June 29, 2014



Lord Padmasambava (left), Lord Buddha (centre) and Lord Amitayus (right) inside the Golden Buddha Temple
Nestled amidst the lush green hills of the Western Ghats in the Kodagu district of Karnataka, the petite town of Bylakuppe is the largest Tibetan settlement in the country after Dharmasala which is the capital of the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile. Established two years after the Chinese invasion of Tibet, the town is home to over 10000 Tibetans today, apart from hundreds of visitors who come here to witness the several beautiful Buddhist monasteries dotting this part of the country. I had the pleasure of visiting this spiritual town cum center of Buddhist learning last week while on an outing with my team - one of the many perks of working for a big multi-national firm, you see. In fact, this was my first visit to Coorg and at least in my opinion, we could not have chosen a better time to visit one of Karnataka's premiere tourist destinations. After a spell of heavy rains in the first two weeks of June, much of the western half of the peninsula turns green and Kodagu is certainly not an exception. While the water gods did play spoil sport, preventing us from doing several outdoor activities that our resort - Club Mahindra Kodagu Valley had to offer, it did not bother me much. I love the rains; that sweet aroma of the wet soil that fills the air as the rains pick up pace; the rhythm of the water hitting the ground hardened by a long dry season; the occasional rainbow that graces the skyline as the Sun makes his way through the dark clouds and so on.

The Main Entrance (left) and the Zangdogpalri Monastery (right)

Meanwhile, with our team building exercises getting over on the first day itself, we had the entire second day for sight seeing and the Namdroling Monastery was high on our agenda. As we approached Bylakuppe, covering a distance of about 30 km, we got acquainted with the Tibetan soul of the town via the hundreds of Tibetan flags hung across electric poles and Buddhist monks in their traditional maroon garbs going about their usual business. The last time I had been to a Buddhist place of worship was Bodh Gaya as a part of our Kashi trip, way back in 1997. We made our way from the parking lot to the temple complex, passing by many shops selling a host of memorabilia from Buddha statues to traditional chimes to miniature version of prayer rolls and so on, we reached the simple yet distinct main gate. Once inside the central part of the complex, we came across the pathway that leads straight to the Zangdogpalri Monastery built in true Tibetan style. The three storeyed roof has a huge portrait of Rinpoche Lama - the founder of the monastery besides several elegant images of mythological creatures from Buddhist texts that add to its beauty. Unfortunately for us, we could not have a look inside since the door was shut.

The Golden Statues

To the right of the Zangdogpalri Monastery lies the Golden Buddha Temple which is the biggest attraction here. As you climb the stairs and make your way through the chain of beads at the door, the sight before your eyes is one that you are surely going to remember for a long time in your life. The 18 meter long gold plated statues of Lord Buddha flanked by Lord Padmasambava and Lord Amitayus on either side is truly a sight to behold. The bliss on the face of the 'Enlightened One' is unmistakable and the depth in those half closed eyes speaks volumes about the people who made that statue. I will definitely not blame you if you tend to overlook everything else inside the building in the awe of those towering idols. However, it is worthwhile spending some time looking at the paintings on the walls recounting tales from the lives of the Buddha in his numerous births before attaining 'Nirvana'. The intricate paintings with attention to even minute details enhances the aura of the entire place. With so much peace and serenity, it is not uncommon to find a large number of people mediating here in the company of the man turned God who taught humankind the real reason for sorrow that exists in the world.

Paintings inside the Golden Buddha Temple

Paintings outside the Golden Buddha Temple

Young Turks