After China's intervention in Tibet during early ‘60s, there had been a large contingent of Tibetan refugees took refuge in several states of India. Welcome to Bylakuppe—the second largest Tibetan exile settlement of the world outside Tibet after Dharamsala.
A short drive from Coorg—the coffee heartland of India—will take you to this quiet place having a population of around 16000 refugees and nearly 6000 monks and nuns. While traveling in Mysore, it is worth visiting the popularly known “Golden Temple” of South India (Namdorling Monastery). The settlement Lugsung Samdupling came into existence in 1961. A few years later another settlement, Tibetan Dickey Larsoe, also called TDL, was established. This was followed by the establishment of three more settlements in Karnataka state making it the state with the largest Tibetan refugee population.
Nearest town to Bylakuppe is Kushalnagar, in case you wish to visit the place for a brief 2-day weekend tour from Bangalore. Otherwise, a day in Bylakuppe can be a part of your detailed Coorg itinerary. It is a one-hour drive from Coorg (approx. 42 km by highway through a gorgeous and dense reserve forest). Kushalnagar offers basic accommodation facility and currently there are home-stays coming up because of increased tourist footfall.
On your way through farm, small roads, you will find a good number of monks draped in typical brick-red dress walking down the street toward The Golden Temple. For a visitor, it is a soothing and peaceful ambiance soaking in a different atmosphere. I found myself staring intently at the entrance gate when I had the first sight of it. So brightly colorful it is with meticulous design and décor that it would be difficult to pass through without having a closer look at it. On both sides of the entrance, several signboards indicate living quarters for monks and no public access allowed. Each door is covered with a colorful silk curtain having drawings on it. You will hear typical Buddhist chants floating in the air.
The temple is built on a vast expanse of land surrounded by beautiful garden all around. The top of the main temple has a wheel carrying different symbols. Inside temple there are large statues and one of which is of Gautam Buddha placed in the middle of it. Marvelously designed with intricate details of painting on it, these statues are rare feats to eyes. The pillars are immensely decorated with beautiful designs. Major attraction of this place is a 40-feet tall golden Buddha statue. The walls of the temples and institutions are decorated with beautiful paintings depicting the characters from Tibetan Buddhist mythology. The serene feeling inside the temple is full of peace and tranquility.
Walking down the huge expanse of temple and surrounding garden will certainly make you hungry. Experience roadside Tibetan food available in small restaurants scattered along the main road (keep temple entrance gate on your right and walk down the road where you will find long line of tuk-tuks waiting for passengers). Food here is nothing of extravagance; you may, however, discover a touch of authentic Tibetan style and flavor in those simple dishes. Most of these restaurants are family-run and their houses are often right behind the restaurant.
If time permits, extend your visit to Bylekuppe by visiting another monastery – Sera Jey—approx. 6 km from here.
Travel to Bylakuppa and experience the Mini Tibet within India.