The first place for Tibetan refugee camp in South India, Bylakuppe is a tiny little town, populated by Tibetans and full of temples and monks. In fact, you can find the temples that belong to four branches of Tibetan buddhism, so basically Tibetan buddhism all in one place for someone who wants to learn about it or worship.
We took a one day trip from Mysore and paid 2000 rupees for a return car (which the owner of the Chakra house helped us find).
There are four different branches of Tibetan buddhism and Bylakuppe, as it has accommodated refugees from all over Tibet, boasts the presence of all four branches (Nyingma, Kagyu, Sagya, and Gelug), all conveniently located just a couple of minutes car ride away from one another.
If you want to see all the temples, arrive early and do not waste your time, consider that they close around 4 pm, so you only have an hour or two per temple.
If you want to chill and observe as much as you can, go for taking your time in each temple, and see how far it will bring you. We ended up visiting only two, but had a blast and ended the trip with a momo lunch, yummy Tibetan dumplings).
We started at the biggest temple, Namdrolling Monastery, from Nyingmapa lineage of Tibetan buddhism which is considered to be the oldest school founded by buddha Padmashambava. Every year they have a big celebration of Tibetan new year here, which happens around February or March, dates change according to the lunar calendar.
The place is peaceful with many young monks walking around, and it seems they are almost playing. As a kid you need to play even if you are a monk =)
The statue of Lord Buddha (middle) is 60 feet tall, and Padmashambava and Amitayu are 58 ft. They are made of copper and plated with gold. “Inside the statues are scriptures, , relics of great beings, small clay mould stupas, and small statues, which symbolize the body, speech and mind of the buddhas.” The explanation says that seeing these Buddhas, and walking circles around them can help cleanse unwholesome thoughts and generate faith, compassion and peace in our minds. It indeed felt very peaceful just sitting inside the temple and watching.
The second temple we went to, was completely empty, with a lot of cushions on the floor, and the pictures of many lamas around the perimeter of the hall. This division of Tibetan buddhism was called Gelug or “Yellow hats” as all the lamas were wearing yellow hats. This school may be one most people are thinking of when they talk of Tibetan buddhism, as renown Dalai Lama is it’s head.
We meditated here for some time, and left the place, feeling peaceful and hungry.
The driver was quite excited to go back to Mysore, and we had to slow him down. Once we stopped at a restaurant by the road to have some potato momos, Tibetan dumplings, it turned out it was too late to go to the other two temples as they were about to be closed. And so we headed back to Mysore.