The Monastery Market of Delhi also known as the Tibetan refugee market is quite famous in the city. I had crossed this market several times seeing it from a distance. The market is a part of the Buddha Vihar or Ladakh Buddhist Vihara. It is located behind the walls of a flyover and the entry gate looks like an arch under one of the busiest flyovers in Delhi. Due to its location, it doesn’t grab many eyeballs when one is passing by. Wondering why it is so popular and what’s behind that little entrance, made be eager to visit it. So enter with me into the market and let’s find what all it holds. But before letting you know about the shopping and other things to do around, let’s first get to know a bit about its history.
The present day market was originally made to house the Tibetan refugees who escaped from Tibet in 1959 due to Chinese invasion and plan to capture The Dalai Lama. The Tibetans fled to various parts of India and some landed up in New Delhi. The main refugee center of the tibetans in India and the residing place of The Great Dalai Lama is in the foothills of Himalayas in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh. The first prime minister of India (Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru) gave permission to 100000 refugees to settle in India and financed by the central government.
Tibetan language schools were opened for educating people and monasteries were built for the monks to pray. The Tibetan refugee colony was the result of the same so that the Tibetans could live in the allotted colonies. The Tibetan refugee colony of Delhi is one of the 46 Tibetan refugee colonies in India, Nepal and Bhutan combined.
After getting the place to live, it was important for these people to earn a livelihood and hence they started selling a variety of clothes and accessories. This led to the making of the present day market. Most of the Tibetans living in Delhi are rooted to this place. You will get to see varied looks of the Tibetan culture and tradition.
Shopping at Monastery Market
The monastery market in Delhi is run by the Tibetan Refugee Market Association. The market offers a varied selection of fashionable clothes at throw away prices. For the shopaholics, this place is best if you are going for budget shopping. I talked to one of the shopkeepers named Tenzin. He mentioned that they sell items at the prices that are very low compared to the other markets so that customers are benefitted and visit again.
One can shop for apparels, footwear, accessories, Tibetan artefacts, antique items and much more. There is a huge collection of all that you want to buy. The market is mainly famous for selling good woollen clothes like jackets, pullovers, sweaters, shawls, etc. Buying clothes from this market is a steal deal for tourists and if you have some good negotiation skills then it’s icing on the cake. Also, all the things sold in the market are made in India and not imported from china like the other markets do. It seems an obvious reason to do that and correctly too.
Delhi’s monastery market is one of the best places to shop on a low budget if you don’t want to visit big malls and branded showrooms. The market gets a good foot fall, especially in the evenings. The best time to visit the market is during the early hours of the day. One can surf through all the shops easily and the shopkeepers will give you more attention that will make your choice better in picking up things. The majority of people that flock here are Delhi university students and tourists from various places.
The market offers a lot for both men and women. One can find a large variety of t-shirts, jeans, pants, sweaters, tops, scarfs, backpacks, artificial jewellery, etc.
The street markets in India usually look like in these pics. The shopkeepers hang almost everything they can to make not full use but over use of the space they have. It’s the best way to display their products. Give them anything and they will hang it, but don’t hand yourselves to them. Just Kidding!
After all, these unique styles give a shape and distinction to the Indian street markets.
Tibetan Prayer Flags
Food lovers can savour the authentic thupkas, chowmein and dumplings with a Tibetan taste. There are a few restaurants in the market area serving Tibetan and Chinese food. Zomsa and Shakura are the only two known restaurants here. For more eating options you can travel to Majnu ka Tilla which is a km away from this place.
The Serene Buddhist Monastery
Furthermore, i got to knew that there is a monastery as well here and that excited me to pay a visit there. The Buddha Temple stands in the centre of the Buddha Vihar. The garden in the front of the temple which is the entry point to get to the temple is the only spacious place in this area. The temple’s architecture is really traditional and beautiful. From the outside the temple doesn’t look so big, but once you enter, it seems pretty big because of its structural design. The temple was built in 1963 with the blessings of his Holiness The Great Kushok Bakula Rimpoche for spreading the religious and cultural learnings of Buddhism. He welcomed the then Prime Minister of India (Pandit Jawaharlal Nahru) as a guest of honour at the opening ceremony.
Among all the chaos around, it’s the only place where one can sit and spend some moments in peace.
The moment I entered the temple and saw the huge Idol of Lord Buddha, a strong positive vibe ran inside me and my lips formed a smile. The interiors of the temple are really beautiful and coloured. There are a lot of detailed huge paintings made on the walls depicting the Tibetan culture, art and craft. The paintings also portray the stories related to the life of Lord Buddha. I offered my prayers to Lord Buddha and felt very blessed. It was a great feeling.
I spent an hour almost inside the temple and talked to the monk. After all the conversations I learned some really nice facts about Buddhism and realised how it is more of a thought rather than a religion.
In evening at 6 pm, the monk offered his prayers while reading some religious texts kept in front of him. The prayer lasted for around 30 mins. He was beating a single drum in a particular beat with a curved stick. The sound of the beats and mantras really made its way from my ears to the soul. It brought peace to my mind.
The outer sides of the temple are embellished with ‘Prayer Wheels’ with religious mantras printed on them. The prayer wheel is made up of a hollow metal cylinder placed on a metal rod. It is believed that spinning the prayer wheels has a meritorious effect as verbally reciting the prayers. Spinning the wheels releases prayers into the universe, just the same as what the Tibetan prayer flags are believed to do.
The Hidden Library
Yes, there’s more to see around the Tibetan market. There is a little library as well adjoining the temple. Most of the people who visit the monastery market don’t know about this library as it lies in quite a hidden place. It was empty during my visit. There are books on Lord Buddha, the life of his holiness the Dalai Lama and Buddhism culture and traditions. Its a quite calm place to sit in and read to enlighten our mind with the teachings of budhism. So if you are fond of reading books and are around the tibetan market, do drop in here.
How To Reach
The Buddha Vihara is near to the Kashmere Gate Metro Station and from there, its 10 mins walk. You can choose to ride on an auto rickshaw as well which charges a very nominal fare. Do note that there is no parking at the entrance of the market. You have to park your vehicle at Majnu ka Tilla or ISBT Kashmere Gate Bus Stand, Delhi.
So not just shopping, there is plenty to watch and do around the monastery market. A visit to this Tiny Tibet of Delhi will surely make you feel delighted and blissful.