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Another Little Tibet

August 31, 2009

If you happen to be in Bangalore, take a short
trip to the Bylakuppe Tibetan settlement
Neha Bhatt
Business Standard
August 30, 2009

New Delhi -- What Dharamsala is to north India,
Bylakuppe is to the south of the country. A heady
mass of green, the four-decade-old Tibetan
settlement of Bylakuppe is a little place,
fortunately quite removed from the touristy
frills of commercial enterprises, motels and
eateries. Instead, what you get to savour are
fresh, lush greens and a number of pretty monasteries.

The fun begins early, on the road to Bylakuppe.
It’s a smooth road to drive, and an impossibly
lovely stretch. There are plenty of buses from
Bangalore (four and a half hours away by road)
and Mysore (one and a half hours away).

Bylakuppe is just off the main road to the town
of Kushalnagar, a short drive away from Coorg,
the popular hill station. Bylakuppe officially
houses Lugsum Samdupling and Dickyi Larsoe, two
Tibetan refugee camps, home to a population of roughly 10,000.

As you drive into the settlement, the road meets
a wide expanse of wheat and maize fields that
stretch endlessly into the cloudy sky. The
colourful flags typical of Tibetan settlements
line the roads and are strung from the trees.
It’s a spot best appreciated on a breezy or a
rainy day, when Bylakuppe is like a hill station
in the plains. In fact, the town can be visited
any time of the year, with pleasant weather throughout.

Almost everyone who visits Bylakuppe finds the
Golden Temple the most alluring of its
monasteries, for its architecture. Beyond the
prayer wheels and stupas lies the main hall of
the monastery, an elegant building decorated with
ornate, colourful thangka paintings. If you
happen to go there during the evening prayer
session, you will see a sea of maroon -- more
than 500 monks seated in neat rows, heads bowed
in prayer. Their baritones come together in a
single chant while the large golden Buddha statues tower overhead.

For all its unassuming charm, a visit to
Bylakuppe doesn’t call for more than a few hours.
There aren’t many viable options to stay
overnight here, so it’s best to go just for the
day. Do not rely on the food here if you are a
fussy eater -- you may only find momos, soupy
noodles and junk food. Packing a few sandwiches
and coolers might be a better option. Shoppers
will find a memento or two at the tiny shopping
complex -- probably the only one in this township
-- adjacent to the Golden Temple premises. For
others, the sea of green at Bylakuppe is what you could take back with you.
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