Dehradun is likely not on your travel itinerary.
The once sleepy Indian town is now the bustling, overcrowded capital city of Uttarakhand. Tourist attractions are scarce. Known for its boarding schools, research institutes and army bases, Dehradun is also a gateway city to the more scenic Mussorrie and the spiritual Rishikesh.
But one of the town’s attractions is worth a stopover. Nestled in a small Tibetan colony at the southern tip of the city is the tranquil Mindrolling Monastery (pronounced Minh-dro-lyng). Founded in 1965, the monastery schools over 300 monks from the city’s Tibetan refugee community.
Tibetan refugees have long been settling in Dehradun since the 1950’s. Neighboring hill station Mussorrie was the Dalai Lama’s first home when he escaped from Chinese controlled Tibet in 1959. Since then, an estimated 150,000 Tibetans have left Tibet and now call India home.
A colorful doorway on the Great Stupa.
Animal motifs dominate the architecture in the monastery.
The Great Stupa is graced by several smaller ones.
At the center of the vast monastery grounds is the Great Stupa, a towering 185-foot white temple. Considered the largest stupa in the world, the Great Stupa houses various Tibetan Buddhist art and relics. (Photography inside the stupa is not allowed). Overlooking the entire park, near the top of the stupa stands a gold depiction of Maitreya, a future Buddha who is to appear on Earth to reteach Buddhist doctrines.
The 115 foot golden Buddha overlooks the entire monastery.
Hundreds of prayer wheels to bring hundreds of blessings.
Guarding the western area of the monastery is a 115 foot gold statue of Buddha, erected in dedication to the Dalai Lama. The statue is encircled by what seems like 100’s of prayer wheels, whose spins are believed to bring blessings.
A small shrine hidden at the western end of the grounds.
The surrounding gardens house other temples, stupas, and relics but are also home to many visitors relishing in the serenity of the monastery. Teenage students lounge on the grass near the stupa, while young monks quietly walk between buildings to attend classes. Construction workers restore one of the nearby shrines without the slightest bit of disruption to the park’s silence. And yet, just blocks away, the busy streets of Dehradun are blaring with honking cars and shouting passersby.
If anything, the aptly named monastery (Mindrolling means “Place of Perfect Emancipation”) is worth a visit for its art, its Tibetan culture, or just to escape India’s chaotic streets.
A monk walks along a quiet pathway.