Here’s a question for you:
If I would tell you about a place to visit which is not mentioned in the Lonely Planet or any other guide book, would you consider it not worthy?
I met a guy few days ago who answered YES.
This post is for those who would answer NO.
It might be easy to say ‘no’ right now when you’re sitting in front of the computer but when you’re out there, on the road it’s getting tougher.
Why? Because we all want to play it safe.
Your holiday clock is ticking and what has been verified by the major guidebooks is probably worthwhile visiting, while the rest is presumably a waste of time (that you don’t have).
Apart from that, the guide books give you some sense of security. They all provide detailed information on where to sleep, what to eat and where, how to reach there, and how to go back. It is fundamental and reassuring.
But there’s a price for that.
It is the lack of being exposed the authentic layers each place you’ll be visiting. Whether you like it or not, travelling with highly authoritative guidebooks can get you to read them not as suggestions but as imperatives. And you are not alone here. Everybody’s travelling with guidebooks even if they have a local guide with them who knows the places much better than any book.
So here’s a suggestion which is not mentioned in the guidebooks. It has been left deep down under the radar of guide books and at the shadow of the major tourist attractions surrounding it.
It is called Pangaun Monestary. It is a Buddhist Monastery (Gompa) in the Indian Himalayas in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
Here’s Why you should visit Pangaun Monastery
Pangaun monastery is one of the lesser-known Buddhist monasteries in the Indian Himalayas. Here you won’t find endless lines of tourists for the 6 a.m. Puja like at the Tikshey monastery in Ladakh. With no flashes from cameras and no TV teams from some geographical channel, the Pungau monastery is isolated in its peacefulness.
This monastery is probably one of the most awe-inspiring beauties I’ve seen. It hangs on a steep cliff above the Beas River between vast areas of apple orchards. Out at the monastery’s main courtyard, you’ll find spectacular views over the Beas River and Kullu Valley.
Add to this the kindness and the hospitality of the nuns and monks and you’ll get a must-see location, simply because it will warm your heart.
A Little Background About The Pangaun Gompa and the Nyingma sect
This peaceful Gompa (Monastery) belongs to the Nyingma sects; that is, one of the four main sects of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Nyingma school, is the oldest of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. It was founded in Tibet during 742-797 CE. The tantric masters Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava were the first to introduce Buddhism in Tibet. According to Tibetan Buddhist mythology, that changed when Padmasambhava challenged the local gods of Tibet and converted them to Buddhism. The gods agreed to become dharmapalas (Dharma protectors). From then on, Buddhism has been the principal religion of the Tibetan people.
Padmasambhava is said to have had twenty-five disciples, and from them a vast and complex system of transmission lineages developed.
The Chinese invasion of Tibet and the 1959 uprising caused the heads of the major Nyingmapa lineages to leave Tibet. Monastic traditions re-established in India while Lama Thubten E-vam Dorjey Drag has been settled in Himachal Pradesh.
Until recent time the Nyingma was the only school of Tibetan Buddhism that never aspired to political power in Tibet. Although the Nyingma School never had a head, in exile a series of high lama have been appointed to the position for administration purposes.
The Alternative way of the Pangaun Gompa
Unlike most monasteries, with the Pangaun both nuns and monks study in the monastery. They all live in small units (condos) above and below the monastery, cooking their own food, and maintain separation between their duties to the community and their own personal lives, at least to some degree. The fact that the nuns and the monks are living outside of the monastery creates a special atmosphere reminiscent of a small Tibetan village.
Most of the Lamas originally belong to Kinnaur district, and they all need to pay tuition for studying in the Gompa. This is rather uncommon for Buddhist monasteries, which are mostly financially supported by donations.
The Gompa was founded at the mid 60th by the Guru Kinbo Tupden who had come to meditate at the caves above the nowadays Gompa. It didn’t take long for many followers to come close and settle down near their spiritual master.
The religiously tolerant attitude prevalent in Kullu valley was perfect for many Tibetan people to come over and make this place their home. Patlikhul the major town between Manali and Kullu was blasted with Tibetan people back then.
How to reach Pnagaun Monastery?
Either if you’re coming from Manali or from Naggar you first need to get to Patlikul. It is the nearest town to the Pangaun Monastery and located exactly in between Manali and Kullu.
From Patlikul’s bus stand you can grab a taxi for a 6 km drive. It should cost you around 200 Rupees. The taxi will drop you just above the monastery and from there you’ll have to walk in the small allies down to the entrance of the monastery.
Don’t worry about the way back. You can send the taxi driver back you’ll be returning on a different way.
Much better way…
A Special Bonus For Those Who Will Be Visiting This Unique Gompa
Behind the Gompa there’s a small trail that will drop you off at the Manali- Kullu Road. It’s a carousal gate at the back of the main building. If you can’t find it just ask one of the Lamas they’ll show you the direction to this backdoor. The Lamas use it when they go to Patlikul, to bring food and other supplies to the monastery.
The 1.5 km fantastic trail is a real candy. It’s a nice and easy walk downhill passing through apple orchids. It’s the kind of walk that will make you feel like you’ve just been dropped into the story Alice in Wonderland.
Within 30 minutes you’ll hit the Manali – Kulu main road, from where you can grab any bus that passes through – they’re all go to Patlikul. The 10 minutes ride will cost you 5 Rupees.
Now over to you
Have you been ever visited a place which hasn’t been covered by guidebooks and asked yourself: how the hell did they all miss it?