The lost world of Bhanodi Gompa: Discovered and now fading away

By Swarn Deepak Raina,, Oct 27, 2008

Chamba, India -- There’s an unusual silence up here at this place hidden from the world. It’s a one-man civilization, that of a lama - Bawa Sonam Gyatso - the last of Buddhist believers living here guarding the centuries-old Bhanodi Gompa tucked on one side of the Pir Panjal mountains separating mainland Chamba from the Pangi sub-division. It’s a world that has lived in isolation and is now dying in isolation.

<< Unknown to the travelers, hidden from the gypsies, forgotten from the travelogues, ignored in the history books, the Gompa at Bhanodi, district Chamba still stands and wait for a miracle.

While Buddhism has been flourishing in Himachal Pradesh for centuries, it has remained confined to areas adjoining Tibet including Lahaul & Spiti and Kinnaur and lately all areas except for Chamba, where its influence has been near negligible.

But Bhanodi has been an exception, with some folk tales even suggesting that Buddhism flourished here even before it entered Tibet. Ironically, the state tourism department, historians, researchers, trekkers and even the Tibetan community have remained ignorant about the historic Gompa, which, though a dilapidated roof shed today, is nevertheless a historic monument.

The irony has been that while the monument survived the vagaries of nature for centuries, winds of change has brought about a sudden threat to its existence. Bhanodi lies on the old route through which people going from Chamba to Pangi used to travel, and was thus an important trade link providing employment to the small Buddhist community living here.

When a new all-weather road was constructed to Pangi via Bairagarh village, people stopped taking this route, and therefore the Buddhists living here too moved out to places like Tissa, Chamba and Dharamshala. The only one left behind was Baba Sonam Gyatso, the Gompa caretaker. Even he has to migrate to Chamba during winters, which has recently also led to theft at the sacred place. With no financial aid coming, the Gompa is anyway crumbling under heavy snow each year.

While there is no recorded history of the place, folk lore has it that Bhikshus wandering in the Himalayas settled here finding the place conducive to their religious needs. Later 30 to 40 such families settled here and during winters they used to come down to Chamba and returned when the snow started melting. It is said that Raja Ram Singh of Chamba, who ascended the thrown in 1919 decided to visit Pangi and found the helmet of Bhanodi, where a good number of Khampa people used to perform Buddhist religious ceremonies. This aroused the interest of Raja Ram Singh and he acquired more information about them. The Guru of the monastery welcomed the Raja warmly and the Raja also took part in their religious ceremonies. At that time the temple was located in a small cave, and s new monastery was built on land granted by the king.

The Gompa was also visited by the first Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh  Dr. Y.S. Parmar, whose photograph is still displayed proudly on the side walls of the Gompa, but the state  government forgot the place after that. A study of the Gompa architecture, the wood work and the few wall paintings left reveals that the artisians who build this monastery hailed from Laddakh or Tibet. In the sanctum is installed a stucco figure of Padmasambhva. Placed on a high pedestal, the statue reaches almost to the ceiling. The style and face of Padmasambhva suggest that it is one of its kind in the world.

Recently a society named District Padma Chhokharling Bodh Tibitan Association, Bhanodi, was formed to preserve the Gompa, but the remoteness of the place is still proving a hindrance as the Gompa is eight kilometers’ climb from the nearest road. Perhaps, the wise Lama may have foreseen a better future for the Gompa and thus stayed back.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Omniscient Robotic-Being for Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: