A peek into a monastic life

Photo Exhibition

The poignant collection, taken entirely in black and white, features the Buddhist monastery ‘Rato Dratsang’. Taken by Nicholas Vreeland during the 26 years that he himself was a Rato monk, they offer the viewer glimpses into the everyday live of the monks at the monastery.

Rato Dratsang is a Tibetan monastery dedicated to the study of Buddhist logic, which was founded in the thirteenth century. In 1959, after the Chinese invasion of Tibet, a few Rato monks migrated to India and in 1983, they built a two-story monastery in the Tibetan refugee camp at Mundgod, Karnataka.

Today, this once-humble establishment includes over 120 monks. The pictures, which have all been taken in and around the monastery, depict instances of the simple lifestyle followed by the Rato monks at the monastery. Yet others showcase the beautiful sce­nery around the establishment. Pictures such as ‘Man and dog in Nandigaddi’ and ‘Fakirappa with his bulls’ encapsulate the elements of the rural atmosphere of the Buddhist monastery.

‘Gen Pagdo teaching Lama Chunchun’ is an expressive picture that depicts an elderly Buddhist scholar with a young monk, both poring over different manuscripts. The snapshot entitled ‘Monk memorizing under mango trees’, taken from afar, features a scholar studying.

Another picture, named ‘Rato novices learning to write’, also concentrates on the study sessions that take place at Rato Dratsang. Others, such as a depiction of a monk preparing dinner, taken from above; a photograph called ‘Rato monks dining’, which features a group of robed monks hunched over plates; one young Rato monk delivering cans of milk — focus on the domestic element of the monastery.

All of these pictu­res enable the viewer to und­erstand life in the mona­stery as only an insider would. Some of the pictures also feature places rather than people. A picture of Buddha’s death place, called ‘Where Buddha was cremated (Kushinagar), ‘Tree behind Nandigaddi’, ‘Temple and tree in Hampi’ and ‘Movie poster and bull, Hubli’, are examples of these.

All the proceeds from this exhibition will be donated for a new monastery, which is currently being constructed to accommodate the monks. It has been designed by  Delhi-based architect Pradeep Sachdeva. This structure will incorporate South Indian architectural elements with Tibetan monastic traditions and needs. The exhibition is on till October 12 from 10 am to 7 pm.

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