Where is Drepung Loseling Monastery in India?
Drepung Loseling Monastery (DLM) is located in the Tibetan Settlement in Mundgod, in the North Kanara district of Karnataka State, South India. The settlement has a population of 12,500 Tibetans and is comprised of nine camps and seven monasteries. Drepung Loseling Monastery is located in what is known as Lama Camp No. 2 in this settlement and is the largest of the monastic communities in the settlement, housing more than 3,000 monks.
How can I get to Drepung Loseling Monastery?
The most convenient way is to fly into Bombay, Bangalore or Goa. There are direct flights from major European cities to each of these three cities. From Bombay and Bangalore(Bengal?ru), one can take a domestic flight to Hubli or Belgaun. Hubli(see map) is approximately 30 miles (47 km) from the Monastery and Belgaun approximately 61 miles (100 km) from the Monastery. There are also trains running from both Bombay and Bangalore to Hubli as well. These days, there are a number of very good airlines that offer flights from Bombay and Bangalore to Hubli and Belgaun.
From Goa, there are no express train services to Hubli, so most people travel by taxi or bus from Goa to the Monastery. However, as this is a somewhat long drive of about six hours, we would not recommend this route unless you are planning on spending some time in Goa before or after your visit to the Monastery (Goa is famous for its beaches, and December/January is the peak season for tourism there). If you travel via Goa, you will need to arrange your own ground transportation to and from the Monastery, as it is too far away for the Monastery’s hospitality committee to meet you in Goa.
How can I make my travel arrangements?
The best option would be to contact a travel agency to make arrangements for all air and ground transportation up to Hubli. December/January is peak season for traveling to India, but you can find better rates with consolidators who specialize in flights to and from India. A consolidator we have worked with in the past is Everest Travel (www.everesttravel.com, phone: (770) 220-1866, email: email@example.com). If you choose to make your travel arrangements with them, please mention that you were referred by Yeshe at Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta. Once in Hubli, a Drepung Loseling hospitality group will receive you, so kindly fill out the time of your arrival in the appropriate place on the enclosed application form. They will help you check into a hotel if you are planning on staying in Hubli, or help you with your transportation on to the Monastery. The drive to the Monastery takes approximately one hour from Hubli.
When should I arrive at the Monastery?
His Holiness arrives in Mundgod on January 3 and will take up residence at Drepung Lachi, the temple common to Drepung Loseling, Drepung Gomang, and Drepung Deyang Monasteries. His Holiness will then give a teaching from January 4-6 at the General Assembly Hall of Drepung Monastic University. On January 7, His Holiness will take up residence at Drepung Loseling Monastery, and will then offer the programs as noted in the invitation card. If you plan to attend a permissory empowerment into the Dharma Protector Lhamo (Shridevi) and teachings on Manjushrinamasamgiti (a famous tantric text known as the Expression of the Names of Manjushri) at the General Assembly Hall please plan to arrive at the Monastery by January 3. The Drepung Loseling events begin on the 7th with the inauguration of the new Loseling Prayer Hall and conclude with a Long-Life Puja Ceremony honoring His Holiness as well as the long-life initiation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the audience on January 14. You may leave on the 15th or thereafter. If you are only visiting the Monastery for the inauguration of the new prayer hall alone, you may arrive by the 5th and leave on any day from the 9th onward.
How can I obtain a visa and Protective Area Permit?
The Monastery is located in an area designated as a Protected Area by the Indian government, and therefore foreigners are required to obtain a Protective Area Permit (PAP) to enter and stay overnight at the Monastery. We have enclosed a PAP application form. Please complete one for each person who will be traveling and mail them back to us. Please make additional copies as needed or print additional forms from here: http://nagaland.nic.in/citizenservices/Forms/Restricted%20Area%20Permit.htm.
Usually one is required to send this application form directly to the Home Ministry of India in Delhi, but because of the shortage of time and also the special nature of this visit, our office here in Atlanta has made arrangements with the Drepung Loseling branch in New Delhi to deliver these applications by hand to the Home Ministry. The processing of these permits could take up to four months, so we request that you return the completed form to us no later than August 31. We will not be able to guarantee securing a permit for you if we do not receive this form by then. Please make a note of the following important steps:
- Obtain an Indian visa immediately from one of the Indian consulates nearest your town. You can get information on the U.S. locations for the Indian consulates as well as a tourist visa form from http://www.indianembassy.org. Please note that you should apply for a tourist visa and make no mention of the Tibetan settlement or Mundgod as your destination. If you indicate your intention to travel to Mundgod, it is likely that your application will be delayed in order to obtain clearance from the Home Ministry of India. You should simply state your purpose of visit as tourist and perhaps give Bombay, Bangalore, Delhi or any other major city in India as your destination. If you need to provide a reference in India, you may use Geshe Thupten Dorjee Negi, Tibetan Buddhist Temple, L90-95, Laxmi Nagar, New Delhi 110092. Telephone 011-2-244-1856. We recommend that you apply for a visa in person at one of the Indian consulates if there is a consulate in your jurisdiction near your area. If you have to send it by mail, make sure that you enclose a FedEx or UPS return airway bill and envelope, filled out to be charged to the recipient. Often people experience difficulty in getting their passports sent back to them in a timely manner, and at times it can take weeks to get a visa and passport if one mails it to them without including a return express mail envelope and airway bill.Note: Those of you who are from the metro Atlanta or nearby areas, you have an opportunity to apply for your visa on August 4 at the Summant Culture Centre, 1450 Huie Road, Lake City, GA 30260 between 9:00am and 12:30pm during the monthly visa camp day set by the Indian consulate in Houston. It would be helpful for you to connect with others in the area to arrange for a carpool to go to the visa camp location to apply for visas. Brendan has been kind to offer to facilitate this carpooling for this day; if you are interested please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Once you have obtained the visa, fill out the enclosed Protective Area Permit application form. Please submit to our office five copies of this completed form, five passport photos, and five copies of your passport (the first and second pages that contain your photo and other personal information and the signature of the bearer, and also the page that contains the Indian visa). Please send these along with the enclosed RSVP/Application form from Drepung Loseling Monastic Institution to us at Drepung Loseling Monastery, Inc., 2092 Vistadale Court, Tucker, GA 30084. Tel. (770) 938-9709.Note: These must arrive at our office in Atlanta by August 31 to ensure enough time for us to secure the permit on your behalf from the Indian Home Ministry in Delhi. Please check with us a few days after you mail this package to make sure that we received it.
What accommodations are available at the Monastery?
The Monastery has a limited number of simple guest house facilities with or without attached bathrooms. However, every effort will be made to accommodate our guests who request accommodations at the Monastery. You may also choose to stay in Hubli, where there are more options. There are several fairly good hotels in Hubli, not nearly as good as Ramada or Holiday Inn, but quite clean and comfortable, with rates ranging from US $30-$70 per night. If you choose to stay in Hubli, please let us know if you would like for us to assist you with booking a room by August 31. The Monastery will arrange a shuttle service to pick up and drop off guests from Hubli each day in the morning and evening. For information on accommodations in Hubli, if you would like to make your own reservation, please visit www.clickhubli.com/hubli.html. If you choose to make your own reservation, the Monastery will not be responsible for securing your accommodation, so please be sure that you secure all the necessary information and confirmations, and that you have all the necessary documents prior to your departure.
What should I bring?
Please bring a few extra passport photos, and an AM/FM radio with earphones to receive the English translation of the teachings. It will also be useful to bring along a flashlight, as the power is erratic at the Monastery. Bringing along an extra copy of your passport, which you keep in a separate location from your passport, may also be helpful in case you lose your passport while traveling. Flip-flops or other shoes that can be easily washed can also be useful.
Health and Sanitation
Before leaving your country to India it would be wise to seek advice from your Department of Health as to whether you require shots as a precautionary measure to protect from flu, malaria and other illnesses. The Monasteryâ€™s LAMA clinic with their team of volunteer doctors will be always available for medical help and assistance. Due to overcrowding during public gatherings, you may wish to bring a protective dust mask with you to avoid dust inhalation-related illnesses. It may be useful to have a first-aid kit for colds, diarrhea, and fever for emergency needs for your travel in India as some areas may have little or no medical facilities. Please visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/indianrg.htm for a list of suggested vaccinations and preventive medications for South Asia.
What will the weather be like at the Monastery?
Mundgod, where the Monastery is located, sits at an altitude of 1800 ft. above sea level and typically experiences temperatures ranging between 70°F to 90°F during the day and an average rainfall of 0 to 1″ in the months of December and January. Evenings are generally cool in the 60°Fs.
Food and Drink
Vegetarian meals will be provided to invited guests of Drepung Loseling Monastery during the event. There are also a few restaurants within the Monastery campus, as well as local vendors selling ready-made food, fruit, vegetables, and drinks. You should be very careful regarding food and drinks, as many foreigners tend to get sick easily with food poisoning. It is absolutely necessary that you drink only bottled water or well-boiled water while you are in India, and avoid salads and fruits washed with non-bottled water.
Etiquette at the Monastery and at the Teachings
In order to honor the monastic way of life while you are at the Monastery, we recommend that you avoid wearing too revealing clothing. Short-sleeve shirts or T-shirts are fine, but perhaps not short pants or skirts. However, since the weather will be quite warm in January, it will be good to wear light clothing.
Seating and Translation of the Teachings – Foreign visitors at the teaching will be seated together in a designated area. The general convention is that you are assigned a seat on the first day of the series of teachings, and thereafter keep to that seat for the duration of the teachings. This seating arrangement is done in order to facilitate the simultaneous translation of the teaching that the non-Tibetan speaking audience will hear through an FM broadcast. In order to be able to listen to the translation, please bring an FM radio with headphones so as not to disturb the others who are listening in Tibetan. Although the quality of the signal varies according to the circumstances, you can often improve reception by changing the angle and position of the antenna of your radio, which is often incorporated in the headphone lead. Seating will be on the floor, which may become uncomfortable during the long teaching sessions. You are welcome to adjust your seating posture as necessary, but please avoid stretching your legs out, especially towards the shrine and His Holiness, as this is considered very rude in the Tibetan tradition. If sitting becomes too painful, it is all right to leave the teaching area for a few minutes to relax and then re-enter
Tea – It is customary for tea to be served to the gathering during these teachings. This will be either Tibetan butter tea, which is salty, or Indian-style sweet tea made with milk. It is not rude to decline the tea if you do not wish to drink it. Do not drink the tea right away when it is served to you, but please wait until the offering chant is made.
Interacting with the Monks and Nuns – The monastic community is very friendly and you are welcome to greet and speak with the monks and nuns. However, if you are staying at the Monastery, it is important that you not visit the monksâ private quarters after dark. It will also be inappropriate to express public displays of intimacy with other visitors, as this would cause unnecessary discomfort to the monastic community.
The Indian rupee is not officially convertible, and a few government-run shops will still insist on seeing official exchange receipts if you’re visibly a foreigner and attempt to pay in rupees instead of hard currency. Rates for exchanging rupees overseas are often poor.
Outside airports you can only change US dollars, Euros and sometimes UK sterling pounds. In big cities, there are now ATMs where you can get rupees against your international debit or credit card (different ATMs will have varing withdrawal limits). State Bank of India (SBI) ATMs usually don’t accept foreign cards. Therefore, you may have to search around to find an ATM that will work with your card. Citibank has a significant presence in India, as does HSBC. ICICI bank has the second largest network of ATMs, and accepts most of the international cards at a nominal charge. It is always worthwhile to have bank cards or credit cards from at least two different providers, to ensure that you have a backup available in case one card is suspended by your bank, or simply doesn’t work at a particular ATM.
In the big cities, credit cards are accepted at retail chain stores and other westernized restaurants and stores. Small businesses and family-run stores almost never accept credit cards, so it is useful to keep a moderate amount of cash on hand.
Security at the Monastery
Recommend people to keep valuables with them at all times and note any arrangements by monastery if there is a safe to put valuables, etc