Delhi, the capital city of India, dates back to experiencing many cultures at different times. An ancient place with happening monuments and amalgamation of all traditions saw the rise of Aryans even their decline, followed by many dynasties, the Sultanate period, and even the British era.
Each culture has left behind its own print on the map with its own unique architecture like Humayun’s Tomb and the Lutyens Delhi. Each one of them completely different from the other, yet the city incorporates each as its cultural crown jewel. The modern and contemporary values of Delhi are brought and blended, creating art and architecture so intense.
Amongst the incredible experiences of Delhi, it is hard to imagine the city could show the beautiful culture of Tibetan Buddhism. A small district of North Delhi houses a region of Majnu ka Tila or popularly known as the Mini Tibet, where the Tibetan culture has stayed alive.
At the present day, away from the hustle-bustle of this majorly populated city, Delhi. This peaceful Majnu Ka Tila, also known as New Aruna Nagar, is inhabited by Tibetan refugees from around the 1950s. The place is a real gem for tourists but remains relatively concealed from the majority. It should make the grade for keeping their Tibetan culture alive.
Around 1950, Delhi opened its welcoming arms to the tragedy-stricken Tibetans as refugees, who currently reside peacefully at their own Mini Tibet. Another community, another culture, a complete living organism like the neighborhood of close-knit people, with whom they brought the knowledge of Buddha and fused it with the art of Tibet, quite different from what we have witnessed in India in Sanchi and Sarnath.
From the tales, one can gather the significance of this tranquil place times around 500 years ago, though it is not much described by early historians. It is said that during the rule of Sultan Sikander Shah Lodhi, there was a Sufi saint who lived on a small hill on the banks of the Yamuna River, Delhi. His quest for enlightenment often had him lost in meditation.
This dedication made him popular among locals, as the name of Majnu. The historians have mentioned that Guru Nanak Dev once traveled across the Yamuna River to meet him. Guru blessed him that the area would be named after his name – Majnu Ka Tila, which means Hillock of Majnu.
The 1959 Tibetan uprising took place, and most of the locals left Tibet. They were welcomed here at Aruna Nagar/ Majnu Ka Tila, and with this, the site became a small Tibetan refugee camp that acts as a hope for the young Tibetans in India today. After the Sino-Indian War around the year, 1962 refugees from the Indo-China border shifted here too. Today it is home to the second generation of Tibet refugees, also known as Samye Ling.
The refugee colony, unfortunately, experienced widespread flooding in 2010. As a consequence, many of the residents took reinforcement measures in their residences. During the North India floods, the Yamuna breached its banks and caused troubles in low-lying areas.
The Mini Tibet, as the name suggests, has a Tibetan Buddhism-inspired Monastery and Temple that stays very close to the hearts of this neighborhood. Not only it’s the central place of worship for them, but it serves as the beacon of hope for them and enlightens their culture with its light spreading all over Delhi. It is one of the places universally where Tibetans feel secure, the main reason behind its immense emotional and cultural value.
New Aruna Nagar is a sanctuary and has a sacred significance for the Tibetans who have accepted the place as their own. This profound sanctity is the key to this environment though this value is still not known to many.
New Aruna Nagar colony is a locality in the Timarpur subdivision of the North Delhi district; as a developing settlement, their economic, environmental, and social aspects are of utmost significance. At the present day, the second generation of the refugees known as “Samye Ling” have maintained their culture, values, and tradition amongst a city like Delhi that is so diverse on its own.
The people who know the peaceful environment of Majnu Ka Tila recognize that it is a name for when it comes to the craving for authentic Tibetan restaurants, which is also the principal income sector for the people here. Moreover, Majnu Ka Tila has guesthouses, hotels, house rentals, retail stalls, bookshops, and even travel agencies as their chief source of income.
The majority population that comes to this place are the North Delhi University students contributing to the economic growth through the restaurants and cafes. The tourist sector is gradually increasing in this area because of the tour agencies.
While discussing the economic status of the place, the social impact should not fall behind. The Tibetan refugees who have raised Mini Tibet as their own home, their power and source of hope comes from the Buddhist monastery and temple complex, built on their own. The complex has a rich history of being influenced both by the Tibetan and the Indian monks.
Hence, the designing principles are reflected in the colors and boldness of the structure are visibly swayed by the typical Chinese and Tibetan monasteries designs. The arrangement of houses and markets for tourists around the temple complex is a planning concept influenced by historical marvels.
The monastery and the temple are planned in the same manner, situated adjacent to each other. The architectural elements of these two are blended very well and show the rich traditions of Tibet. The color palette of both structures is inspired by the Thangka Tibet paintings. These paintings illustrated the life of Lord Buddha and his teachings.
Appealing visual elements and details of the monastery and temple beautifully incorporate the features of floral painted columns and even the toranas. Intriguingly, the door frame is of wood, which according to the Indian Buddhist architecture, was used in vault roofs for sound insulation. Historically, the pagodas were designed as bell-shaped structures.
The temple here has gilded ornamenting at its top that denotes the resemblance to earlier times. On the periphery of the temple and monastery, there are beautiful prayer wheels to do the mantras. These are generally of metal though here they had mantras painted on them. It is believed that they accumulate positivity and purify the negativity by rolling them around.
The most minor features from Buddhist architecture are implemented into these structures, making it worth a visit. The temple complex is beautiful on its own through the main elements mixing up and forming a beautiful combination of every symbol and giving it a meaning.
The complete ambience of this monastery complex and the colony (New Aruna Nagar/ Majnu Ka Tila) is filled with peace and serenity. The place is famous for keeping its Tibetan culture alive and is a real gem yet out of sight for most tourists. Staying true to their roots, the daily routine of the residents is to offer their prayers every morning and evening at the temple, which symbolizes the start and end of their work and day.
Along with that, the people of the New Aruna Nagar have a connection to their historical Buddhist teachings. They even get to learn from the life of Lord Buddha by visiting the monastery every once in a while.
The chanting and prayers of the Buddhist monasteries help in spreading positivity around the compound where they are. Hence the impact on society is clearly visible that other than the economic and social aspects. These architectural marvels also attract positive vibes and good mental health. They also kill the negativity of the surroundings, and hope brings in many positive impacts on society.
The Mini Tibet—a hidden gem in Delhi brings in not only an inspiration for the locals residing here but also a positive impact on Delhi, and the tourists who come here looking for the diverse spectrum of cultures. Any place should always be an inspiration and a ray of hope for the people it is built for.
Everyone should visit to see the sanctity here and to experience an altogether different culture and vibes.