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Monasteries Around Darjeeling


A Buddhist Monastery at Bhutia Basti in Darjeeling, 1870s.

History of Buddhism is immensely rich in India. It is quite surprising that this religion is more popular in a  foreign land than in India itself. Buddhism originated in India, but seeing the situation now, it seems that India has long forgotten the glorious past and moved on. Gautama Buddha, the enlightened being who is known as the founder of Buddhism has been a guiding light for spiritual seekers for over 2500 years. He was born in a princely Kshatriya family of Kapilavastu and for the next thirteen years lived a luxurious life in his father’s palace. At last, the vision of old age, disease and death made him realise the hollowness of worldly pleasures and its attractions so intensely that he left his father’s comfortable home, his beloved wife and his newborn son and began the life of a wandering monk determined to find out a way to escape the sufferings of disease, old age and death to which all persons were prey. Monasteries form an integral part of Darjeeling Hills. They are almost always translated as Gompas which means “A place of solitude”, a religious escape where monks are trained in the finer aspect of Tibetan Buddhism. Most gompas in Darjeeling Hills are found in solitary places since isolation from the world has always been salient for Buddhist learning; not as an act of self-punishment, but as an escape from mundane temptations.

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Amidst all the hatred and war over material possessions, these monks show us how to let go.

The tour of monasteries in India is indeed a soul-searching experience. They depict the life and teachings of Buddha and the monks living in these monasteries follow the strict guidelines laid down by their predecessors.

Depending on their importance in the religious order and the patronisation received, not all monasteries are large. While some are architecturally grand, others may appear humble. But nearly all have beautiful frescoes on their walls, a collection of religious texts and votive objects. Each monastery has its calendar of festivals, some of which are extremely colourful.

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Tibetan prayer flags are bright and beautiful where each hue signifies an element.Blue represents the Sky White signifies Air Red symbolize Fire Green shows Water Yellow represent Earth
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Vibrant colours that showcase local traditions as wall art at monasteries

These monasteries are the epitome of peace and tranquillity and provide a great place for people looking forward to a meditative getaway, far from the monotony of materialism. They have the power to literally disconnect you from the world.

Karl Marx once very satirically said ‘Religion is the opium for masses.’ Here, on the contrary, all religion thinkers drunk deep are opiated with a purpose benefitting humanity unbounded by man-made boundaries of caste creed or their diverse faiths.

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There is always a debate within me about me being an Agnostic, surrounded by all those who Believe. I wonder if religion is a necessary ingredient of an identity or whether I can conjure my own without religion being one of its cornerstones.

I dwell, I ponder, I question and then I settle on the fact that religion can mean different things to different people. For someone it might be a heart full of respect for the Omnipresent One and for others it could just be a way of life. I believe that if Religion is a burden, then it cannot be a religion at all. It cannot be a yoke that wears us down but it has to be the soothing balm that comforts us in distress, and not the reason of discomfort. It cannot be compulsions or rhythmic chores. It cannot be a fallacy that sets a rigor mortis to logic.
I hope I can stick to this idea forever and still have respect for all who Believe, if that’s what they need to fall back upon. – @lakeerkafakeer, Instagram

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They would all come out to play in the evening. No count of what the score is. The bell would ring sharp at 6 pm and they would all run to the dining hall for their evening snack. I didn’t hear a single child asking for few more minutes of play time. He who would be serene and pure needs but one thing, detachment. The soul was healed by being amongst them.

These monasteries are worth visiting not only for the spirituality embodied in these structures built but also for their unique impressive architecture. An account of the famous monasteries of Darjeeling is given here:

Ghoom Monastery

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It’s one of the most dominating structures that stands right next to the city’s main road and towering over the beautiful valley below. – Mounika, Instagram

The Ghoom Monastery stands at an altitude of 7,470 ft and houses the 15 feet high statue of Lord Buddha made of gold and precious stones. The statue is known as Maitreya Buddha or the Gyalwa Shampa which means the Buddha of the future or the Coming Buddha. The statue was built in Tibet with clay. It is home to about 60 monks of the ‘Yellow hat’ sect of Buddhism and serves as an important centre of learning. It also houses a library of ancient Buddhist scriptures and books.

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Yiga Choeling Monastery of Ghoom is one of the oldest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Darjeeling area built in the year 1850. This is the original or the old Ghoom Monastery. It is a very beautiful location at a distance of around 8km from the main city. Looks very elegant and gives positive vibes. Photography inside is not allowed, but the outside can be captured and stored in the memories forever.

Bhutia Busty Monastery

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Bhutia Busty in Darjeeling, maintained by the red sect of Tibetan Buddhists in exile showcases the colourful, vibrant and intricate painted reliefs throughout. – Reed Burman, Instagram
Looking at the peaceful monastery one can scarcely imagine the troubled past that monastery has gone through. It has been plundered by invading armies, destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt in a changed location.The present structure of the monastery is a visual treat and is a blend of Tibetan and Sikkimese architecture. The monastery belongs to the ‘Red Sect’ of Buddhists and has links with the Kagyu and Nyingma orders of Tibetan Buddhism. The main prayer room inside the monastery has a model of Buddha in a glass case and photos of His Holiness Dalai Lama. 
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My imagination is a monastery and I am its monk – John Keats
Set against the mighty Kanchenjunga, Bhutia Busty Gompa is home to stunning murals that depict the life and journey of Buddha.
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Murals adorn the Bhutia Basty monastery

Druk Thupten Sangag Choling Monastery

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Many of the attendees are often moved to tears at the sight of sacred art, which is known to bless beings in its presence. – Gaylwang, Instagram

This monastery is situated in Dali, a place located 4 kms away from the Darjeeling town, thus also known as the Dali Monastery. It is the place where Drukchen Rimpoche lives.

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Splendid architecture dazzles the eye at this monastery
Out of these Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, Yiga Choeling or the Old Ghum Buddhist monastery was built in the year 1875 and is considered as the oldest one. As far as the architecture is concerned it is a masterpiece, designed with rich representation and remarkable symmetry. These Tibetan monasteries are just a few kilometres away from The Elgin, Darjeeling and are perfect to lose oneself in the silence and into a place of personal solitude.

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