The Aruna Nagar colony in New Delhi is home to Tibetan Refugees, and might be the closest you can get to experiencing the vibe of Buddhism in our country’s capital.
Here, it is not uncommon to find monks peacefully walking about the gullies, and locals chanting on their beads as they sit outside their houses. In general, the people here seem more humble, and much more slowed down than the contrasting roads running parallel to the colony.
My friend and I paid a visit on a hot summer day, and the first thing I can tell you is – the temperature levels of the colony drops down significantly as soon as you enter!
There’s no point going by your own vehicle because you’ll have to walk a long way from wherever you get parking space.
A tried and tested way is take the Yellow Line Metro till Vidhan Sabha Station. And then, take an e-rikshaw, which will drop you at the entry point of the main market gully. You will need to walk inwards to reach the main market, so it’s better that you ask for directions from here, because the GPS doesn’t really help in the tight gullies.
Things to do
The major highlights of a visit here would comprise of exploring the Korean and Tibetan teas and cuisines at various Cafes (which are by the way, REALLY good); shopping at the cultural stalls and stores; visiting the Monastery; and checking out the bookstore which specializes in books on Buddhism.
‘Shubh Arambh’ with Food
The Buddhist Monastery is built in a small, undisturbed corner without much tourist movement. It didn’t feel proper to be clicking pictures, so taking a quick look from the outside, we proceeded into the main market.
And by the time we reached, it was well into lunch-time, so we headed straight for food!
A quaint little café, with a Korean menu and a large selection of herbal teas. Compared to the other cafés, it looked like this place was more frequented by the locals, perhaps because of the different cuisine type. Being vegetarians, my friend and I were surprised that the options were still decent – they had a veg alternative to almost everything on the menu! Here’s what we tried :
- Bibimbap Hot Stone Pot – Full points for presentation! The Bibimbap sauce is the key flavor in this concoction of rice and steamed vegetables. I’ll admit – it does take a bit to get used to the taste. You’ll either love it, or will have to brave through it. I personally enjoyed it.
- Veg Shin Ramen Noodles – Very light on flavors and a hearty bowl of ramen and veggies. You can ask for something more dense on spices, if you’d prefer.
- Solomon’s Seal Tea – Very, very subtle flavor. If you didn’t drink it with some focused attention on the taste, you’d probably mistake it as drinking warm water.
This place is famous for its desserts. And by the looks of the tables around us, pizza too! We tried out (from most to least favorite) :
Why this is delicious – one, they serve a generous serving of ice cream. And two, they serve the coffee base on the side. Pour at your convenience! It’s not a pre-prepared concoction.
- Mud Pie
Surprisingly lighter than the usual mud pies! A safe-side kind of option.
- AMA Café’s Special Tibetan Cake (savory)
Warning : This is not for the faint-hearted. With a very strong flavor, it was difficult to swallow even one bite of it. The waiters warned us but we dared try anyway.
My Shopping Haul (sort of)
There are stalls lined up, as well as permanent shops. From the stalls, you can expect to get clothes, beads, souvenirs and a tad bit of stuff here and there. I’d recommend stepping into the shops instead, which aren’t that expensive either.
Here are the key things I explored and learned about:
- Singing Bowls – These are great for meditation, and the shop owners are polite enough to teach you how to use them. It can be quite fascinating, as a very small bowl is capable of producing an amazing resonance! I had no luck working the bowls on my own, so I resolved to come back next time and try again.
- Incense Sticks – Quite different (and better) from the commercial ones in various areas. The entire stick is flammable, and quite thick. I’ve tried a few from the pack, and they have a mild, natural scent in contrast to the artificial, overbearing commercial ones. Also – the smoke isn’t as overpowering either. I got the whole gift box for only Rs. 80!
- Prayer Flags – inscribed with the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”, their vibrant colors add great personality to bed headboards and car backseats.
- Tibetan Bells – You could go for the hanging type, used like a wind-chime, or the dorje kind, that you can use during prayer.
- Prayer Wheel – it’s believed that spinning the wheel, which too is inscribed with the “Om Mani Padme Hum” mantra is as good as chanting the mantra out-loud.
While the bookstore was closed by the time we walked over, there are three timeless books that are highly recommended for anyone who’s been seeking the Buddhist Way:
- Old Path White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh
- The Tibetan Book of the Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche
- The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama XIV
The Tibetan colony is rather unfrequented, and while I rejoice in sharing this place with you, I hope that any of us that visit respect the culture and maintain a kind attitude to help preserve this place’s uniqueness. 🙂