a limited space within the hall to watch the prayers, which usually consist of chanting, cymbals, a huge drum and a long horned wind instrument – all of them coming together to form a prayer that is a very different experience in itself.
The view from outside the doors of Sera Jey is stunning, expect a moment of solitude and peace for yourself in this place as well. Just look at the panorama I shot there.
Some more photographs from inside the Namdroling monastery grounds.
To sum up, Namdroling is an experience that is not to be missed. It would however, be wise to remember that you are inside a place of worship and meditation. Take extra care to see that you are being respectful of your surroundings and everything would be great.
P. S. Munju, the auto rickshaw guy can be contacted at 9886175362. Bargain a bit and he’ll show you most of the attractions around Kushal Nagar.