By Chintan Malhotra:
A journey through the hills always unfolds some mysteries. You are numb, cold and your eyes wander the sides as if reading the blues of a black & white text.
These frames were captured in one such small journey taken through the hills. The place is Menri Monastery, situated in Dolanji, almost 28 km down the hill from Solan. In July this year, the peak summer season when people from all around India stuff up their bags and come visit the beautiful hill stations, my friends and I mutually decided to settle down in a place that is away from the crowded ones and since we had the short period of three days, Barog was thus finalized for the trip. Exploring the places around the hill station by foot and wheels took up the first two days.
So the third morning I woke up, went for a calm walk around. And as soon as I came back, started searching for other known places around. Google would have given me a list of places being walked by many daily, so I decided to ask the locals instead. Menri Monastery in Dolanji was the one commonly mentioned.
In 1967, Menri was re-founded at Dolanji in Himachal Pradesh, India by Lungtok Tenpai Nyima and Lopön Tenzin Namdak. This monastery has recreated the Geshe training program and is home to over 200 monks. Menri in India and Triten Norbutse Monastery in Nepal now host the only two Geshe programs in the Bon lineage.
The drive to that place was beautiful in itself, very less one-way traffic, amazing sights on the way, and small schools from where some tiny kids walked a long stretch to their homes every day, without any sign of distress at all! We asked a few kids if we could drop them back home, but all they did was smile, giggle and then happily wave at us as we drove ahead.
After finally reaching the place after 2 hours, it was an amazing sight. Amidst all the greens and browns of nature, there lay a very colourful, beautiful, and calm kingdom. It was so pure and untouched. After entering the main area, we could not find even a single person, or any sign of human presence either.
We went ahead and walked a few more steps, and gradually explored the marvellous architecture, vibrantly coloured buildings, huge golden gates, and the aged locks on them. We were totally mesmerized with all the artefacts around, and at the same time we were equally curious to see who would be the first one to welcome us. And there he was, a nicely dressed monk who just came in front of us with a gentle smile, nodded and spoke in a very tender and indo-Tibetan accent that he would open the gates of the main hall in a while for us to see it, and went away. The monastery was beautifully situated, far away from the traffic noises, and human interferences. The monk came back with the keys to the hall and we went in to experience a silence that actually sang. We sat there for some time and meditated. After coming out, there were a few more monks quietly walking around the main hall in its circumference chanting with beads in hand. They showed no sign of surprise on seeing us. If we happened to make eye contact, there was a faint smile from both sides. There were some younger monks too who were seen running and playing around. Besides them, there were a few foreigners who had been staying in the monastery for quite some time.
It was a beautiful experience altogether, observing the calmness in that place, its people, objects and even the animals there.