13 Photos that will inspire you to visit the Tibetan Monasteries of Bir Billing, India

The Tibetan Monasteries of Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh, India: A Photo Essay

Bir Billing is a small town nestled in the foothills of the Himalaya mountains in Himachal Pradesh, India. Bir is worth a visit as it is the 2nd best place in the world for paragliding and is home to many stunning, colourful Tibetan monasteries yet still retains a laid back local feel.

Apart from paragliding Bir is also a nice area for trekking and mountain biking and also attracts people who come to study yoga, meditation, philosophy and eco friendly practices.

Bir is a nice town to wander and explore, it is surrounded by tea plantations and has nice mountain views  but the real highlight of sightseeing in Bir is visiting the towns many beautiful, colourful and serene Tibetan Buddhist monasteries.

Why are there Tibetan monasteries in Bir?

In the early 1960s the Chinese government occupied Tibet and many Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama fled over the Himalayas into India where they started Tibetan settlements and built monasteries to carry on their faith and culture. There are many Tibetan places in India, the most famous is at Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj where the Dalai Lama lives and is home to the Tibetan government in exile only about 2 hours away from Bir.

The Tibetan Monasteries of Bir, India

The Tibetan Colony at Bir was established in 1966 the third Neten Chokling, an incarnate lama of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He brought his family and a small entourage to Bir and, with the help of foreign aid, Neten Chokling purchased over 200 acres of land and established a Tibetan settlement where 300 Tibetan families were given land to build houses and monasteries and the settlement still thrives today.

All the monasteries are different so you won’t get bored of exploring the many colourful and serene Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. It is especially nice to go in the mornings to see the monks at prayer or in the evenings when you can see the sunset and the monks playing.

The Tibetan monasteries in Bir are very photogenic. Here’s 13 of my favourite photos to inspire you to visit and give you a taste of what this beautiful off beat gem has to offer. Some of my Instagram photos were even featured in The Guardian newspaper! 

The Tibetan Monasteries of Bir

Chokling monastery in Bir

The 8 grand stupas outside the Chokling Monastery on a pre monsoonal late afternoon.

Choukling monastery in Bir

Inside Chokling monastery. There is a huge, grand statue of Padmasambhaya in the main hall but unfortunately it was closed when I visited.

The details on the monasteries are just stunning - so colourful and elaborate

The details on the monasteries are just stunning. They are not only so colourful and elaborate but also have deep meanings related to the Buddhist philosophy.

I love how these stones are painted and the Tibetan writing coloured in gold underneath these imposing stupas at Chouckling Monastery

I love how these stones are painted and the Tibetan writing coloured in gold underneath these imposing stupas at Chokling Monastery

Monks walking through the Tibetan Colony in Bir

Monks walking through the Tibetan Colony in Bir

Deer Institute in Bir used to be a monastery but now it is open to anyone who wants to come and study meditation, philosophy and other aspects of Tibetan and Indian culture

Deer Institute in Bir used to be a monastery but now it is open to anyone who wants to come and study meditation, philosophy and other aspects of Tibetan and Indian culture

Colourful Tibetan prayer flags are all around Bir Billing spreading prayers and good blessings in the wind

Colourful Tibetan prayer flags are all around Bir Billing spreading prayers and good blessings in the wind

The modern Palpung Sherabling Monastery situated in the forests out side of Bir

The modern Palpung Sherabling Monastery situated in the forests out side of Bir

The incredible doors and elaborate details inside the Palpung Sherabling Monastery nestled in the forests outside Bir

The incredible doors and elaborate details inside the Palpung Sherabling Monastery nestled in the forests outside Bir

The massive, golden Buddha statue inside the Palpung Sherabling Monastery

The massive, golden statue inside the Palpung Sherabling Monastery

The Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lödrö College of Dialectics is located about 20 mins east of Bir in Chauntra

The Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lödrö College of Dialectics is located about 20 mins east of Bir in Chauntra. It is a huge, impressive, modern monastic college for advanced Buddhist studies that is home to over 600 monks

Inside the Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lödrö College in the huge, beautiful modern gompa.

Inside the Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lödrö College in the huge, beautiful modern gompa.

The paragliding landing spot in Bir Billing is also a great place to join the monks and local families who picnic here while the last of the days paragliders drift back down to earth

The paragliding landing spot in Bir Billing is also a great place to join the monks and local families who picnic here while the last of the days paragliders drift back down to earth.

Thanks to Zostel Hostel Bir for a wonderful stay and to the owner Yogesh for personally driving me around to show me these amazing monasteries!

If you liked this and are feeling inspired to visit this off beat gem for yourself check out my experience of paragliding in Bir and my Guide to Bir Billing.

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The Tibetan Monasteries of Bir, India

 

 

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