Dehradun is not just the getaway to the hills. It is also home to the Mindrolling Monastery with its magnificent World Peace Stupa
The sound of conch shells reverberated in the evening air. Monks in maroon robes came running from all directions, quickly washing their faces and hands before rushing into the temple. Even as the sound kept flowing with the breeze, like many others, I watched, fascinated and anchored to the oneness of the evening ritual.
After a few seconds, I edged closer to shoot some videos. The sound echoed in my ears long after the monks had sat down for their prayers. I peeked inside the temple but hastily retreated for fear of being scolded. But nobody frowned. In fact, a monk gave me permission to take pictures of the colourful roof outside the prayer hall. Symbols of Buddhism, the unspoken bond of masters with their students, mandalas, all made the temple a bright and happy place to find “a piece of peace.”
Dark clouds hovered. But they had brought some cool breeze with them and even though I didn’t feel like stepping out of this enclosure, I knew my presence was a disturbance at prayer time. This was also the residence of the 400 monks living in this monastery.
Replica of Tibet
Walking around, I learnt that they had come from the neighbouring countries of Nepal, Bhutan and parts of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Spiti and Ladakh. The Mindrolling Monastery in Clement Town, Dehradun, was established in 1965 by Khochhen Rinpoche and a small group of followers. Its lineage goes to the Nyingma School in Tibet, which was founded by Terdag Lingpa (1676).
In Tibetan, Mindrolling Monastery means the “place of perfect emancipation.” And mentor Lingpa lived this in spirit. Not just his two sons, he also taught his daughter Jetsun Mingyur Paldron. Since then, there have been female masters too in the lineage. In Tibet, the nunnery was in Samten Tse while here it in Mussoorie, established by Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche in 1993.
For almost 300 years, Nyingma scholars and yogis from all over Tibet studied at the monastic university there. And during the 300 years of its existence, it saw some big storms too and survived them all.
It was heavily damaged by the Dzungar Mongols from East Turkistan in 1718 but rebuilt during the reign of the seventh Dalai Lama (1708–1757). Among the most revered seats in Tibet with over a 100 satellites, it suffered damage again during the 1959 revolt against Chinese Communist rule in Central Tibet.
Khochhen Rinpoche or Khotrul Jurme Dogyud Gyatso Rinpoche came to India at the age of 22, exiled during the Communist regime in China. He was part of the entourage of Mindrolling Trichen Rinpoche. Born in Gonjo, Eastern Tibet, in 1937, he was declared as the reincarnation of Namdrol Sangpo Rinpoche of Khochhen Monastery by the 8th Mindrolling Khenchen.
The Nyingma lineage follows a bloodline hierarchy. For 10 years, he was tutored by the masters at Mindrolling in Tibet, even by the 8th Khenchen Rinpoche himself. Coming to India, the Rinpoche put all efforts to keep the tradition alive. Along with Kyabje Paltrul Jampel Lodoe Rinpoche (Dzonang Rimpoche), he found the site for the monastery in this serene town.
I was fascinated by this blissful replica in the education capital of Uttarakhand. So I walked towards the other side where there seemed to be no activity. A monk sat with his books and hesitant to disturb him, my steps slowed down. A board announced that this was Ngagyur Nyingma College. Later, my research showed that it is one of the largest Buddhist institutes in the country.
Traditionally, in the ancient university, the students were taught Buddhist scriptures, Tibetan lunar calendar, medicine, rhetoric, calligraphy, and astronomy. Besides, 13 major sutra and tantra texts were a part of the curricula. Here too, the young monk told me that he was studying the scriptures and that he has been staying here since a young age. There was a primary and secondary school too in the premises.
The Tibetan settlement in Clement Town surrounds the monastery and most tourists love the cafes as well as the hospitality of the people who stay in the area. The shopping area offers colourful ware and delectable momos. However, I wasn’t that lucky for it was a Sunday and everyone seemed to be enjoying the holiday at the monastery gardens.
I, too, could have slept off on the green carpet had it not been for the monkeys jumping around in search of food. The children were busy turning the huge and heavy prayer wheel and some of them played in the gardens.
The sprawling gardens housed a waterfall where Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge) was seated, a 185-feet World Peace Stupa depicting Shakyamuni Buddha’s descent from the godly realms to spread the message of love and peace, a Buddhist canteen and some shops selling Tibetan wares.
Families were busy celebrating their holiday under the amazingly blue sky that was spread out as far as the eye could see. Buddhist flags fluttered, little bells tinkled and birds flitted between trees.
World Peace Stupa
The tall figure of Guru Padmasambhava, near the stupa, seemed to be shooing away the obstacles that came in the way of peace. Barefoot, I walked into the majestic World Peace Stupa which was inaugurated in 2002 by the 14th Dalai Lama. Surrounded by the vibrant colours of Buddhism, a bas relief of Maitreya on the outer walls, I gazed at the shining face of the awakened one in awe. Can one really forget the ills of the world here? Can these colours and symbols really help in the flowering of love and compassion? Perhaps, we needed to stay longer in its shadow to find the answers.
With multiple storeys, the stupa has five shrine rooms where sacred ceremonies are held. The information stone in the garden clearly says that here one is absolved of all sins. I don’t know if I came out cleansed but was certainly awestruck at the Tibetan art and its power to still me.
The eight stupas in the garden depicted the life of Buddha. Pearls of wisdom were written on the many signboards in the garden, reminding me to make my earthly stay a joyful one. On a wall, a little away, I saw a representation of the Potala Palace in Lhasa. The painting was a glimpse of a time long gone.
I turned the prayer wheels. The setting sun put an end to my quest. Maybe I needed more time, another visit to bring my straying mind under control.
Attractions in Dehradun
1. Go for a picnic at Robber’s Cave. Better known as Guchhupani, it is a river cave formation, around 600 metres long. It is said that robbers escaped through this into the forest during the British Raj.
2. Enjoy a heritage or Ruskin Bond walk with the group ‘Been There, Doon That?’ which is part of INTACH’s Dehradun chapter. The walks give a good insight into the town’s history and culture
3. Take back some rusks from the famous Ellora’s and Sunrise Bakers.
4. Take a tour of the Forest Research Institute where you can learn everything about trees, insects, roots, seeds, species and how to save them.
5. Head to Malsi Deer Park.
6. Enjoy a dip in the therapeutic waters of Sahastradhara falls.
7. Visit the cave temple of Tapakeshwar, dedicated to Shiva.
How to reach Denradun
Around 248 km from Delhi, it is well-connected by rail, road and air. The most frequent trains are Dehradun Shatabdi, Mussoorie Express and Dehradun Express.