The twin town duo of Bir Billing is famous as the Paragliding Capital of India and rightly so because nowhere else in India you get a chance to fly over the snow laden Himalayas. However, that is not all about Bir- Billing. It has deep connections with two of the remotest regions of our country, Chota and Bada Bhangal, and also Tibet.
As this article comes from the Monastery Tour of Himachal, we will simply talk about the Tibet connection of Bir and Billing. As far as the Bhangal connection is concerned, all I can tell you now is that during winters, the Bhangali’s come down from the highlands of the Himalayas to Bir and Billing. And some of them grow so restless that they go back in the same winters, across the mighty Thamsar Pass (4500 meters).
1. Dzongsar Khyentse Institute, Chauntra 2. Menri Monastery of the Bonpas in Solan 3. The Norbulingka Institute, Sidhbari 4. Dorzong Monastic Institute, Gopalpur 5. Tashi Jong Monastery, Palampur 6. Monasteries of Himachal Pradesh
In Bir alone, there are two monasteries but the Chokling Monastery is the one we are going to talk about in this post.
Chokling Monastery, known in full as Pema Ewan Chokgyur Gyurme Ling was established in the 1960’s following the exile of Tibetans because of Chinese invasion under the guidance of third Neten Chokling Rinpoche. Today this monastery stands as a fully established complex of stupas, temples and monks quarters along with a three-year retreat centre.
And among all the monasteries between Mandi and Kangra, I found this one most beautiful. The multi coloured flags flutter in the air producing psychedelic sounds in the air as if inviting you to shout together with the millions of voices fighting for the spirit of Tibet.
The monastery compound is primarily divided into three parts; a) the entrance b) temple complex, and c) meditation centre. While the entrance is decorated with sculptures, the monastery temple complex stands unaccompanied in solitude as the soulful prayers emanate from the temple. There is a lush green lawn in front of the meditation centre and the entire arrangement of the mountains and the monastery is too beautiful to be real.
The Tibet Connection
In the Riwoche Province of Tibet lies the Tibet connection of the Chokling Monastery. The ancient monastery of Tsokar was the original seat of the Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, the founder of the Bir Monastery. The monastery was razed to ground by the Chinese invaders. However the unconquerable spirit of the monks and Tibetans couldn’t be suppressed by the Chinese. The reconstruction work was started by a handful of monks and today this monastery stands tall as if mocking the Chinese plunderers.
Today, the Tsokar Monastery in Tibet has returned to its full functionality, with traditional periodical rituals and offerings well in place.
After being driven out from Tibet following the Chinese invasion, he (Chokling Rinpoche) started his search for a location and funding in India and go in touch with one retired army Captain Davidson. The main building was completed in the late 80’s along with the expanded monk quarters. After Chokling Rinpoche’s sudden death in a car accident made the Tibetans even more determined to complete the construction of the monastery. The monastery is now a vision of Chokling Rinpoche where the spiritual aspects of Tibetan life could continue in peace.
The monastery is currently headed by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche as the son of 3rd Neten Chokling Rinpoche.
Bir gives you ample opportunities to explore the unseen marvels of the Kangra Valley. Take a walk from Bir to Barot across the Chinna Jot or simply fly in the air above the mighty mountains. Close by, there is a meditation centre cum Institute for Traditional Indian Studies named Deer Park Institute. The Deer Park Institute is an affordable place for an overnight stay as well. But they are always occupied so you have to make your bookings well in advance.
And if you just want to keep exploring the Tibetan connection of the Kangra Valley, there are few more monasteries near Bir. One of them being the Sherabling Monastery of Bhattu near Baijnath. We will explore the remaining two monasteries of this series in our next posts.
P.S. Deer Park Bookings can be made by writing an email to them @ firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to fly, contact Arvind Paul. He is the best in the business. Champion, Paragliding Mini World Cup. 9418610219