Buddhist Monasteries in India That Are Not in the Himalayas

Buddhist monasteries in India conjures in mind revered destinations in Tibet or the Himalayan region. The country is famous for being a religious hotspot for the Buddhist culture. The most notable example is the largest Buddhist monastery in India i.e. Tawang monastery. However, Buddhism’s roots are spread all over India, and these notable, ancient, and historically rich monasteries in South India also make worthy tourist spots.

Source: Unsplash

So, here is a list of monasteries away from the Himalayas and Tibet that will pique the interest of people wanting to know more about the Buddhist history.

Namdroling Monastery, Karnataka

Namdroling Monastery
Source: Unsplash

Namdroling Monastery is one of the most historically rich monasteries in South India. Often referred to as the Golden Temple, it’s full name is Thegchog Namdrol Shedrub Daryeling. Its spiritual ambiance prompts tourists from all over the world. The 40ft golden Buddha statue is one of the main attractions of this monastery.

The revered monastery’s foundation was laid down by Pema Norbu Rinpoche in 1963. He was the 11th throne holder of the Palyul Lineage of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.

One can find paintings of characters reflecting Tibetan Buddhist mythology. The main altar will find its place in your album as it is decorated with incense sticks, candles, and flowers. One of the famous Buddhist monasteries in India, devotees and tourists will find huge statues of the Buddha called Amitayus, Padmasambhava, and Buddha.

Visit Namdroling monastery in February/March and experience the Tibetan New Year celebrations. The lama dance is also something that defines the vibrant culture of this monastery.

How to reach

If you are traveling from within Karnataka, then take a local bus to Bylakuppe from Hassan.
Distance: 92 km
Route: via Gorur and Hassan – Periyapatna road

The closest airport is in Kannaur. Once in Kannaur, tourists will have the option of going via bus or driving down a hired car. You can also book a train ticket to Krishnarajanagar and take a bus or taxi to the monastery.
Distance: 119 km
Route: via Kannur – Mattannur – Coorg road and Thalaserry – Mysore road

Nalanda Monastery, Bihar

Nalanda Monastery
Source: Flickr

The ruin of Buddhist monasteries in India is a place to be for all historical enthusiasts. One such example is the Nalanda monastery. People will come across evidence of multiple constructions of new buildings being built atop ruins of old ones. Nalanda monastery was also a religious learning center from the 5th century AD to 1197 AD.

Dig deep into traditional Tibetan sources, and you will evidence of a massive library called Dhramaganja. Three other buildings called Ratnasagara, Ratnodadhi, and Ratnaranjaka were also a part of the library. Dhramaganja not only housed literary texts but literature on astrology, astronomy, logic, medicine, etc.

Sariputta Stupa towers and stairs inside it are decorated with panels of Gupta-era art depicting stucco figures of Buddha and Bodhisattvas. People can also visit the Black Buddha temple that houses an ancient Buddha sculpture in Bhumisparha mudra.

How to reach

The nearest airport is 89 km away in Patna. The airport is connected by major cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, etc.
Distance: 69km
Route: via NH 31 and NH431

The closest railway station is Rajgir (12km) but the most convenient one is located in Gaya (95 km). There are no taxis available in Nalanda. Tongas and cycle rickshaws are the only modes of transport.

Bavikonda Monastery, Andhra Pradesh

Bavikonda Monastery
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The ancient Bavikonda Buddhist Monastery refers to the numerous wells found all around the complex. The monastery was built around the 3rd century BCE. People will find stupas located around hills in the area. Numerous galleries, shrines, temples can also be found around the Monastery complex.

The ancient monastery has a fascinating story. During an archaeological excavation, an urn was discovered that contained a piece of bone. The remains probably belonged to Lord Buddha.

It also houses the Dagoba stupa associated with the remains of Lord Buddha. There is one popular cave carved out of a rock, which contains a large statue of Buddha. The monastery houses the Mahastupa amongst ruins of Kitchens which is still a place of worship for Buddhists.

How to reach

Take a flight to Vishakhapatnam Airport and rent a cab to embark on the journey.
Distance: 30 km
Route: NH 16

The railway station in Visakhapatnam is connected to all cities and towns in close proximity. You can book a cab and go to Bavikonda.
Distance: 21 km
Route: NH 16

Thotlakonda Ancient Buddhist Monastery, Andhra Pradesh

Thotlakonda Monastery
Source: Wikimedia Commons

This ancient Buddhist Complex derives its name from Telugu and refers to the numerous rock-cut cisterns found chopped into the bedrock of the hillock. Buddhist monks used kitchen, meditation chambers, and prayer halls and pieces of evidence can be seen in today’s time.

Archaeological excavations enriched the history with finds such as miniature stupa models in stone, sculptured panels and stucco decorative pieces, etc.

There is also a water tank located to the south of the complex that served as a water source. It also served as a religious and academic center. Evidence shows that Nikaya Buddhism might have been practiced here. However, ruins showcase that this ancient monastery perished by the end of the 3rd century.

How to reach

Take a flight to Vishakhapatnam Airport and rent a cab.
Distance: 28 km
Route: NH 16

The city is connected to all cities and towns in close proximity. You can book a cab and go to Thotlakonda.
Distance: 19.3 km
Route: NH 16

Note: The ancient monastery is well connected by road and can be reached by using the Thotlakonda Breach road which goes towards Bhimli.

Curated by Ruchit Rastogi