At GoMissing, we believe in creating memorable experiences through engaging and insightful travel opportunities. It is this philosophy that propels us to deep dive into cultures, traditions of the places we visit. We want that travelers too get insightful perspectives into places they are visiting.
Through a series of blog posts, titled Simplifying the Auras around Tibetan Monasteries, we will be demystifying some fascinating aspects of Tibetan culture. Hope you like it!
If you have found the Tibetan customs and traditions fascinating, you are not the only one! We too have been enamored by the wondrous world living in regions of Ladakh, Sikkim and Bhutan. GoMissing caught up with Pranay Chandra, an officer in the Indian Army who has served various stints in these regions, to unravel some of the mysteries for us. Thanks Pranay for your valuable time, captivating photographs and unique insights. Over to Pranay…..
My three stints at Sikkim and Ladakh have taken me to many remote monasteries, perched mostly on cliffs, commanding beautiful valleys below. These mysterious monasteries, fragrance of butter and oil lamps, smoke from burning alpine cones and leaves, mural paintings on the walls, prayer walls and wheels, chorten dotting the path and the tight lipped Lamas intrigued me to search for my answers to mystical rites of these fascinating people. Here is some knowledge I gathered from my readings. This is not an exhaustive knowledge, but I am sure it will equip GoMissing travelers with good information of the traditions and practices.
Land of Mysteries, Magic and Strange Occurrences
The traditions and practices are sometimes beyond logic and reasoning. Modern science may not have fully understood how things work here, but I have witnessed some fascinating things that have made me a believer.
A hermit I met at Thangu Monastery in Sikkim, touched his forehead with mine and told me (through an interpreter) things I thought only I knew. I was spellbound to say the least! I have seen a patient suffering from high altitude sickness treated remotely by a Buddhist Lama who was 15 km away. This very ill person continued to sleep peacefully because of the Lama who himself writhed in pain through the night. These instances have had lasting impact on me and I feel fortunate to have seen these places closely. The traditions and beliefs may appear strange to people like me but this magical, mystical land works in ways you and I will not be able to comprehend. In the post below, I share some of the things I learnt from my stay in these regions.
The Tibetan name of Stupa is Chorten. Chortens were built to hold the cremated remains of Buddha- so their history is really ancient. Today they may be used as a repository for religious relics, holy scriptures or to hold remains of Lamas and holy men. Chortens may look simple but they have a highly developed iconography. At the base of the Chorten is a three dimensional Mandala that represents the earth. The Dome signifies water, while the spire rising above signifies fire. Close to the spire is iconography of Sun and Moon representing air and space. At the very top sits an image of a seed symbolizing enlightenment.
Mani or jewel walls line the trails of mountains. Every stone displays the mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ or ‘Hail to the jewel in the lotus.’ Each Mani stone is carved or commissioned by an individual to gain Karma for the next life. When a stone is carved the mantra goes skywards to the Buddha who is referred to in the prayer as the jewel in the lotus. Mani walls are collections of Mani stones and become longer as each pilgrim adds his or her stone to remind them of the path to enlightenment. Like a Chorten, they should always be passed to ones’ right.
Thangkas are traditionally cloth paintings of Buddhist images. They vary in sizes from a small book to large enough to drape a three storeyed buildings. The word Thangka in Tibetan means ‘something rolled up’.
Thangkas may depict Buddha, saints or wheels of life but the Mandala is perhaps a more common subject. Mandala represents the cosmos whose chaos is overcome by its geometric design. At the center is a focal element representing the center of the cosmos. A common central figure is Avalokiteshwara. The word Mandala is from Sanskrit meaning a circle.
To be continued…..
Our guest author is a serving officer in the Indian Army. His postings have taken him all over the country, where he has had the opportunity to know culture and traditions of those places closely. He is an award winning wildlife photographer whose work has been published in leading wildlife magazines and portals like Sanctuary Asia, Readers Digest, India Nature Watch and the Tribune. His pictures of wildlife have been taken by the wild life division of Jammu and Kashmir for their posters and calendars. Pranay’s work in wildlife photography has earned him accolades from several Indian and International organizations.
Interested in deep diving into Leh, Ladakh and Bhutan? Join us on an offbeat trip to the these amazing regions.