Situated in the foothills of the Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh, Palpung Sherabling Monastery is a great place to visit. It is one of the largest monasteries in Bir and is located about 6km from the Bir-Billing landing site in Tibetan Colony. Located in the small village of Bhattu, the monastery is often called as Bhattu monastery. The path leading to the monastery is covered with pine and oak forests from both sides, and a number of colorful flags decorated with the Tibetan prayers which attract everyone throughout the way. The Palpung Sherabling Monastery is the religious center of the eastern’ Tibet art and culture, where a number of courses related to Buddhism, Philosophy, Language, and Literature are offered.
History of the Monastery :
The term Palpung is derived from the combination of two words, “Pal” which means glorious, and “Pung” which means to gather. Palpung refers to the “glorious union of study and practice”. The meaning of the word is the reason for which the institution is named like this. Generally, Palpung Monastery is the seat of the succeeded Kenting Tai Stupas(one of the oldest lineages of tulkus in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism). It is the religious center of eastern Tibet as well as the center for living art and culture. In India, the 12th Tai Situpa, Pema Tönyö Nyinje during his exile established a new monastic seat at Palpung Sherabling Monastery near the city of Baijnath in Himachal Pradesh.
The monastery was started and built by Kenting Tai Situpa with the use of modern materials The concept of design of the building the traditional Tibetan architectural fashion. The Palpung Sherabling Monastery preserves the artistic lineage of the Palpung tradition. Instead of using modern materials for construction, the monastery still retains the Tibetan art and Culture in every square inch. The place is specially built by 12th Tai Situpa with an intention to establish a place to display and maintain the old artistic lineage and culture of Tibetan Buddhism and a place to educate the masters of the young generation.
A glimpse of the Monastery :
The Sherabling Monastery is pretty huge and looks beautiful in its traditional Tibetan fashion. The monastery is divided into two structures- old and new structures. This creates confusion among tourists as the two structures lie at some distance from each other. Both the structures within the monastery have study centers for Buddhist students. The old structure is for small aged monks to study and the new structure provides a study facility to young-aged monks along with a hostel facility. The monastery is really large and has a school, a college, a library, a museum, a number of shrine halls, a dispensary, a parking space, and an exhibition hall, and all these are nested deep inside the middle of the beautiful pine forest.
The monastery is composed of several units, among which the monks of different units have different daily time schedules. Some monks are called “prayer monks” which are responsible for the annual and special prayers in the monastery. These types of monks learn the ritual life of monks through practical experience. The monastery has currently more than 1000 student monks in the institute among which 250 monks are enrolled in the monastic university curriculum. The monks here are taught here to learn about the past, present, and future of the Buddha and a number of other things ranging from philosophy to language and literature.
Apart from the studies, monks can learn here about a number of things such as dance and music, crafts, lama dancing, special chanting, making torma offerings, and even research on the Ayurvedic and Tibetan medicines. The lamas perform the special Mahakal Lama Dance on certain days. The main prayer hall consists of a dazzling interior which features a superb, two-story enormous stupa of Maitreya Buddha(future Buddha of this world). The monastery has approximately 250 monks quarters, three shrine halls and six shrine rooms, and all of the modern and traditional monastic features. The monastery also has retreat houses for monks and nuns, and individual cabins for the lay practitioners.
It’s like a different pleasing world in the middle of the gigantic nature where small kids, young ones, and old seem to be celebrating life. The monastery had a total number of 108 small and big stupas in the middle. The monastery also provides a guest house facility to people who came here for the purpose of teaching or else preaching. A number of small shops are located here selling assorted items such as miniatures, flags, and other Tibetan items. There is a canteen behind the main prayer hall that serves traditional dishes and a number of other dishes such as thupkas, noodles, and tea, etc.
Best Reasons to Visit :
Visiting such a marvelous place does not require any reasons for the purpose but we still had described some of them in this paragraph. One of the main reasons to visit here is the spiritual peace offered here. If you are spiritually inclined and want to discover the Palpung culture, then this place is a must to visit. The monastery is pretty huge and includes a number of Buddhist temples, shrines, and stupas. One visits the monastery, and if possible, then one must sit through the sound of Buddhist monks reciting their prayers creating a spiritual environment all around. The monastery is situated between the beautiful forests and offers an eye-catching view of the surrounding. The place is isolated from any kind of external noise or disturbances and is well suited for those who want to practice meditation at a peaceful place. One can feel the peaceful and pleasant vibes of this place, suitable for meditation and self-introspection. Instead of isolation from the outer activities and disturbances, the place is well connected to other famous places through the roads such as Tibetan Colony, Landing Site, Bir-Billing. If one visits the Bir Billing then this is a must-visit place recommended for him.
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How to Visit :
The Palpung Sherabling Monastery is about 6km far from the Baijnath and around 7km from the Bir Colony. The different modes to reach here are described below :
By Road: The nearest bus terminal to Bhattu Monastery is Baijnath Bus Station. Baijnath Station is well connected with daily buses from Delhi, Chandigarh, and various routes. There are various Himachal Pradesh Government Buses from different routes. There are several deluxe, ac, and non-ac government buses to several routes. After reaching Baijnath, you can directly hire a taxi to the Monastery which will nearly cost one around 300-500Rs depending upon the number of people hiring the taxi.
For Delhi and Chandigarh travelers, several private owned deluxe buses are there which will drop you up to Chougan, from where you can simply hire a taxi. Chaugan is the last station of most of the privately-owned buses. Only private-owned deluxe buses drop you at Chougan, whereas the HRTC Volvo will drop you at Proper Bir. From Dharamshala and Pathankot route, you can directly book a bus up to Baijnath.
One can even rent a mountain bike from the Tibetan Colony, which will cost you around 400-600Rs per hour. In fact, renting a cycle here will not regret it, as the cycling experience here within the majestic forest is completely worth it.
By Air: The nearest airport terminal to the monastery is Gaggal Airport. You can book several domestic and economic flights here. After reaching the Gaggal Airport you can book a taxi directly which will cost you 1500-2000 Rs. or else head up to the Dharamshala bus stop(approx. 13 km from Airport) from where you can take either taxi or bus up to Baijnath.
By Train: The nearest railway station to Bhattu Monastery is Ahju railway station which is about 7-8km from the monastery. From this station, you can directly hire a taxi up to the monastery. The Ahju railway terminal is well connected to the major Pathankot railway terminal.
ATM Availability :
There are a number of ATM’s available within a range of 6-7 km. Before you head over to Bhattu Monastery from Baijnath, manage to draw out some cash from a number of ATM’s available within Baijnath as only a few taxi cab drivers will accept online payments here.