Dorzong Monastic Institute, Gopalpur | Monasteries of Himachal – III

As you gain height on the Himani Chamunda Trek, two three buildings catch your attention: a) a luxury resort with its roof designed like ‘Captain’ Jack Sparrow’s hat, b) a blue colored power house on the Talang Pass trail (4660 meters), and c) a yellow-red building in the middle of a thick forest, which happens to be the Dorzong Monastery.

A first look at this monastery from the highlands of the Himani Chamunda will have you believe that this structure was not actually built but neatly placed in the jungle. The yellow roof of the monastery shines bright in the fading light of the sun. And when you see something as spectacular as Dorzong Monastery from a distance, it’s obvious that you make a little effort and dig inside that jungle to get a closer look.

Dorzong Monastery As Seen from Himani Chamunda Trail
Dorzong Monastery as Seen from Himani Chamunda Trail

Dzongsar Khyentse Institute, Chauntra 2. Menri Monastery of the Bonpas in Solan 3. The Norbulingka Institute, Sidhbari 4.Monasteries of Himachal Pradesh 

The monastery is located on the Chamunda – Palampur road near Gopalpur Zoo (15 km from Kangra). A road branches off into the woods and after a bumpy ride for four kilometers, you reach at the monastery premises. There is no gate, no welcome sign, no nothing; just that the road disappears and that’s how you get to see the monastery.

The complex currently operates under the tutelage of the Eighth Kyabje Dorzong Rinpoche. And when I say complex, it means just not the monastery but that includes the students hostel, the seminar halls, teacher’s residence, and of course the gigantic stupas.  The monastery functions under the name of ‘Dorzong Monastery Institute’, frequently abbreviated as DMI. The institute provides for Buddhist teachings and literature of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.

Other than the Kagyu School, there are Sakya, Nyingma, Gelug, and Bon schools of learning in the Tibetan Buddhism. In Chauntra and Bir Billing, we have mostly the Kagyu and Nyingma monasteries; whereas the Dzongsar Khyentse School is from the Sakya lineage. Interestingly, a student from any school can join the Dzongsar Institute and learn the Buddhist teachings. (Read more about Buddhist Monasticism here)

There is a massive Buddha statue at the Dorzong Monastery and against the backdrop of the Dhauladhars’, this monastery gives a look and feel of being in Tibet. The prayer temple opens twice in a day, so you have to be in time in order to get inside the temple. One can even take part in the prayer ceremony. However, the little monks are always happy to show you around and if you request them, they even open the gates of the temple to gratify their visitors.

gurdwara is also being constructed near the monastery but it is still in its nascent stage.

Dorzong Monastery Gopalpur Kangra
Dorzong Monastery, Gopalpur Kangra

Stupa of the Immaculated Dharanis

stupa or a chöten means a heap, which is a mound-like or semi-hemispherical structure containing Buddhist relics, typically the ashes of Buddhist monks, used by Buddhists as a place of meditation. The stupa of the Immaculated Dharanis at Dorzong Institute is a creation of its kind. Standing tall against the might of the white Dhauladhars, this stupa welcomes you at the entrance of the monastery temple complex. It is constructed in three layers and every layer is filled with different materials. Every layer has Tibetan mantras inscribed or painted on them.

Dorzong Immaculated Light Dharani Stupa
The Stupa of Immaculated Light Dharanis

Historical Background

The Dorzong monastery , as nearly all other Buddhist monasteries was established in the Rongmi district of the Kham region at Dorje Dzong (our monastery derives its current name from this place) in Tibet, under the eminent masters of Drukpa Kagyu lineage. The Kham province is still a remote region in Tibet, and then under the direction of the First Kyabje Dorzong Rinpoche flourished to a vibrant community delivering Buddhist teachings to the locals and nearby people.

The Chinese communists destroyed every relic of the Tibetan culture. However, Dorzong Monastery survived the communist onslaught for a considerable period of time because of its remote location. Unlike, other monasteries in Tibet which are now under restoration and reconstruction , the Dorje Dzong site still lacks restorative efforts primarily due to neglect of local people and remoteness of the region.

The present monastery of Gopalpur was inaugurated by H.H. the Dalai Lama in 2010. Students from Tibet, Zanskar, Lahaul & Spiti, Kinnaur and various other parts of India study here.

Dorzong Monastery Kangra Gopalpur Front View
Dorzong Monastery, Guarded by the Dhauladhars
Buddha Statue Dorzong Monastery Gopalpur
Buddha Statue, Dorzong Monastery

Of all the monasteries I have visited so far, one problem that I have faced is communicating with the monks. Young students do not have much knowledge because they are rookies and also they find it hard to communicate with an outsider.

Nevertheless, even the old fellows cannot express themselves properly. Even the basic questions like when was the monastery constructed or what is that mantra written on the gate or where was this monastery located in Tibet go unanswered. At times, it becomes a funny situation when they start saying yes to all your questions.

The problem of language hurts real bad. They cannot speak English and they do not want to speak Hindi. Lastly, I cannot read or write the Tibetan language and they are not supposed to read Hindi or English in a Tibetan school.

Probably, time to learn a new language!

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