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Palpung Sherabling Complex is a world of maroon and yellow tints, tones, and shades enhanced with green pines. The golden yellow pagoda-style roofs with the curled eaves and the finials are visible from faraway places, including Ahju Fort and Landing Site / Sunset Point in Lower Bir. The finial consists of inverted bells, an amlika, and a triangular core. The golden yellow victory banners on the four corners further enrich the flat roof below the pagoda-style roofs. The banners epitomize triumph of Buddha over four maras, the obstructive forces. The multi-storied complex, designed by 12th Kenting Tai Situpa, demonstrates ancient geomancy principles and the Tibetan architecture tradition using modern material. The complex, covering an area of more than 30 acres, comprises a number of purpose-specific structures:
- Main Monastery of Palpung Sherabling
- Old and new guesthouses
- Nun’s Retreat Center
- Monks’ RetreatCenter
- Individual Retreat House
- Sherabling Institute
- Monastic Primary School
- Lamp House and stores
- Monk quarters that can accommodate more than 500 monks
The complex is not yet complete although the construction began in 1975. A clinic, library, and printing-cum-translation center are in the offing. The 5-floor Main Monastery of Palpung Sherabling overlooks a spacious sandstone courtyard hemmed with monk quarters. The courtyard is the venue for annual and bi-annual lama-dances. For example, the monks perform Guru Rinpoche dance, a protector dance, in the beginning of autumn. The fifth floor hosts eminent lamas Dalai Lama and Gyalwa Karmapa. On the fourth Floor, mandala shrine featuring 14 tantras of Marpa mandalas illustrates the basic philosophy of Palpung Sherbling community. The theme of the murals revolves around lamas representing the prominent Tibetan Buddhism schools. The third floor has Red Vajra Crown Ceremony Hall housing 10,000 Buddha statues of gold leaf. Each statue is 9 inches tall. A 42-foot tall Maitreya Buddha statue stands on the second floor. A museum, kitchens, dining halls, and monk quarters are on the first floor. Craft Center provides training in traditional Tibetan religious secular arts, including thangka making, sculpting, tailoring, wood carving, and precious metal work. The multi-storied Lamp House features a butter lamp room on the second floor. Daily 1,000 butter lamps are lit in the room. The first floor has a bookstore, cyber café, and craft and gift store. A group of eight chortens (stupas) in white color are within the complex. The stupas feature prayer drums containing mantras (sound formulas). The drums are spun clockwise to get benefits of the mantras. The chortens are approximately eight-kilometer from Baijnath, a famous Hindu pilgrimage center. The Tibetan prayer flags on 15-foot tall poles flutter along the chortens. The Tibetans use two types of the flags in green, yellow, red, blue, and white colors: lung ta and jo dar. A lung ta ensures better luck, success, and spirit. A standard lung ta features a horse in the center and four mystic animals on the four corners: tiger, dragon, garuda, and snow-lion. These animals represent four heavenly and four human qualities that symbolize a great human being. A jo dar features mantras and prayers to increase merit. This flag is devoid of animal images.
Walking about 7-kilometer-long road meandering through the pine forest and linking Upper Bir to the complex in Upper Bhattu is a pleasant experience. You should try this. Option 1:
- From Chaugan Chowk, walk along the road going to Upper Bir.
- Near bus stand in Upper Bir, take left from the sign board of Public Works Department (P.W.D.) Rest House. Keep walking. Alternatively, await a bus for Bhattu. The bus service is limited. The bus stops at a muddy trail leading to Palpung Sherabling Institute Chowk.
- From the Chowk, one road goes to the complex in Upper Bhattu, other to Bhattu Village. Take the road leading to the complex. It is an easy walk of about 15-20 minutes.
Option 2: A road from the landing site in Lower Bir also goes to the complex.
“We need houses as we need clothes, architecture stimulates fashion.It’s like hunger and thirst � you need them both.” — Karl Lagerfeld