Lava Kagyu Thekchen Ling Monastery and Retreat Centre, situated in Darjeeling district of West Bengal (now Paschimbanga), is situated atop a hill overlooking the snowy Himalayas to the north and surrounded by ancient forests of Neora Valley National Park — a virgin, unexplored terrain.
In this remote, secluded place, enveloped in mists for most parts of the year, monks are engaged in rigorous studies of Buddhist literature. The monastery also has a three-year retreat centre, Ngedon Chag-Chen Ling, which follows the ancient contemplative tradition of the Shangpa Kagyu lineage.
The nearest town from Lava is Kalimpong at distance of 30 km, the nearest rail junction is New Jalpaiguri (120 km) and the nearest airport is Bagdogra (125 km). The town, which is fast developing into a perfect idyllic holiday destination, is well-connected from Siliguri and Jalpaiguri by private and shared vehicles.
Biswarup Ghosh takes a trip to the monastery on a rain-soaked day in August and captures the serenity of the place frame by frame.
The Lava Kagyu Thekchen Ling Monastery was established by the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche in 1990 after the local Buddhists offered the site requesting him to build a monastery. Locals say during his first visit to the site in 1987 an unusual snowfall covered the entire hill.
The story goes the snowfall pleased the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, who saw it as a good omen. Work began on the monastery in April 1988, which opened in 1990 with seven monks.
Monks take a break from their rituals to possibly worship Mother Nature as the rains add to the beauty of the surroundings. While the construction work on the monastery was still on, the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche made plans to establish the retreat centre Ngedon Chag-Chen Ling. In 1990, the first retreat began with 10 monks.
The preacher joins his followers for a walk outside. There is also an Avalokiteshvara (11-headed or 1,000-armed Chenrezig) Temple. It was opened in 2001 in a ceremony blessed by the Dalai Lama.
A devotee prays at the monastery, which has expanded its facilities over the years to accommodate more and more monks -- there are over 100 monks in the monastery and the retreat centre at present.
The green is suddenly greener and the bright white mountains disappear in the mist, adding to the mystery about the place.
A peep through the monastery windows down below, and even with the all-engulfing mist, it is clear why the place is known as one of the prime sightseeing spots of Lava.