Chauntra is a small town of Himachal Pradesh and if you pass through this town, you wouldn’t even notice it. However, things have changed drastically in the last decade. The 14th Dalai Lama has visited this town on multiple occasions to inaugurate monasteries and attend Tibetan cultural events. Recently, the 14th Dalai Lama visited Chauntra on 28 April to inaugurate another Tibetan monastery, the Zabsang Choekhorling Monastery. One can volunteer here at these monasteries, especially for English classes and that attracted a lot many travelers and scholars from across the globe to this small town.
1. Dzongsar Khyentse Institute, Chauntra 2. Menri Monastery, Solan 3. Norbulingka Institute, Sidhbari 4. Dorzong Monastic Institute, Gopalpur 5. Tashi Jong Monastery, Palampur 6. Chokling Monastery, Bir-Billing 7. Monasteries of Himachal Pradesh
These Tibetan Monasteries have mushroomed in Chauntra and there are monasteries belonging to every Tibetan School of Learning in and around Chauntra. It is fast emerging as a global center of Tibetan Arts and Sciences. Today we talk about the Bhumang Jampaling Monastery of the Kagyu Lineage that got us interested in the remarkable world of Tibetan sculptures and scripts.
The main temple complex, the prayer wheels, the entrance gates of almost every Tibetan monastery have inscriptions written on them in a language which the monks call the Tibetan Sanskrit. However, the script is Ranjana Script which originated in Nepal. The prayers and mantras are mostly written in Ranjana and not many monks in India can read or write Ranjana. Experts are called from Nepal to engrave these mantras and shlokas at the monasteries.
While inquiring about the Tibetan Sanskrit, I got in touch with Caroline, specialist of Indo-Himalayan writings and rituals. Here I am sharing an excerpt of my conservation with her, which will give us an idea about the complexities involved in putting up a Tibetan prayer wheel.
The famous prayer wheels almost always utilize the Ranjana script – and everyone (even many Tibetans) thinks it’s a kind of Tibetan. As a matter of fact, 90% of prayer wheels are made in Nepal by Newar and Tamang ethnic group – and the ones made here in India are also made by those Nepalis who’ve migrated here. Tibetans don’t do that metallurgical work. They almost never did; many temples even in Ladakh brought Newar craftsmen from Nepal to do the woodcarving, metalwork, statue casting etc.
Tibetan artwork in these monasteries involves working with a script that not many people know of. We will talk about the mysterious world of Tibetan Sanskrit in another post.
The Bhumang Jampaling monastery represents the Drikung Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery and similar institutions of Buddhism are found in Taiwan and Tibet representing the same lineage, though they do not exhibit the same organizational styles and structures. The complexes at India and Tibet are yet to be fully constructed. The Bhumang Monastery at Chauntra was inaugurated in the year 2010.
The third Bhumang Rinpoche – Luo Jipei Rinpoche’s reincarnation merely lived for four years. Nangqen (Nangchen in English) Tibetans lost their spiritual master and did not want to endure the actions of Chinese army after they entered Tibet. As a result, nearly 500 Nangqen disciples collectively migrated to India. It took them more than three years to walk through India and find a temporary home.
Nangqen Tibetans proposed to buy together a piece of land to support Rinpoche and spread his teachings locally. The villagers raised the money together and in 1999 purchased an aggregate of 1.2 hectares of open space.
Today the monastery complex houses a gompa, mess, guest house, monk accommodations etc..
Bhumang Jampaling Gopma
The corners of the golden pagoda style-roof are adorned with the heads of makaras. The flat roof of the gompa features the traditional wheel and deer emblem and victory banners in gold color. A row of traditional Tibetan windows with blue frames is carved from the gompa’s grey exterior walls. A number of Buddhist symbols, including moon, sun, and kalachakra (the wheel of time) are incorporated in the design of the front of the gompa built on a high platform. The theme of paintings adorning the porch consists of the Buddhist deities, kalachakra, Mount Meru, and mystic animals. A metal gong hangs in a wooden frame in the porch that is accessible via a flight of steps.
The sanctuary houses three golden color statues: Blue haired Buddha on lotus, Gyalwang Kunga Rinchen wearing red hat, and Drikung Kagyu deity with a trident and vajra. Tormas, bowls, and other offerings are displayed in front of the Buddha statue. For daily prayers, a blue gong, desks, cushions, and embellished seats for priests are arranged in the center of the sanctuary.
The interior walls are not veiled with the paintings. However, the ceiling paintings and friezes exhibit a snow lion on elephant, peacocks, snow lions, tigers, and dragons. A few framed paintings of the deities break the monotony of the white walls. A dazzling victory banner and triple banderole hang from the painted ceiling.
Volunteering at Chauntra Monasteries
The best way to get an insight into the world of Tibetan learning is to stay at the monastery. You can pay a nominal fee and stay at the monastery, participate in the prayer congregations, and also you can volunteer here as a language teacher, particularly English.
Contact: Lobzang – 9857526667