It is the last prayer before lunch at the monastery and little Buddhist monks are giggling and fidgeting with their bowls in a hall overflowing with maroon robes. Flatbread and vegetable soup are soon served, even to visitors, and the chatter dies down.
This is not a scene in Tibet, but in Bylakuppe, an unlikely nook in a countryside otherwise brimming with coffee plantations and dense jungles.
Bylakuppe was among the first refugee camps set up in South India to shelter the thousands of exiled Tibetans. Today, more than 20,000 Tibetans live here, making it South India’s largest Tibetan settlement. It houses two Tibetan refugee settlements that have now grown into this beautiful town that can be covered entirely on foot.
The walk to the settlement camps is picturesque and evokes an indescribable feeling of lightness. The long rows of fluttering Tibetan prayer flags on the meandering roads, and the monks and nuns walking past give you the feeling of having been transported to another country. The purity of the air is to be devoured. It’s almost like a hill station, minus the crowd and the hills.
Houses are distinct and spread out. Some of the families have small restaurants in their backyard that serve the most authentic Tibetan food.
Visit the temples. Sit, meditate or just marvel at the intricate wall paintings and architecture. And during the early morning prayers when the sunshine filters in, giving the place an ethereal charm, let the chants of the monks transport you to another world.
Are you packing your bags?
Practical information: Bylakuppe is situated on the SH 88 and is well-connected to most of the major cities in south India, the closest being Mysore.