Friday, December 11, 2009

Bylakuppe - A mini Tibet in South India!

A mini Tibet in South India, 2,000 kilometres from Tibet! To know the Tibetan way of life and to see the Golden Temple, the people in South India need not venture very far from their homes. A few kilometres from Madikeri in Karnataka is Bylakuppe where the Indian government had leased 3,000 acres of land to the fleeing Tibetans in 1961.

The’ Lugsum Samdupling’ settlement has grown to a veritable township with monasteries, nunneries and cafes and stalls that showcase the Tibetan way of life. Bylakuppe is the largest Tibetan community in exile with about 40,000 people in five settlements containing monasteries, kindergarten to higher level secondary schools, health care clinics, a hospital and a traditional Tibetan medical facility.

As you near the settlement you will find monks in robes zipping past on two wheelers. Makes one wonder – what’s the hurry for the monks?

Ah well, the monks here are well rooted in tradition and well connected with all modern technology too.

You will see monks chatting away on a mobile phone in one hand and rolling beads on his rosary in another!

All the monks exude a friendliness and warmth towards all visitors and are ready to answer any question that is put to them.

The most visited temple here is Namdroling (The Golden Temple) and the signage is loud and clear. And of course you can spot it from afar.

The monastery attached to this temple is considered to be one of the best places for higher learning. This monastery dedicated to the teachings of Palyul Lineage of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism was established by His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche shortly after he came to India from Tibet.

Three beautiful larger than life gold plated statues look down at visitors above the altar.

Buddha around 60 feet tall holds prominent place, flanked by

Guru Padmasambhava and

Amitayush (each around 58 feet tall).

The walls are adorned with colourful paintings depicting gods and demons from Tibetan Buddhist mythology.

The altar is decorated with flowers, candles and incense.

Dragons twirl up pillars on two sides of the platform.

The entrance has a curtain of beads which is the favourite of kids who love going in and out.

We stepped out and were generally looking around when we saw monks streaming into another temple nearby. We followed and were rewarded by a pleasing rendition of chants as they sat down,

opened the books on the bench in front of them and started praying.

Three of them sat at a bench where there were these long wind instruments which were blown at strategic intervals.

A senior (I think) monk played the cymbals while another

beat the drum rhythmically

After about five minutes of chanting, a couple of monks walked in with a kettle of water and offered it to a few of the monks who were chanting.

Outside on the lawns there was a group of monks relaxing from whatever they were doing and readily agreed to be photographed.

The exterior of the new Zangdokpalri temple looks majestic with a majestic rainbow arch.

We are so used to being told not to photograph the idols in temples, that the ready willingness of the monks to let the idols in their temples being photographed is such a pleasant and welcome surprise.

The nearest town for Bylakuppe is Kushal Nagar. Auto-rickshaw is the best mode for a trip to the Golden Temple from Kushalnagar town. There are frequent buses shuttling between Mysore and Madikeri. Get down at Kushalnagar.

If you are driving from Mysore towards Madikeri by SH 88, Bylakuppe appears a few kilometres ahead of Kushalnagar town. A sign board gives indication towards the left on the road to Madikeri. Kushalnagar is about 30 km (18 miles) from Madikeri town.

There's a large parking area near the Golden Temple. A shopping arcade next to it houses many curios shops and restaurants. There are not many hotels in Bylakuppe, though there is some guesthouse accommodation as part of the Monastery. Better options for stay are available at Kushalnagar and Madikeri, in that order.


  1. Magic eye...your photos and your prose have a way of making me feel of actually being in Bylakuppe and
    your depicted scenes continue to linger in my memory ... thanks for the pleasent outing...adi

  2. A superb blog. It was a surprise to read about this place so far from Tibet. Hey you are making my list of places to visit a very looonng one. Thank you...was a lovely read.

  3. I didn't know about this place. Recently have been to Malaysia and there they have many Tibetan temples. The aura you have created is very similar and I felt as if I was there myself.

    I must note it to visit.

  4. Beautifully written and wonderful photos..Brought back memories of my visit to Bylakuppe.

    Thanks :)

  5. I cannot even begin to tell you what joy this blog brought to my very cold San Francisco day. What beauty you shared with us here. The narrative and pictures are both outstanding. Thank you so much for this special trip today!

  6. Great Blog! The photos are superb!

  7. What a wonderful, beautiful place! And you do bring it to life with your magnificent photos and wonderful text. Thanks for sharing the beauty!

  8. My best friend has already been here and I got see some lovely pics of this lovely place already. Your post is adding onto my eagerness to go and visit this place..

    Mallikarjunar Koil at My Travelogue
    My LBD at Fashion Panache

  9. Had abosulte fun reading. Very informative. My list of places to visit is getting longer with your blogs.

  10. Great blog!! I don't know anthing about this place. Thank you very much!!!
    Ciao Marco

  11. This is a really beautiful blog post and touches on what is an important part of modern day India as well as taking a look at the fascinating culture of Tibet.

    It speaks volumes of India today that you will find more Tibetan culture and it being more authentic in this country than in their original homeland in China, which is a mere shadow of what you see in India.

    I also love the photos you have taken - they are simply fantastic!

  12. That is a beautiful write up on a place I too have visited!

  13. Thanks for this post that spreads
    knowledge of culture and spirit of Tibet...
    Tashi Delek!

  14. Beautiful photographs of Bylakuppe's monasteries. Best wishes for a Happy New Year 2010!

  15. I wish you dear friend by heart the best for the year 2010! Happy new year to All of you!

  16. Thanks for sharing this nice info. Its really a magnificent information.

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  17. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

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  18. My third visit to this post! Each time the interior photographs of the monastery/temples are more and more interesting. I plan to visit Rato Monastery in the future, also located in Bylakuppe. They have guest rooms I think you can stay in and leave a donation. Thank you for this interesting tour.

  19. wonderful blog you have the write up and the pics...where are you off to planning a blog too after my Kabini visit...this month...will link you up

  20. These have really remind me of my journey in Tibet. Wonderful post!

  21. Amazing and sooo beautiful! Thanks.

  22. Hi...nice article. I've been to the Golden Temple, its one of the best places I've ever seen! You write well!

  23. Hi Iam Prabhu from chennai,joined today in this forum... :)

  24. That was a very comprehensive and colourful coverage of the place. It made one feel as if one has gone there personally. But where is the door that you have featured in your photo blog?

  25. @zephyr that door is not featured in this post. had to select just a few pics for the post else all of you would have got bored :)