One of my friends in FaceBook wanted to know why Buddhism is not No.1 religion while Christianity is, though Buddha was born before Christ. Ironically some go by numbers to say that so and so is the No.1 religion. We all know how Constantinople, the capital of the Christian Byzantine Empire became the present Istanbul and how Hagia Sophia was converted to Ottoman Imperial Mosque. While one community used its might the other used its missionary to become No.1 religion. What is this No.1 when you lose Humanity???
We had been to Madkeri last week and while returning back to Bengaluru we visited a place which is near Kushalnagar to the west of Mysore. If Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh is the host to the Tibetan Buddhists in search of peace, tranquillity and spiritual guidance this place in Karnataka has two Settlements of Tibetan Buddhists. The two Tibetan refugee settlements started in the year 1961 and 1969 respectively has now grown into a full-fledged town housing the largest Tibetan population outside of Dharamsala in India. During the Chinese aggression in 1958 as many as 1,50,000 Tibetan refugees spread out all over the world with a more than a 1,00,000 settling in different parts of India.
Karnataka was one of the southern states to open up settlements for the Tibetans in villages like Bylakuppe, Hunsur, Mundgod and Kollegal. Bylakuppe which is 80 kms from Mysore is the host to a largest Tibetan community in exile with about 40,000 people in settlements containing monasteries, kindergarten to higher level secondary schools, health care clinics, hospital with traditional Tibetan medical facility and also a court within. The settlement is spread over 3000 acre which was leased by the then Government of Mysore. In 1966, 4,000 acres of forest land near Mundgod in Uttara Kannada district was allotted to about 15,000 Tibetan refugees followed by the establishment of two more the Rabgayling settlement in Gurupura village near Hunsur and Dhondenling at Oderapalya near Kollegal. Currently, the population of Tibetan refugees in India is estimated to be around 1.5 lakh and Karnataka has the largest number, estimated at 45%. It has been 50 years and the second generation of those Tibetan Refugees are living happily and most importantly without fear. This is the culture of my land India; we Hindus do not use might or ministry to make Hinduism No.1 in the first place we do not believe in No.1 as we welcome any religion or any philosophy.
Vast open lands with Tibetan houses and colourful flags fluttering in front of the monasteries welcome us. The most popular and visited monastery is Namdroling, which can be sighted from a distance. As it was a day after Buddha Jayanthi we were not allowed inside the shrine as there was some rituals being performed. The volunteer there talked to us in fluent Kannada and explained it to us. We could peep inside through the window to have a glimpse of the 60 foot tall statue of Buddha flanked by Padmasambhava and Amitayus on either side sitting serenely amidst the colourful paintings, sculptures and small statues. The statues they say are made of copper and plated with gold ……and they are amazing!!!