Some 80 kilometres away from the southern Indian city of Mysore, Bylakuppe is a small town in Karnataka surrounded by coffee plantations and dense jungles.
But here is what makes Bylakuppe special: It houses among the largest Tibetan settlements in India—the Lugsung Samdupling settlement and the Dickey Larsoe settlement.
The Lugsung Samdupling settlement was first established in 1960, after the Dalai Lama came to India, with just 3,000 residents. Nine years later, in 1969, the Dickey Larsoe settlement was set up.
Today, some 20,000 Tibetans live in this small town, including monks who can often be seen roaming around on bicycles—or if it’s the Tibetan New Year, performing the Cham dance wearing masks and colorful costumes.
The town is dotted with monasteries and nunneries. One such place of worship, and perhaps the most famous in the region, is the Namdroling Monastery. It houses the Golden Temple that is presided over by three gold-plated Buddha statues.
In all, there are about 1,28,014 Tibetans living in exile with 94,203 Tibetans living in India alone, according to the Central Tibetan Administration. They are scattered around different parts of the country including Karnataka, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
The most famous and important Tibetan settlement in India is almost 2,500 kilometres from Bylakuppe, in the Himalayas—Dharamsala, residence of the Dalai Lama.