Nestled in a fertile green plateau of the Eastern Ghats is Odisha’s Tibetan settlement in Chandragiri in neighbouring Gajapati District. Known as the Phuntsokling Tibetan Settlement, the residents here are refugees who fled to India along with the Dalai Lama. Set up in 1963 in five camps, the 2,500-strong community has harmoniously blended itself with the surroundings and the local populace.

The drive from Taptapani to Chandragiri on a narrow winding road takes you through picturesque valleys, forests, tribal hamlets and fruit orchards. Known as the ‘maize bowl’ of Odisha, this place is said to produce crops such as ragi, rice, guavas and maize.

THING TO SEE AND DO

Chandragiri is actually a small overgrown village with one main street with small shops on either side. A school, a hospital and an inspection bungalow are some of the main landmarks. The Tibetan settlements are slightly away – within a radius of 7 km – from the main market area.

Dinesh Shukla
Rigon Thupten Mindrolling Monastery
Rigon Thupten Mindrolling Monastery

Jerang

Jerang is one of the most attractive settlements as it houses the spectacular white edifice of the Rigon Thupten Mindrolling Monastery. Standing prominently against a green background, it can be seen from a distance. Named after the founder of the Vajrayana sect of the Mahayana path of Buddhism Padmasambhava during the 7th century in Odisha, its construction began in 2003, and in 2010, it was inaugarated by the Dalai Lama.

The monastery is surrounded by green fields and mountains, as if its spires are competing with the lofty peaks. Special artisans with experience of building monasteries were brought from Nepal and other parts of India to do the intricate work for this five-storied building.

While the ground floor houses a large prayer hall with 21-ft-high golden Buddha and gorgeous murals in green, red and gold, the second has a gallery for visitors. The spacious courtyard hosts the various Tibetan festivities including the Drubchen festival with the famed mask dance.

The monastery can accommodate 250 young monks at a time, and is a centre of Tibetan studies.

Dinesh Shukla
Tibetan wollen carpet being made
Tibetan wollen carpet being made

Tibetan Handicraft Centre

Make it a point to visit the handicraft centre, where you will see women weaving the famed Tibetan woollen carpets and making other handicrafts such as bags and incense sticks. You can pick up a cloth bag for 100-200, incense sticks for 30 per packet and a 6×3 ft carpet for about 8,000. The place was once well known for Tibetan Apsos, but the number of families breeding dogs is on the decline. The community is generally engaged in cultivation, trading and selling woollen garments.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

There are no hotels in Chandragiri and the only accommodation options are the government inspection bungalow and the Tibetan Bungalow (Tariff: 250-500). With small clean rooms, and a large garden, the latter is located on the main road. This place does not have any dining facilities and you have to depend on the small roadside eating places in the bazaar area. For booking rooms at the Tibetan Bungalow, contact: Secretary, Tibetan Multipurpose Cooperative Society, Tel: 06816-257428, Cell: 09437621913.

Accommodation arrangements can also be made at the Tibetan Guest House near the monastery. However, food is strictly vegetarian. (Tariff: 750-1,500). For booking, contact the manager at 09556827226.

A small restaurant (actually more of a dhaba) run by Tibetans serves basic Indian food. At times authentic Tibetan fare like momos (steamed meat dumplings) are available, but services can be erratic.

Chandragiri can be covered as a day trip from Taptapani. It is advisable to take a local person as a guide, or ask for someone at the Tibetan settlement office to take you around. There are no guide charges as such but you can show your appreciation by paying a small amount.

When to go October to April is the best. Avoid the monsoons as they tend to be very heavy and the roads are likely to be bad Location 26 km northwest of Taptapani, in the Eastern Ghats Air Nearest airport: Bhubaneswar Rail Nearest rail: Behrampur

THE INFORMATION

Tourist/ Wildlife Offices

Department of Tourism

Govt of Odisha, Paryatan Bhawan

Lewis Road, Bhubaneswar

Tel: 0674-2432177

W orissatourism.gov.in

Tourist Office

2nd Floor, Paryatan Bhawan

Lewis Road, Bhubaneswar

Tel: 2431299

OTDC

Central Reservation Counter

Pathanivas (Old Block)

Lewis Road, Bhubaneswar

Tel: 0674-2430764

W pathanivas.com

Odisha Tourism

Utkalika

B/4, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, New Delhi

Tel: 011-23364580

Tourist Office

Govt of Odisha

Adjacent to Pathanivas

Buxi Bazaar, Cuttack

Tel: 0671-2305225

Odisha Tourism

At & PO Hill Patna Post Office

Opp NCC Office

Berhampur

Tel: 0680-2222980

Odisha Tourism

Pathanivas Building

Police Line

Balasore

Tel: 06782-262048