Exile means to be away from ones’ home (state, city or country) while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened by prison or death upon return. It can be a form of punishment – Wikipedia
Can you imagine a whole country having to flee their homeland forspeaking their mind and asking for their rights? That is what happened to the peace loving Tibetans in the late 1950’s and early 60’s. The People’s Liberation Army led by Chinese Communists first invaded Tibet in 1949. In 1951, China undertook a 17 point agreement to refrain from interfering with Tibet’s government and society following negotiation by the Dalai Lama.
As time went by, it was clear to the Tibetans that the Chinese had no plans to honour their 17-point agreement. Discontent and resentment grew and a revolt was brewing in their minds. On 10th March 1959, 300,000 Tibetans surrounded the Norbulinks Palace in Lhasa, fearing that the Chinese intended to kidnap their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. This later came to be known as the Lhasa uprising. On 19th March, the Chinese started shelling the Tibetans which ultimately led to the massacre of almost 86,000 Tibetans and destroying precious monuments of their culture for ever.
Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama had fled the palace, disgusing himself as a soldier. He crossed the India border on 31st March, after two weeks of perilous flight. On April 3rd, 1959, the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru announced that India had granted political asylum to the Dalai Lama. Since then, more than 150,000 Tibetans have fled to India.
In 1960, the Government of Mysore allotted nearly 3000 acres of land at Bylakuppe in Mysore district and the first ever Tibetan exile settlement came into place in 1961. The state now has the largest population of Tibetan refugees.
The Namdroling Monastery was established in 1963 by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche who still continues to be the head of this settlement. He started the monastrey with 10 monks. This has increased to more than 5000 registered monks here. There are several divisions within the monastery – a primary school, the dratsang(where ritual arts are studied), the institute, the retreat center, the nunnery and the nun’s institute. There are sixteen temples within the monastery of which the the most famous is the Golden Temple.The actual name of this temple is ‘Padmasambhava Buddhist Vihara’. The construction of this temple ws completed in 1999.
On the left is the statue of Guru Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche. On the right is the statue of Buddha Amitayus, the Buddha of lonng life.The status of Lord Buddha is 60 ft high and the other two statues 58 ft. They are made of copper and gold and inside the statues are scriptures, relics, small stupas and small statues. Just seeing these statues is said to generate faith, peace, wisdom, kindness and compassion.
When we visited the temple a few weeks ago, it was prayer time. Hundreds of monks were seated in neat rows, sounding their cymbals, drums and conch shells, turning their prayer beads and chanting. Slowly a feeling of peace and calm started to settle in. I could see my 9 year old son watching in fascination. Just standing at the door and watching the monks and the great Buddha statues, we could feel an immense sense of happiness washing over us. I could remember the same feelings that came over me the last time we visited the temple.
These are people who have found their abode in places starkly different from their homeland, who continues to retain their culture and uniqueness while being an integral part of the communities that they are a part of. A big salute to them!
(sources – wikipedia, www.freetibet.org, Golden Temple by Rigzod Editorial Committe, Google Images and Photos by mansidea)