We traverse through Tibetan settlements spread across Karnataka to give you a Buddhist trail we’re sure you’ll love

Karnataka is home to the second-largest population of Tibetans after Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh and here are the top five settlements to visit
Tibet
Tibet

Picture this: a beautiful golden statue of Buddha in a vibrant shrine, surrounded by the echoes of the singing bowl cleansing your spirit and the chants of the monks transporting you into a meditative trance.

Welcome to the mini Tibets across Karnataka which are home to the community, safeguarding their wisdom, teachings and culture passed down to them through generations. In the aftermath of the 1959 Dalai Lama Escape from China, thousands of Tibetans crossed the Himalayas seeking refuge in India.

Recognising their plight, the Indian government and Karnataka (among many other states) welcomed hopeful Tibetans who were exiled from their nation with open arms.

The government of Karnataka allotted acres of land across the South Indian state and thanks to these rich landscapes which were fertile, versatile and biodiverse — agricultural settlements, and homes away from home, were set up here.

Here’s a trail through five such settlements — in Karnataka or Karunadu (The Elevated Country) —that can be a great quick getaway if you’re ever visiting the state and looking for an experience of the culture from the ‘roof of the world’…

Doeguling

Hosting a vibrant market filled with traditional Tibetan handicrafts, thangkas (Buddhist paintings) and handmade jewellery — this settlement is about 32 miles south of Hubli in Mundgod. For those interested in learning more about Tibetan culture, the Tibetan Cultural Centre within the settlement offers educational tours and workshops. Visitors can participate in meditation sessions, learn about Tibetan medicine and even try their hand at traditional arts and crafts. The library is open to the public where you can explore Tibetan literature. Closest airport and railway head: Hubli. Accomodation is available at the monastery.

Lugsung Samdupling

Established in the 1960s, Bylakuppe is one of the largest Tibetan settlements in India and also the most famous one in South India. Enriched by the awe-inspiring Golden Temple, also known as Namdroling Monastery, the settlement is also home to the Sera Jey and Sera Mey Monasteries and a local market which offers a variety of traditional handicrafts, including thangkas (Buddhist paintings), prayer flags and handmade jewellery. One can even savour thukpa, momos and butter tea at the eateries around the monastery or explore the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, which frequently hosts cultural performances showcasing traditional Tibetan music, dance and theatre. Closest airport and railway head: Mysuru. Accomodation is available at the monastery and in multiple towns across Kodagu district, all in the vicinity.

Rabgayling

This 1970s establishment is a harmonious blend of traditional Tibetan life and the lush, tranquil environment placed about 12km from Hunsur, Mysuru. A visit to Rabgayling is beautifully punctuated by the impressive Palden Drepung Monastery and the Gyumed Tantric University, which will spark your interest in tantric rituals and philosophy through age-old scriptures, preserving and passing down their customs. A sacred tree with healing properties is cradled next to a statue of the 6th Dalai Lama in Ugyenling Monastery which is a treasure trove for the art and culture of Tibet. Find solace in Dzongchoe Monastery, with its majestic architecture offering a glimpse into the monastic way of life. Closest airport and railway head: Mysuru. Accomodation is available in Mysuru (60kms), Hunsur and KR Sagara (45kms).

Dhondenling

Mini Switzerland, a name given by the locals of this Tibetan settlement in Kollegal is what comes to mind. The name comes from the pleasant climate and scenery of this settlement that is surrounded by cornfields and the Biligiriranga Hills. This settlement bordering Tamil Nadu houses the magnificent Dzongkar Choede Monastery. Close to an animal reserve, covered by mountains and coffee plantations, this monastery, once destroyed by the fire, now stands tall and spanking new. This is a hidden gem along with Taksham Monastery, Tanak Monastery, Dhargyal Monastery and Bayoe Monastery in the vicinity that all guarantee a surreal experience. Be sure to also visit their cafés to enjoy Tibetan and South Indian food. Closest airport: Mysuru. Closest railway head: Mysuru & Chamarajanagara. Accomodation is available Kollegal town and in Mysuru.

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Dickey Larsoe

Just seven kilometres from Kushalnagar, this lesser-known settlement is the second one in the Bylakuppe region which boasts the popular Nyingma Monastery and Sakya Monastery known for their intricate and artistic interiors. Fun fact: these monasteries offer accommodation, cafés and food stalls, a perfect place to experience the Tibetan way of life. The must-visit Tashi Lhunpo Monastery is a re-creation of the original Tashi Lhunpo in Tibet and is home to intricate murals, statues and thangkas that vividly portray the rich heritage of Tibetan buddhism and pick up an intricately woven carpet or two from the traditional handicrafts market. Closest airport and railway head: Mysuru. Accomodation is available in multiple towns across Kodagu district.

(Compiled by Namitha Acharya)

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