Education at Lava

Kajal Chatterjee
Though I do not possess any belief on the existence of Ghost, but I love to read Ghost stories to the hilt.
Similarly religion in the form of sacred texts, Pujas or pilgrimage does not form my forte as in my dictionary religion is equivalent to sincere honest work, humility and according love and respect towards fellow human beings and all elements of nature. But I definitely love to visit religious shrines especially if located within a divine ambience.
I vividly recollect with relish a trip to Hari Parbat on the bank of the Dal Lake. Though our goal was the fort right at the top of the peak, but the trip ended with a visit to a small cute comparatively desolate mosque at the bottom of the hill. Apart from the exquisite architecture , I still remember how the  8-year old in me enjoyed the pure and cool ambience within the mosque after a treacherous climb up and down the Fort and relished the sugar-coated cardamom and water offered by the soft spoken Maulvis!
Can’t forget the Hidimva Devi  Temple located within a forested range in Manali as well. Perhaps it is the only temple dedicated to the Rakshasa wife of Bhima! Built on a slope and surrounded by tall Himalayan trees;  the wooden structure in that natural virgin scenario instantly transported me to perhaps the era of Mahabharata as well!
In the same vein got transported to 16th century Europe as well in Goa’s historic Basilica of Bom Jesus hosting the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier!
Simhachalam on the outskirts of Visakapatnam. Drive through the winding roads to go up the hill with sight of mountain ranges all around was an experience in itself.
And then the large temple complex with an amalgamation of Kalinga and Dravidian architecture simply render us awe-struck at the craftsmanship that flourished centuries ago!
Mecca Masjid of Hyderabad bearing the fragrance of the holiest shrine of Muslims in far distant Arabian Desert(the central arch built with bricks made from soil brought from Mecca), the pool located within the complex with pigeons enjoying a field day compel us to pray so that we can return here again with the legend even supporting the belief that if we sit on a stone bench around the pool, we are bound to make a comeback here!
If anybody desires to enjoy the flavour of South-East Asia, then a trip to Bodh Gaya is must. Apart from congregation of Buddhists of all possible national vintage, even monasteries dedicated to Lord Buddha are represented by Bhutan to Vietnam, Myanmar to Japan — all coming up with shrines built on the architectural legacy of respective countries!
The South Sikkim township of Ravangla is  famous for a gigantic Buddha statue towering over a large monastery complex. Perhaps even the most atheist person of the globe will feel the presence of God in such a heavenly environment! Gardens and orchards of colourful Tulip Rhododendron and Magnolia all around the complex which is itself located on the lap of Himalayas, an yellow-orange hued monastery with the Lord meditating over it —— Ravangla Tathagata Tsal is really beyond description!
Kamakhya Temple in up above Nilachal Hills is nothing but an epitome of peace. Apart from the typical Assamese gharana of the temple with a nice view of Guwahati city and vast expanse of mighty Brahmaputra flowing below; the priests of the temple are also embodiment of humility and civility.
The Upper Monastery in Bomdilla is not only an architectural delight, but extremely colourful also in appearance amidst  the Himalayan ridges and under the unpolluted blue of the Arunachal sky.
The main attraction of Phuntsholing — the doorway to Bhutan — remains the Karbandi Goemba. The Monastery hosting a colourful garden overlooks the Bengal plain with the river Torsa meandering past the Indian  township of Jaigaon. And the hill-top Swayambhunath Monastery, with Buddha’s eyes ans eyebrows painted on top, resembles as if the Lord himself is presiding over the Kathmandu Valley!
Ending my “religious” encounter with the monastery located at the sleepy Himalayan township of Lava in Kalimpong district of Bengal.
The monastery hosts a huge courtyard with Himalayan ranges all around in hand shaking distance. During our visit, religious classes were going on featuring students and teachers of all possible ages right from 6 to 60. All were dressed in typical attire of Buddhist monks with hair either fully shaved or cropped.
They were scattered all around the courtyard in various groups.
In each group there were 3-4 students in sitting position with the teacher standing. The teachers were uttering any Mantra in a language incomprehensible to us ending with a thunderous clap which the students were repeating. Indeed it was an unique sight. But the matter worth saying remains that the whole process of teaching were going on in an extremely smiling and relaxed tone and that too right in the middle of hoards of tourists who are engaged in commotion and frantic clicking of pictures! But without feeling minimum disturbed, the teachings were going on with the teachers and students even smiling at us! What a great education we received — if we are indeed devoted to our job at hand,   no external force can deviate us from concentrating on it!
The writer can be reached at kajal.chatterjee21@gmail.com

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