Beguiling Bylakuppe: No accommodation, New Year’s Eve & The Dalai Llama


“Once a year, go to a place you’ve never been before”

31st December 2015. 

Another New year’s eve and I was all by myself (The previous new year’s eve I was in Gold Coast, Australia – Bragger much). After a fun 4 days in Coorg (Read here) I checked out and was en route a place around 40 kms from there called Bylakuppe. This place is one of the biggest tibetan settlements in the world and has 4 monasteries, the most famous one called Namdroling Monastery or “The Golden Temple“. The plan was to visit here, get a feeler of the community and stay for the night. (No biggie, I’ve done it earlier, here)

Upon arrival, I had some momos (Duh) and was told by Rinchen (A rather chill monk) that the 14th Dalai Llama was in Bylakuppe (for the last 10 days – teaching at Tashil Hunpu monastery everyday – yes exciting and what are the odds!?). I was (maybe) going to see the Dalai Llama!

It also meant Bylakuppe was remarkably crowded. It also meant that finding an accommodation is going to be a task, Rinchen had given me a heads up. Little did I know tough times awaited me. (Uh-oh)

I had a splendid time visiting various monasteries and having some significant conversations with monks. There’s so much you can learn from them in such little time, I am still intrigued by the thought of it. Towards the end of most conversations, I’d ask them about places to stay there and around, but dejection. My prior confidence about finding a place suddenly felt like over-confidence, but my experience told me I could still figure it out. I kept going.

It was 4 past noon now, I was wandering with my rucksack and I realised after visiting various guesthouses/ hotels that EVERYTWHERE was full. I wanted to visit all monasteries either way, but walking close to 13 kms with a rucksack was getting to me. I was nowhere close to finding a place. And I wasn’t ready to spend over a 1000 bucks for a night. So I walked, and spoke, and walked. And ate momos.

Disappointed, I reached Sera Jey monastery and met Gomar (the caretaker Monk there), told him about my situation and asked for a bed, if not a room- to crash on. Rooms were full there too. But, I didn’t think I could go to another place and look for a room. It was almost around 5:30 p.m and it had to be here. Somehow.

Gomar asked me to chill a bit, have some chowmein and sip on some cola, while he looked for a bed. Sometime later, while I was noodle slurrrrping away to glory, I saw him walk towards me, with a small face, and asked me if I could accompany him to a place behind the monastery. My eyes widened.

While walking there, he mentioned how one of the caretaker monks was travelling India for the last few months, and his (slightly messy and almost empty) room was unused. But, we’d have to clean it. He asked me if I was okay, but the glow on my face gave out the answer. He also mentioned how he won’t take any money from me, if I wished, I could donate something. I’d figured it out. We spend about an hour cleaning the room, and I finally had managed to find myself a bed. I couldn’t thank Gomar enough.

I had walked close to 17 kms that day. What a beautiful day, I thought, I was so happy. It was almost like a perfect ending. Almost? It was a perfect ending. I was so tired I passed out at 9 pm.

I woke up on the 1st of January 2016 with the 20,000 odd monks in Byllakupe area, welcoming the new year with open arms, excited to see His holiness, The Dalai Llama. There is something about the monasteries, the vibe, the shanti. You can feel it, around you and if you seek for it hard enough, growing inside you. Along with the other monks at Serra Je, I meditated for about 2 hours till 6:30 am.

I packed my bags, thanked Gomar and gave the head monk there Rs. 500 as donation (Which was the highest I’d paid for a night EVER – I tried not to look at it like that though) and with a bunch of monks, started a small 7 km walk to the Tashil Hunpu Monastery. It started getting brighter, the sun was out and it was then, that I realised the magnitude of the situation. Thousands and thousands of monks, such belief in their eyes, much amaze in my mind, walked together, arms in arms.

When we got there, everyone waited with much anticipation for His holiness to arrive. I wanted to see what it was all about. He started speaking and well it was time for me to leave (He spoke in Tibetan)

Even though I didn’t understand what The Dalai Lama spoke, I did understand that the world is a wonderful place and compassion is supreme.

It was time to say a good bye to Coorg, and Karnataka. I trudged off.. scared, yet, excited and looking forward to the next state and destination – Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu. More on that soon.