I had never heard of the Mindrolling Monastery despite having spent a sizeable chunk of my childhood in Dehradun (including a few years growing up in Clement Town where the monastery is located) .Almost a typical case of the mind not noticing the more obvious, what is right there in front of you. Having read about it once on the internet in a list of things to do in Dehradun, I was determined to make sure that this brief holiday, I would definitely go see the place.
The night before I read up all I could on the monastery. Somehow, the idea of an idyllic undiscovered (by me ) place had an unknown charm. The monastery I learnt ,was constructed in the year 1965 by the famous Buddhist monk named Khochen Rinpoche. Today the monastery houses the Ngagyur Nyingma College, a deemed centre of learning for the young monks and is considered to be the best when it comes to impart education. The monastery complex is well maintained and consists of a 60 meters large stupa, gardens, hand carved murals and a mammoth sized statue of Buddha.
From Clement Town the route to the monastery was a little confusing as the straight road by the lake was closed for repair. Anyway with the help of some very obliging passers by, including one who finally drove in front on his motorbike to show us the way weaving through a residential colony of Turner Road ( right opposite the house we stayed in for 2 years- but like I said , sometimes we miss the obvious, what is literally right in front ) and driving past the Air Force Service Selection Board office we arrived through the narrow lane housing momo and thupka offering stores right outside the gates of the Mindrolling Monastery.
The great stupa is 185 feet tall and 100 square feet in width. It is considered to be the world’s largest stupa and is a magnificent example of Buddhist art and architecture. The stupa is surrounded by a 2-acre landscaped garden. The early morning air around the stupa was pleasantly reverberating with the sweet chimes of bells tied across the garden from the stupa. Prayer flags of several colours fluttered in the wind. On the facade of the stupa, Maitreya, the future Buddha, has been beautifully painted. Descending the steps is the present Buddha, the Buddha Shakyamuni. On the several floors inside the stupa are shrine rooms with elaborate murals and paintings of tales of the life of Buddha.
Groups of monks walked about the place going about their activities oblivious to the few tourists looking around. Outside the gate a fortune teller with a parrot caught the fancy of some young monks. The parrot seemed quite thrilled with all the attention and squawked through his cage. Unfortunately, after the first few minutes of looking, the monks walked away and the fortune teller did not get a chance to put his parrot to work and read the fortunes of the onlookers.
Around the statue an old man was busy nurturing and watering the well-tended gardens. Prayer wheels surround the statue . Wrinkled hands found their way on to the wheels pushing them in the direction to make them spin while rosary beads hing from the edge of the fingers that pushed. We reached very early and the tiny shop that sells cold drinks near the statue was closed. A young boy was sweeping around the benches near the shop and scattering grain for a group of sparrows cheeping gleefully as they pecked in the dust.
Rows of mud kullahrs (earthen cups) lay under a tree that held up a banner saying Swadeshi lassi was also available on offer. We opted for the unhealthy aerated drinks asking the boy if he had change for 500 bucks. The boy said they had change for everything…including dollars if we wanted. Outside the stupa a lady who runs a little collection point for shoes was friendly and warm offering an insight into the paintings. A small chat with her and soon she was narrating the tale of her own escape from Tibet. Buddhist chant soon rent the air over the chimes of the bells creating an air of mysticism .
In a corner lamps flickered inside a glass case , reminder of prayer and hope. The air was serene and peaceful away from the city. Trees of the Rajaji sanctuary stand tall at the boundary of the monastery, quiet and in sync with the rest of the place.
We drove back through the now crowded roads of Dehradun with a promise to come back again, to this little island of peace and serenity in the middle of the noise and chaos.