Home to diverse religious and spiritual traditions, Shillong has witnessed the arrival, formation, and growth of different religious organizations within a span of over 100 years.
As the city grew, so did its population – opening its doors to people belonging to different communities and religions; subsequently, from a small town, Shillong gradually became a diverse city – rich in religious and cultural practices.
In this episode of Shillong’s Iconic Structures, we bring to your readers the Shillong Gaden Choeling Monastery at Upper Lumparing, the oldest Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Meghalaya.
Gently watching over the city from atop a hill, the Shillong Gaden Choeling Monastery is positioned amidst quietude in nature’s lap and away from the flutter of city life – though, with time, its vicinity is slowly developing into a residential settlement, yet the peace and tranquillity prevail.
Established in the 1960s by a few Tibetan families who fled from Tibet amid a Chinese military crackdown in 1959, the Monastery is currently managed by the Gelukpa Cultural Society, a non-profit organization. It caters to around 160 Tibetan families in Shillong.
According to the Tibetan Settlement Officer, Pema Dhondup, during the 1959 Tibetan uprising, the 14th Dalai Lama was forced to flee from Lhasa and about 80,000 Tibetans followed him to India through the Himalayas. They have been living in exile in India since 1959 with the largest settlements based in Karnataka and Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh; while some settled in the Northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh and a few in Meghalaya.
Before 1980, the Monastery was merely a place of worship sans religious leaders to administer the rites and rituals. Later, the Geluk Tibetan Buddhist monasteries felt the need to send monks to Shillong Gaden Choeling Monastery as the presence of Tibetans in Shillong gradually increased over the years.
Spread across approximately 30,000 sq. ft of land, the Monastery houses three main structures – The Prayer Hall and Abbot’s Quarters, the Library and Dining Quarters, and the Monks’ Quarters. At present, the construction of a Cultural Learning Centre is ongoing.
Recently, the Shillong Gaden Choeling Monastery celebrated the 87th Birth Anniversary of the 14th Dalai Lama on July 6 amid prayers, fun and laughter in the presence of Meghalaya DGP Dr. LR Bishnoi.
This Monastery has received many prominent personalities over the years. In February 2014, His Holiness The Dalai Lama offered prayers at the Monastery during his maiden visit to Shillong to take part in the convocation programme of Martin Luther Christian University.
President of the Tibetan government in exile, Penpa Tsering, and Kalons (ministers) of the Tibetan Cabinet also visited the Monastery during his visit to Shillong in recent years. Some prominent personalities who visited the Monastery in recent times include Meghalaya Governor Satya Pal Malik and Archbishop of Shillong Archdiocese, Rev Victor Lyngdoh, and former Chief Secretary Yeshi Tsering besides other religious, political, and social organization leaders.
As you drive up the Lumparing hill, it is hard to miss this entrancing red and yellow-coloured structure with a pointy rooftop. To know more about the history of this heritage structure, watch the full episode on our Youtube Channel @TheShillongTimes as we take you on a trip down memory lane.
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