When thinking of religion in India, Hinduism readily comes to mind. However, Tibetan Buddhism is also thriving, especially in the mountains of northern India close to the Tibetan border.
Many monasteries were established in remote Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, and Sikkim after the Indian government allowed Tibetan Buddhist exiles to settle in India in 1959. We gathered information on ten of the most important Buddhist monasteries in India.
Namdroling Monastery, situated at a distance of 34 km from the Coorg, is the largest teaching centre of the school of Tibetan Buddhism known as Nyingmapa. Popularly known as the ‘Golden Temple‘, the Namdroling Monastery holds some excellent examples of Tibetan architecture and artwork, as seen with the elaborately decorated temple tower and ornate outer walls, intricately adorned with beautiful murals. It is spread over an area of 80 square feet and was built from Bamboo which was donated by the Indian Government to the Tibetans in exile. Today, it houses many auxiliary structures like educational institutions and a hospital, in addition to being home to about 5,000 members of the Sangha community.Thegchog Namdrol Shedrub Daryeling is the full name of the Namdroling Monastery. The foundation for this majestic monastery was laid down in 1963 by His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche, the 11th throne-holder of the Palyul lineage of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, following his exit from Tibet. The initial structure was made of bamboo and covered an area of 80 sq feet. The current 80 sqm area that the temple holds is thanks to the generosity of the Indian government, who donated the land to the Tibetan refugees who settled in the area. Inside, one has the privilege of witnessing the enormous 40 feet high golden statues of Guru
Padmasambhava, Buddha Sakyamuni and Amityaus, surrounded by lovely paintings of various aspects of Tibetan Buddhist mythology. The prayer rituals conducted by the monks are a unique sight that must not be missed. The serene vibe of the place is amplified by the well-manicured gardens that surround the area.
Namgyal Monastery is also the home of the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and the largest Tibetan temple outside Tibet. This beautiful monastery was founded in the 16th century by the second Dalai Lama and it was established so that Namgyal monks could assist the Dalai Lama in public religious affairs. The monks living here perform rituals for the welfare of Tibet and work as a center of learning and meditation on the profound Buddhist treatises. In 1959, the Red Chinese invaded Tibet, after which, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama along with thousands of Tibetans, including hundreds of Namgyal monks, fled into the neighboring countries of Nepal, Bhutan, and India and re-established the Namgyal monastery in India.
The Namgyal Monastery was first established by the 3rd Dalai Lama in 1575 in Tibet and was relocated to Dharamshala following the Tibetan uprising in 1959. The monastery currently houses around 200 Tibetan monks, who help preserve the monastery’s ancient rituals, artistic skills and traditions. The study of Buddhism includes modern studies of both Tibetan and English language, study of Sutra and Tantra texts, Buddhist Philosophy, making butter sculptures, torma offerings, sand mandalas, playing various ritual musical instruments, ritual chanting, and dances.
The beauty of this monastery is so evident that even those who are not particularly inclined towards this religion will be fascinated by the serene ambience all around and by the imposing figures of the Buddha.
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. There is another monastery called Samten Choling Monestery in Ghoom which is also sometimes referred as Ghoom Monastery by the local drivers. So if you are planning to visit the original Ghoom Monastery, be specific and mention old Ghoom Monastery. Ghoom is about 7km from Darjeeling town and located at an altitude of about 7,407ft. (or 2,226 meters).
Located below Ghoom railway station, the external structure of the Yiga Choeling Monastery or the Ghoom Monastery was built by the monk and a famous astrologer Lama Sherab Gyatso in 1850. He was the first head of the monastery and continued his tenure until 1905. He later went back to his birthplace Tibet. The Monastery belongs to the Yellow Hat sect also known as the Gelupka. One of the key attractions inside the monastery is the 15-foot model of the Lord Buddha which is known as The Maitreya Buddha or the Gyalwa Shampa which means the Buddha of the future or the Coming Buddha. This is one of the biggest and oldest statues of Buddha in Darjeeling area. This statue was created with clay that was all brought from Tibet.
Rato Dratsang is a Tibetan Government monastery, with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at its head. A small monastery comprising of a basic temple, kitchen and monks room was established in 1983 in Karnataka.
A larger plan to construct a bigger block for monks, a kitchen and dining block, administrative building and a temple was started in 2008. The design methodology has been planned around locally available materials with simple building techniques. Simple low cost sustainable technologies are being used. These technologies will reduce dependence on fossil fuels, improve the quality of life and enable use of natural resources such as rain water, wind and sun.
The Key Monastery is a famous Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the Lahaul and Spiti District of India. Located at an altitude of 4,166 metres above the sea level, the monastery is very close to the Spiti River in the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh in India. Also known as the Kye Monastery and Ki Monastery, it is believed to have been founded by Dromton, who was a student of the famous teacher Atisha in the 11th century.
The stunning Key Monastery is over a thousand years old and is also the largest monastery to be found in the entire Spiti Valley. The magnificent monastery doubles up as a religious training centre for the Lamas, and about 300 lamas receive their education from here. It has a long and quite fascinating history that is attached to it: a long history that involves numerous attacks that the place had to face. Nevertheless, Kye Monastery survived and celebrated the completion of its thousand years in the year 2000 in the presence of Dalai Lama. Today, the Key Monastery is visited not only by locals but also by tourists from all parts of the country who come looking for it in order to seek quietude, silence and inner tranquillity.