In my earlier article: ‘Himachal The Beautiful State, Part I – Rewalsar’, I had brought out the journey to this beautiful lake town, 24 kms from Mandi. I had also brought out that Rewalsar is a confluence of three religions: the Hindu, the Sikh and the Buddhist.
I had covered the Guru Gobind Singh Gurudwara of the Sikhs and the three main temples of the Hindus: the temple of the Lomush sage, the Shiv temple and the Krishna temple.
I had then just embarked on the Buddhist shrines when I ended the article to be covered in this part.
The local name for Rewalsar (called Tso Pema by the Tibetans) is Trisangam (confluence of three). Right now, the most prominent and most impressive structures are the ones put up by the Tibetans. We went to three of them.
The first one is the shrine and the statue of Padmasambhava on the hill opposite to the Gurudwara Hill. Here is a picture of these taken by me from the Gurudwara:
And then a closer picture from the lake. Unfortunately the sun was against me even though I tried various angles.
Why is this place so important to the Tibetans that they would go about erecting an 123 feet high statue of Padmasambhava at this sight that was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama on 01 Apr 2012 and also go about making an impressive and ornate shrine for him? Padmasambhava was an Indian ‘Tantric’ who left from here for Tibet to spread Buddhism. He was and is known as Rinpoche (the Precious one). It is, thanks to him, that Buddhism spread to Tibet.
There is a local belief that the islands of reed found in the lake are the ones in which his soul resides. This belief has its origin in the legend that the king of Mandi had Padmasambhava burnt alive after rumours that he had tried ‘Tantras’ with his daughter. Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche’s pyre burnt for a full week with billows of smoke. After this period, a lake (Tso Pema) appeared at the spot and the Guru appeared as a young boy, sitting on a lotus in the middle of the lake. The king, in repentance, married his daughter to the Guru.
After climbing the small hill, one has to undertake these steps (62 of them) to reach the first stage of the shrine:
As you reach the top, on the right side of the shrine, somewhere near the steps is the commemoration stone of the shrine.
Rinpoche is the recognised avatar of Buddha. One of the locals from whom I asked for the way to the shrine told me that the local population has gone crazy by going to the court and getting a stay-order for opening anything but the ground floor to the public since permission was taken for a shrine of Buddha but the shrine is a tribute to Padmasambava!
The first thing that you notice about the shrine is how immaculate it is. The second is the imposing statue of Padmasambhava and the third is the beautiful entrance:
As we entered the shrine, we observed the chanting by the monks to the beat of a drum and the maginificent statues of Buddha, and the beautiful paintings on the walls and the ceiling.
We left the shrine saddened that we could not proceed to the first and second floors because of the court-order. Before we go any further, here is what you can expect in Rewalsar as far as Buddhist shrines are concerned:
Next we went to the Zigar Drupka Kargyud Institute, within walking distance (five minutes walk). We couldn’t go around the entire institute but we could see the shrine and once again took in the exquisite and splendid beauty of the shrine:
By now, you must be wondering if anything can be as beautiful as the interior of this shrine or monastery. Well, you haven’t seen enough yet.
We went back to the Gurudwara hill (by our car) to have a look at this most beautiful monastery of the three in Rewalsar. Here is our first look as soon as we stopped the car:
Here is how the Gurudwara appears from there:
By the way, I made a number of videos about our visit to Rewalsar and I shall put them on You Tube under the same name: Sunbyanyname. Our first visit in the monastery was to the wax-lamps room and there is only a video about it which I shall put on later. Have a look at the imposing entrance and pay attention to the most enchanting mudras of dancing-girls at the bottom of the shrine walls:
In one of the pics above you would have seen a small Gompa on one end of the monastery. Here is a large prayer wheel on the other end:
Now that we have seen the exterior, lets see the interior on the ground floor:
Here are the stairs we climbed to go to the first floor:
And here is what we say (You must remember that most of what we saw is available on the videos and would be put up on the You Tube. This is only an introduction):
The spiral stairs leading to the second floor are simply awesome and a bit scary too:
You are breathless when you reach the top and not only because of all the physical work you put in to reach there:
As you come down, you can’t keep your eyes off the beautiful exterior of the shrine (in addition to the most beautiful interior) and you have one last look at the giant prayer wheel:
As you leave with all that beauty in your eyes, heart, mind and of course the camera, you wonder if you can get a cup of hot tea or coffee and you discover that they have provided that too free of cost:
As we drove away from Rewalsar, there were many thoughts in our mind; the foremost being of course that Himachal is a beautiful state indeed. The second was about the beauty of the Buddhist shrines in this part (in the first part I described the Sikh and Hindu shrines). And the third, naturally was that Emperor Ashoka (a Maurya king) and his successors did a lot about the spread of Buddhism in India and abroad and it prospered in India for twelve centuries before Mahmud of Ghazni and his successors arrived in Indian sub-continent and used violence to do away with this religion from most parts of the sub-continent. Padmasambhava took the religion to Tibet and from there it returned to India and it is alive in Rewalsar. On the birth anniversary of Padmasambhava in 2004, for example, the Tsechu fair was held and attended by 50, 000 Buddhists from all over the world.
I am sure I must have convinced you to visit this extraordinarily beautiful town of Rewalsar just 24 kms from Mandi.
Please await my next edition of beautiful Himachal.
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