The Tabo Monastery I had heard of, knew it was quite old, and therefore I was expecting a medieval walk down history. And yet – inspite of all this advance-information – I was taken unawares by the monastery complex because it was completely unexpected in layout and architecture and felt unfamiliar, so much so that from the moment I saw it, I was in its grip, looking right, looking left, looking right again and walking like my two-year-old – taking in everything, eyes wide open, wanting to touch everything and just so excited because the world was new again.
The monastery built in 996 AD, comprises several low structures of mud-brick the colour of cream, and it has a peaceful and calm feel all about it. Smaller halls of worship, stupas, water tanks, main hall of worship, the trademark tree hundreds of years old … in all Nine temples and 23 stupas, and a few chambers set in the midst of these rather high mountains of Spiti.
And if I thought the complex was serene and exciting, I was elated and petrified (at the same time, yes) when I stepped into the main Assembly hall (The Temple of the Enlightened Gods), after taking my shoes off.
It was pitch dark when we entered, and then stepped into a passage where I encountered tall statues on either side of the Gods of Enlightenment, and then we were in the main worship hall. It was quiet, very quiet, to the point of being “sunn”. “Sunn” is the state of the environment when it is so quiet that you can hear the silence. And it can be calming and unnerving at the same time.
I walked around the hall looking at the exquisitely beautiful and ancient artwork depicting Vajra in different forms, the Buddha and other deities. I walked slowly, peering into the darkness and into the shadows and with each step I discovered a new realm, walking deeper into the shadows which brought light to my soul. The tall statues, the murals, the artwork, the artefacts … and the silence and quiet gave me a deep sense of meditation. And so I sat down and closed my eyes and felt the world wrapping me in its arms, rocking me to a slumber so deep that I felt one with the air, the river and the mountains …
I opened my eyes, thankful for the moment and respectfully walked back out.