Posts Tagged ‘Golden Temple’

I walk slowly while moving the prayer wheels, large metal-plated cylinders containing sacred mantras,  clockwise. Behind me, shuffling feet. An old Tibetan man barefoot, muttering prayers, a rosary running through his fingers. Soon he is past me. With every turn of the prayer wheel, karma is meant to be burned and good karma created, someone had said. I don’t know if that is true but why miss the chance?

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© Anuradha Prasad 2019

My friend, the Buddhist, has brought me here, what is my second visit. Her happiness to be in a place she considers home is contagious. The first time that I was here, I was battling choices made, good and bad, and what in retrospect I see as a spiritual wake-me-up which was none too pretty, no halos, no hallelujahs. The second time, I am wary of what losses the visit will bring, forgetting the gains that are on the other side of every loss.

I stop to take in the open fields with occasional trees held together by strings of colorful prayer flags. It is a different world. Just four hours out of Bangalore. It is a world of the displaced. I am here in Bylakuppe, en route to Mysore and Coorg, the largest Tibetan settlement in India after Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama has found a home after the Chinese occupation of Tibet. A country uprooted that has laid roots here, made a home. Only the old perhaps still remember a home of another name, of mountains, of leopards, of snow, of earth where they may have scraped a knee.

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© Anuradha Prasad 2019

At another turn, there is the window of a monk’s room. On the sill, a pot of money plant with lush heart-shaped leaves creeping up the grills. One more turn, monks are playing football. There is a smattering of tourists. Seekers of sights or spirituality, who knows. The path has taken me around the Namdroling Monastery. It ends and we enter a surreal silence. Unlike the main areas of the monastery, here it is quiet. A row of white stupas and one that stands apart.

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© Anuradha Prasad 2019

My friend, the Buddhist, tells me that the stupa possesses healing energy. Dainty tea cups are placed around it and bottles of pills. I rest at the gazebo. Large black bowls that are placed in the hand of the Buddha are drying in the sun. An old Tibetan woman gives me a toothless smile. Some monks are teasing a kitten, purring and rubbing itself against ankles beneath maroon robes. Their laughter is easy.

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© Anuradha Prasad 2019

I walk past the Tara temple, the replica of the Palyul Monastery in Tibet, the turkey strutting on the lawns, monks debating, and the Dharma Wheel and the portrait of His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche. I walk past the highlight of the monastery, the Golden Temple. Where three Buddha avatars – Buddha Amitayus, Sakyamuni Buddha, and Guru Padmasambhava – rise up to sixty feet. Where they stand resplendent in copper with gold plating, from within them emanating, the energy of relics and scriptures. Where snow lions stand guard. Where deities of peace and wrath war. Where dragons twine around pillars. I walk past the temple that rung with the vibrations of gongs and chants, now in silence in the late afternoon of a high sun and a wheeling hawk.

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© Anuradha Prasad 2019

There is a strange kind of feeling in my heart. The past and future are hushed. The heart is still, still but aware, still but alive. I realize it could be peace. On the other side lies wrath.

As we drive away, past a nunnery, past slender trees arranged uniformly and cutting space into narrow bars of sky, I turn back. Up in the green canopy, I see a white crane, hunched, in contemplation.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

Yep, travel companions can make or break a trip. As a child, all I remember is being bundled into a matador or something by family and heading off to places with no names. Not having been kept in the loop about these travel plans, they always seemed so spontaneous. Of these trips, I can recollect fragments like mango orchards at some relative’s place,  a visit to a cousin’s village where they bred silkworms – a sluggish lot and its village pond by the jungle where we splashed around.

Otherwise most trips were to temples and more temples. And we didn’t go there to admire the aesthetics, culture or history…needless to say they were excruciatingly boring. Jostling crowds, craning our necks for a quick glance at an idol that was submerged in jewellery, silks and garlands and a snappy priest urging us to keep moving…

Nisargadhama – the origin of River Cauvery

Then there were the school trips which were far and in between. Nisargadhama en route to Coorg – big rabbits, monks running on the swinging bamboo bridge, bamboos, tree houses and the rock strewn water ringed with low hanging tree branches – River Cauvery’s quiet origin.

The samadhi at the Aurobindo Ashram is adorned with flowers and incense sticks offered by Aurobindo and Mother’s disciples

The other was the Chennai-Mahabs-Pondi route in the middle of a cyclone. Water clogged Chennai streets, the rough sea fed by torrential downpour. We tried to make the most of the beach before taking shelter in a gazebo where we could feed coins into a machine which gave us astrological predictions.

Mahabs with its lovely ruins and a clean stretch of beach was finished within the blink of an eye. Pondi was lovely – the simple yet tasty fare of dal and rice at the Aurobindo Ashram, placing my forehead on the cool marble of the samadhi of Mother and Aurobindo, the promenade at midnight, the sea crashing against the boulders and the spray of water from the inky blackness…

It was back to trips with the family that finally turned me off travel. There was the time in Karwar when a bunch of drunk men chased us and all of us women ended up in a room fearing the worst. The time our guide to Goa insisted that we eat only in Kamat restaurant and not try out the shacks because people who went to such places were not the right kind. The visit to Gokarana where we had to go only to the temple because Om Beach was a nudist beach (years later we found that it was not!!). Needless to say it killed the spirit of travel.

Golden Temple, Bylaguppe – the largest Tibetan settlement in India

Something has to be said about sterile trips with NRIs in air-conditioned cars to resorts – it was a grave injustice to Coorg. But stepping into the Tibetan Monastery in Byleguppe and there in the presence of the giant golden Buddha,  all complaints and fears were silenced.

Surprisingly one of the best trips was the spontaneous one to Gokarna with a brat who despite her admirable determination could not score any chillums in the three days that we were there and who tried to distract me in sneaky ways to make us miss the bus back home. I will save Gokarna for another day but it was that much more memorable owing to a certain Ms S and her pursuit for hippie-ness.