India has welcomed people from all castes, countries, and communities. They come to find a safe haven and home in different corners of the country. One such group is the Tashi Jong community who came and built the Tashi Jong Monastery in Palampur.
Palampur is a small, scenic hill station in Kangra in Himachal Pradesh. Renowned globally for its tea and tea estates, Palampur is also the tea capital of northwest India. During the colonial period, the British citizens and officials visited the hill station in summer and spring. The snow-capped Dhauladhar mountains surround Palampur and you can enjoy the view for most of the year. The tea capital receives heavy snowfall in winter months which makes it ideal for winter sports and activities. Tourists should visit this town between March and June or September and November. There are regular flights from Delhi to Kangra. Kangra is 40 kilometers by road from Palampur. Tourists can travel by bus, cab or private car from Kangra to Palampur. Shimla, Chandigarh, and Dharamshala also have good road connectivity to this hill station.
The town is popular among tourists and travelers for its treks, comfortable hotels and lodges, quality restaurants and markets. For the adventure seekers, difficult treks and hikes are planned and organized to keep them busy. Bir Billing, the adventure spot for activities such as paragliding is located merely 28 kilometers away. Nature lovers can just enjoy the lush streams, babbling brooks and green forests by taking walks or camping by the stars. Architecture fans and religious people can visit the Baijnath Temple situated close by. Palampur is close to several such places of worship and history. One of them is the Tashi Jong Monastery.
Locally known as Tashi Jong Monastery, the actual name of the place is Khampagar Monastery. Exiled from Tibet in 1958, the master or the leader of the Tibetans decided to create a community. He sought refuge in a town near Dharamshala and formed the community called Tashi Jong (Auspicious Valley). The leader known as Khamtrul Rinpoche Dongyu Nyima was 8th of his line and wanted to keep the Tibetan culture alive even in exile. The peaceful valley and town allowed this small community to flourish. Tashi Jong Monastery is a school which keeps Buddhist culture alive and teaches the same to students, leaders, monks, and tokdens (yogis). Tibetan culture, history and beliefs are safeguarded and passed on to the monks at Tashi Jong Monastery. Tashi Jong community and the monastery have become an integral part of Kangra and Palampur. The Tibetans have wonderfully merged and melded by adding their own flavor to the fabric of Palampur.
After almost 60 years, the Tashi Jong community includes 300 people and 100 monks. There are modern conveniences and some locals even move away to study but the monks remain committed to their faith. They study Buddhism and practice their faith religiously. Once a year, the Tashi Jong Monastery comes alive to celebrate the birth of their spiritual leader, Guru Padmasambhava. An exclusive dance ceremony named Lama Dance and ritual is performed which was known only to Tibetans but the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche brought it to India. He passed it on to his students before his demise. This 300-year-old dance and ritual are comprised of music, chanting and rhythmic movements. Elaborate dresses made of gorgeous silks and embellished brocade are worn by the dancers in honor of their leader. The Tashi Jong community believes in the positive power of gratitude and prayer which is harnessed after the Lama Dance. This merit or blessing is then dedicated to the well-being of all humans and creatures everywhere.
They may have lost their country and home but they recreated a little piece of it in India. The Tashi Jong Monastery is also a thing of beauty and tourists walk all the way to look at it in all its glory.
Featured Photo by ciamabue