A group of Sixth Formers travelled to Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in South India recently and this is a brief glimpse of their experiences. The photos below show time spent around the monastery; registering at the police station; time spent in the local school where they met their penpals; visits to other temples; a visit to a coffee plantation and Mysore palace and market.


Written by Hannah M and Joe S

Queen Elizabeth High School are celebrating their fifth consecutive year of visits to Tashi Lhunpo Monastery which is located in Southern India. Twenty-one Sixth Form students and three teachers travelled to Bylakuppe, a Tibetan settlement in the sunny south of India in April earlier this year. Intense planning for the trip began several months in advance; numerous supermarket bag packs, sponsored events and cake stalls ran throughout the year in order to raise much needed funds. We donated five hundred pounds to the Tashi Lhunpo School which was in desperate need of a roof reconstruction.

The monastery is home to over three hundred and fifty monks, many of whom joined the monastery after leaving their homes to dedicate their lives to the study and practice of Buddhism. They wake at five thirty every day for Morning Prayer (known as Pooja) before the younger monks head to school for a broad education of Science, English, Maths, Tibetan and Philosophy. We altered our body clocks to allow us to observe and listen to melodic sounds of the Buddhist mantra echoing around the colourful temple. In the second week of the trip (after us students had settled into the surreal environment) we were able to converse with the young Tibetan monks in a teacher/student scenario, telling them about English culture in the form of songs and drawings. On Tuesdays they have a holiday; we set up an Easter egg hunt for the children; hiding gifts of pencils, chalks and bubbles – such simple things made them extremely happy. This then resulted in a water fight between the monks and the Queen Elizabeth students. The evenings were incredible; over one hundred monks gather at the monastery’s debate hall at seven thirty to tirelessly debate about Buddhist philosophy, all the while laughing and mocking each other like brothers and friends do. At this time the younger monks have a recreational period, many of which spent theirs chasing, interacting and laughing with us until their curfew at half past ten.

Part of our reasoning for the trip was for the students to meet up with their Tibetan pen pals from the Tibetan Children’s Village school – many of which are refugees – whom we had been in contact with for several months. At the school we kindly exchanged gifts and spent time around the local area where we returned to frequently by three-wheeled rickshaws. In the second week we took a day trip to a nature reserve where we spent more time sharing stories with our pen pals.

As well as experiencing Tibetan culture such visits to local temples and settlements, we ventured out on day trips to places like the bustling Mysore Hindu Palace and the tranquil Dubare elephant camp. None of this would have been possible without our friend Choedak, a monk of Tashi Lhunpo who acted as our tour guide for the two weeks and has now adopted Geordie dialect! He has been involved with the trip since 2013 when QE students first travelled to the very south of Karnataka state.

Being without passports these people are thrilled to know that they can connect with the Western World through us and have their story reach corners of the globe that they cannot physically travel to themselves. Yet we cannot help but feel privileged to be the only school in the country to have such an unbelievable relationship with a little monastery in the heart of Southern India.

 

Click on the thumbnails below to see more photos from the trip: