Ever heard of the Mini Tibet of India? No. I am not talking about Dharamshala, the head quarters of His Highness, the Hon’ble Dalai Lama, the political and spiritual leader of the Tibetans. I am talking about Mundgod! The Mundgod Tibetan Colony is spread over 4000 acres, has 11 villages, each headed by an elected head, has 7 monasteries and houses about 18000 Tibetans making it the largest Tibetan settlement in India.
This Tibetan Colony in Mundgod is known as the Doeguling Tibetan Settlement. The villages of Drepung and Ganden in this settlement are reserved exclusively for monasteries. The seven monasteries are Ganden Jangtse, Ganden Shartse, Nyingma, Drepung Loseling, Drepung Gomang, Ratoe and the Kargue Monastry. The Doeguling Monastic University is a replica of Tibet’s 500-year-old Doeguling Monastic University (destroyed by the Chinese in 1959) and trains monks in Mahayana-Buddhist education. The settlement also has schools, colleges, hospitals, homes, co-operative societies and is self sufficient. Most of their ancient cultural traditions seem to be alive in these settlements.
Mundgod is about 320 km drive from Mangalore, a picturesque drive through some of the quaintest villages that seem to have been frozen in time. As we reached the entry to the Tibetan settlement I found a change in atmosphere, in the setting. Tibetan monks in their maroon outfits walk along, little huts with Tibetan snacks and tea sprouted about, and acres and acres of rolling fields. From the slight disorder that we pass by in the Indian villages, we see a sense of order and discipline, nothing much, but ever so slightly you sense the peace, the order in this land. Even in the fields, the neat houses, the intricate monasteries, you sense that order and peace.
We drove past a few villages and visited the monasteries. They are huge ornate, highly impressive structures set amidst rolling fields all around. The place teems with young monks, all in the age group of 20s and 30s and their lifestyle and commitment to their education impresses you. It makes you wonder and makes you want to learn so much about the Tibetan way of life. Their monasteries, their monks, their teaching, their learning, their lifestyles, their hopes and aspirations.
What happens in these settlements? The Tibetans have been careful not to let their learning, culture and tradition go waste. Their monasteries serve as universities and several subjects like Buddhism, Tibetan medicine, English, Mathematics and Science are taught. Students go through sessions of debates, discourses and recitation and have an elaborate amount of Tibetan knowledge to imbibe. Even reading about it on the website is mind boggling. Apart from the education of the monks and preservation of their culture, it is obvious that the community thrives on agriculture as is witnessed by the green fields all around. Why do these fields seem greener than the fields outside the settlement?
How to get there?Hubli is the nearest city to Mundgod, 45km away. Hubli is well connected to other parts of the country: it has a domestic airport, a major railway junction, and deluxe bus services to many major cities of South India. The 45km drive from Hubli to Mundgod takes approximately one hour. Private taxis and/or shared jeeps are available from Hubli city, airport, railway station and bus station.
There are a number of stalls selling local and Tibetan snacks and tea. Do not miss the momos!
What to eat?
Shopping:You find a variety of handicrafts, clothes, shoes, Tibetan accessories, statues and other items for sale inside the Tibetan Colony.
Things to doWalk through the lanes and streets. Stroll through the beautiful monasteries. You will see beautiful statues of the Buddha and Tibetan deities. You will see incense sticks and the huge colourful chanting drums. You will see Tibetans dressed in their traditional attire waiting for a taxi or engaged in their daily chores. Talk to the Tibetans. Watch the children study and play. Observe the monks engaged in worship and study. One thing will not fail to impress you. The Tibetans are hard working, happy and ever cheerful. Visit Mundgod. You will feel as if you are visiting Tibet
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