En route from Bangalore to Coorg, there’s a slice of Tibet hidden away in Karnataka. Highways lined with ‘Saravana Tiffins’ and the like that boast of serving up the hottest sambar within minutes suddenly give way to open meadows with bursts of colourful prayer flags and the occasional monk on a bicycle. This is Bylakuppe—probably the only Tibetan settlement in the southern half of the country.
The colony is typical to any Buddhist settlement in Sikkim or McLeod Ganj—brightly coloured houses, strings of wildly blowing prayer flags on every roof, tiny shops selling curious, steel momo steamers, monks dressed in their maroons and yellows going about their business.
Prayer flags in Bylakuppe. Photograph by Malavika Bhattacharya.
The monastery is bordered with intricately designed steel prayer wheels, and boasts of a huge compound with the Golden Temple and the monk’s quarters. There are multiple structures, each intricately carved and brightly coloured, and each building is an architectural delight.
A good two hours or so were spent sitting on cold marble floors in pure silence, and taking in the many incredibly detailed paintings. They told stories of heaven and hell, gods and sinners, and had clearly involved a great deal of time and workmanship.
Of course, no trip to a monastery is complete without the follow-up meal of meat and momos. We went in search and found exactly that in a tiny four-table room, and ordered everything they had to offer. Beef fry, beef chilli, beef curry, chow, and our waiter threw in some rice and dal for good measure. The momos would have to wait. Calm and well-fed, we headed off on the one hour drive to Coorg, after the rather unexpected but very pleasant surprise.