Palyul Chökhorling and Chokling Monasteries

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Palyul Chökhorling Monastery

Palyul Chökhorling Monastery painted in yellow and red colors represents Nyingma School of the Tibetan Buddhism. One of the six main Nyingma monasteries, Palyul comprises of a gompa (Buddhist temple), handicraft shop, and monk rooms. The temple built on a high yellow and red platform faces a huge courtyard surrounded by the monk quarters.

Palyul Gompa

The gompa has a flat roof surmounted by pagoda-like roofs featuring curled eaves in golden color. The corners of the pagoda-roofs are decorated with the heads of makaras, the gargoyles. The aquatic animal, makara is a mix of elephant, boar, monkey, lion, crocodile…

The finial features an amlika, an inverted bell and a triangular core. The wheel and deer emblem, a symbol of Buddhism, and a 5-colored flag are mounted on the flat roof, whose four corners are marked by four traditional victory banners. The flag has five vertical stripes of blue, yellow, red, white, and cream colors.

A flight of steps leads to the huge iron door behind which a tall red door decorated with golden carvings open into the temple. The carvings feature traditional Buddhist symbols, including a victory banner, the precious elephant carrying wish-fulfilling jewel, the harmonious brothers or four friends (elephant, monkey, hare, and partridge), and makara-snail / makara-conch, one of the three victorious creatures of harmony. The white color precious elephant, the lord of all elephants, possesses strength of 1,000 ordinary elephants.

The white exterior walls are punctuated with the black wooden frames of the Tibetan style windows. The frames are narrow at the top and wider at the bottom. The windows at the first floor are narrower than those on the second floor. The windows are near top of the wall.

The glossy wall paintings in the temple depict scenes from the life of Buddha and the Buddhism philosophy. The monk artists have used synthetic paints unlike natural colors made from minerals and vegetables used in traditional murals covering the walls of the old Tibetan monasteries.

Brilliant thangkas (religious paintings) and victory banners, including a triple banderole / pennant, made of silk and brocade, hang from the ceiling. The banderole, made of three silk valances shaped like ties, symbolizes trinities of the Buddhism such as the three poisons, the three jewels, and the three aspects of body, mind, and speech. The banderole of green, white, red, yellow and blue colors is crowned with the triple-eyed gem motif. Each tie-like valance has a tassel.

The sanctuary houses a huge golden color Shakyamuni Buddha statue wherein Buddha sitting on a lotus holds a black alms-bowl in his left hand and the right hand is in the earth-touching mudra (gesture). Smiling Buddha has long ear lobes. The long narrow eyes look directly at the devotee offering prayers. The throne is adorned with a garuda, jewels, gems, flowers, and pairs of makaras, snow lions, and mermaids. Richly carved chairs for gurus are placed near the statue. Study desks and maroon cushions are carefully arranged on the ground for monks participating in prayers.

On the wall behind the throne, a frieze of kirtimukhas is painted.  The kirtimukha or “the creature without a name” is the face of fame, glory, or majesty. The demon like face without the lower jaw has horns. A number of strings of jewels are descending from the upper jaw. More than one hundred statutes of Shakyamuni Buddha are exhibited on the same wall.

Besides traditional Tibetan sacrificial cake torma, a number of common food items, including biscuits, soft drinks, and ram laddos (sweet sour tamarind balls) are arranged on the table in front of the Buddha statue.  Tormas, embellished with colorful butter motifs, are also made of precious metals.

A blue color gong featuring a “triple-eye gem as a wheel of life” is placed in a colorful frame. A metal gong outside the red door waits to be struck.

Handicraft shop

The affordable Tibetan handicraft shop sells shirts, purses, jewelry, trousers, thangkas, bed sheets, and woolen shawls. Although the shop is small, you can try the clothes in the trial room before paying the bill.

Chokling Monastery or Pema Ewan Chokgyur Gyume Ling Monastery

The monastery that follows Longchen Nyingtik tradition of Buddhism was set up after the mass exodus of refugees from Tibet in 1960s. The monastery complex in Tibetan Colony, Lower Bir comprises of wayside shrines (stupas), temples (gompas), monk quarters, and a retreat center.  The monastery is known for annual drupchens, sacred Vajrayana ceremonies. The word drupchen means “vast accomplishment.” A drupchen is a 10-day-long group meditation retreat.


Chokling Monastery, Bir, Himachal Pradesh

The soccer loving monks residing at the monastery inspired Khyentse Norbu to direct film The Cup. The film focuses on the monks and the monastery.


“Painting is the silence of thought and the music of sight.” —Orhan Pamuk