Mndrolling Monastery, Dehradun

A Sunday at Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun

Dehradun is not just the getaway to the hills. It is also home to the Mindrolling Monastery with its magnificent World Peace Stupa

Evening Prayers

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.

Monks going for evening prayer, Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
Monks going for evening prayer, Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India

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).

Shakyamuni Buddha, Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
Shakyamuni Buddha, Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India

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.

Temple door, World Peace Stupa, Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
Temple door, World Peace Stupa, Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India

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.

Guru Padmasmabhava, Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
Guru Padmasmabhava, Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India

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.

Other Mindrolling monasteries are located in Kalimpong, Delhi, Sikkim, Taipei, Changhua, Taichung City and Kaohsiung.

Tibetan Settlement

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.

Waterfall with Goddess Saraswati, Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
Waterfall with Goddess Saraswati, Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India

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.

Eating area outside Buddhist canteen inside Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
Eating area outside Buddhist canteen inside Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India

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

World Peace Stupa, Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
World Peace Stupa, Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India

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.

Garden View

Eight stupas,  Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
Eight stupas, Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India

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.

Tibetan shoes at shops insideMindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
Tibetan shoes at shops inside Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India

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.

Where to stay in Dehradun

Seyfert Sarovar Potico, Royal Orchid and Vishranti Resort & Spa

Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Exotica, September 2018
This story was first published in Exotica magazine, September 2018

18 thoughts on “A Sunday at Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun

  1. I enjoyed so much this post about Dehradun Monastery. All those small stupas and photos of monks remind me of my 10-day stay at Kopan Buddhist Monastery in Nepal. Living in Romania, I miss so much the vibe of the Buddhist monasteries – we don’t have such a thing here, so I really needed a reminder that such beautiful places exist!. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have such a respect and fascination for Buddhist monks. I’d love to go back to India and make a special trip to this monastery. Love your first-person narrative here too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You paint the perfect picture, I can imagine being there. I would have backed out of taking the photo of the prayer room too. Would love to explore Clement Town and see World Peace Stupa

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How interesting the name, Mindrolling Monastery! I was imagining something very different. Loved your narrative and the beautiful photos — they show how beautiful and peaceful this Monastery is. And you’ve included other things to do in Dehradun as well. Thanks for a well-written article!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds like watching the monks left whatever they did and ran back to the monastery for prayers was an interesting experience. Seems like the place is quiet and peaceful. Picnic at Robber’s Cave, tour the Forest Research Institute, and a dip at Sahastradhara will be wonderful to do while there.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow such a peace den. Missed it during my recent trip to Dehradun. Got too lost with school friends. But next time when I visit in April for a wedding would love to spend time here. Born in the land of Buddha Bodh Gaya, Buddhism way of life has always fascinated me since I was a child.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. How fun that you were able to see the ritual ceremony while you were there! Those always give such a good glimpse into the culture. It’s also interesting how many historic sites were damaged/destroyed and rebuilt. Oh, if we could only see it in its original state!

    Liked by 1 person

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