Norbulingka has turned twenty five. It is actually more than that, as the anniversary marks its inauguration, the beginning of its life as an Institute, able to serve the community and accomplish its role in preserving Tibetan Culture.
Preceding the very special day of November 8, 1995, when Norbulingka was unveiled to the world, were seven years of planning, building and training. All the artisans present since 1990 participated in the interior work that gave the temple its character: Hundreds of meters of wall paintings and decorative friezes, a colossal gilded statue, dozens of clay sculptures, metal work and thangka paintings of great beauty and detail. We landscaped the gardens, preserving the original trees and boulders, and directing the irrigation streams that pass through the property into ponds of various sizes and cascading brooks. The guesthouse was completed, ready to receive visitors and a shop opened to begin selling the products that were made by our artisans.
On November 8th, 1995, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Chairman of the Norbulingka Trust, inaugurated the new Institute in an event that lasted three days, attended by guests from all over the world. The celebrated Lhamo Opera company from Bylakuppe gave a day long performance which His Holiness watched from the windows of the Temple Library.
The inauguration over, everyone got to work. It was Norbulingka’s aim to be sustainable and create a market for our artisan’s products. In the mid 90’s hundreds of new arrivals from Tibet came every year, and we did our best to hire as many as possible, in a win-win situation. We offered them training prospects and a livelihood, and Norbulingka, an opportunity for self-sufficiency.
We have come a long way in these twenty-five years. Our population grew from thirty to 450 at its highest, in 2010. Now it is at 360, and we are proud to be entirely self-sufficient. We have hired and trained over 1000 artisans and support teams, in production, sales and other skills. We are committed to offering social services, such as healthcare, and since 1997, have a crèche and preschool that looks after over 100 children.
Norbulingka, with its beautiful landscaped gardens, is not only a place for visitors to enjoy and appreciate Tibetan culture. It is a community where hundreds of children have grown up, where people learned life skills that helped build and maintain the Institute, ones they took with them when they left. It is also the hub where Masters passed on their skills and hundreds of religious art pieces were commissioned and created. In twenty-five years, Norbulingka has made its mark on a generation and hopes to continue.
In a series of blogs, we wish to share moments since Norbulingka’s creation. Our first will be the making of the temple, its statue and paintings, then to relive the day of the inauguration, and more, each week, after that.