Monk Tales

DSC_8472 copyOne of the most fulfilling aspects of our week-long trip to Sikkim was several encounters with Tibetan monks – and nothing was better than meeting with “monk” children, who were in abundance in monasteries across the state. These children come to the monastery at a very young age and have to undergo rigorous training for several years before they “graduate.”
We were also fortunate to have been “blessed” by a young but highly placed monk at the Rumtek monastery near Gangtok who agreed to meet us and put a small holy string around our necks.
We were also told we were lucky the “master” met and blessed us, taking time off from his otherwise busy schedule.
The meeting’s already had several positive effects and, I am sure, more will follow. For, there’s certainly something divine around these places of worship and prayer!

Sikkim Holy Day

This is perhaps the most scenic and spiritual places we have ever visited. Buddha Park, in the southern district of India’s North Eastern Sikkim state of Sikkim, brings with it rare calm and peace and leaves one with a feeling of contentment and fulfilment.

We were not sure if the weather would hold but it did and as we drove along the hilly terrain from the state capital Gangtok to Pelling, there it was.

The majestic Lord Buddha stood hundreds of feet tall on top of a hill, surrounded by lush green gardens, hundreds of Tibetan prayer wheels and monasteries.

But as we made our way towards the entrance, a dense cloud cover enveloped the statue, the main attraction, and we wondered whether we could actually see Him in all His glory.

We were lucky because the cloud cover cleared within minutes and we could not only have a long hard look at the beauty of the Lord but also had a wonderfully spiritual experience walking inside the statue and looking at the hundreds of exhibits and scriptures it houses.

The Buddha Park was planned in 2006 on the birth anniversary of Lord Gautama Buddha when the state government took a policy decision to mark the occasion throughout the year in Sikkim. And as a part of the celebrations, the people of Ravangla, where the park is, took the initiative to build and install a large statue of Lord Buddha and an eco-garden.

This would be a landmark in Sikkim’s unique effort to promote pilgrimage tourism.

The huge statue of is clearly visible from all the directions of southwest Sikkim near Ravangla and some parts of West Sikkim. The park area is beautifully landscaped creating ample walkways,  gardens and space for visitors to enjoy the serene surroundings.

The site commands beautiful views of the mountains and the spiritual ambience of the place adds to the visitor experience. The site also has added infrastructure created for a museum, a meditation centre and a Buddhist conclave.

It was officially opened by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in March last year.


On God’s and men

DSC_0059 copyThis youngster is just one of the scores who are routinely seen on the streets of any city in India – seeking alms in the name of religion. They are dressed as ‘bhakts’ (devotees) of various Gods and Goddesses but, more often than not, are just ‘fly by night’ operators, out to make a fast buck from the gullible.
I, too, got taken in by this man in Kasauli when he asked for “some money” and in return posed for pictures.
Everything comes with a price, it seems!

In good taste!

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Large ferns grow in the wild everywhere you go in the state

Though our week-long trip to Sikkim in North Eastern India was unique in many ways, what stuck me most was the organic vegetables and fruits produced in the state.
Sikkim, which was until 1975 an independent nation, will soon be declared a 100 per cent organic state and the use of chemical fertiliser and other add-ons in all forms banned. There is already a lot of awareness against their use and, if local people are to be believed, no one uses any chemicals anyway.
No wonder, then, freshly cooked vegetables are just different. They have a very soft and mellow taste and one where we can actually “feel” the flavours. It is a lot different from the plains where practically every vegetable and fruit available is laced with chemical fertilisers and preservatives.
Perhaps the rest of India will take cue from this little place tucked away on the border with Nepal and Bhutan, and as yet largely unspoilt by the huge influx of tourists.

A vegetable market in Sikkim
A vegetable market in Sikkim

And, while I am in the “organic” mode, I must point out I was very impressed with the extremely large ferns growing in the wild all over the state. No wonder then that these ferns are also a delicacy, expertly cooked as a vegetable by the locals.
Tasteful, indeed!

No, I don’t want a picture!

Monkeys in the hills of Northern India are well-known to be at one with humans – and mix freely with them. I have earlier seen, and photographed these extremely clever creatures and who have even posed for the camera.
But this “gentleman” here, spotted in Kasauli, was the least bit interested in having himself snapped. I tried for a few minutes without luck but gave up when he showed me that “face” in the last picture!
Perhaps, he wasn’t in the mood or maybe it just wasn’t my day!

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