Jul. 21 – The President of India, Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil, will pay an official state visit to Mongolia from July 22nd. During her visit, the Foreign Investment and Foreign Trade Agency, the Confederation of Indian Industries, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India will jointly organize a business forum on July 29. India has a long relationship with Mongolia, despite the apparent distance. Tibetan Buddhism is still a strong influence in many Mongolians’ lives, and the resurgence of religious beliefs in Mongolia has leaped since the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from the country in 1992.
Famously, the 19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche was appointed Indian Ambassador to Mongolia in 1990. Following Mongolian independence in 1992, he was instrumental in reviving Buddhism in Mongolia, arranging the Dalai Lama’s visit to Mongolia in 1979, which resulted in an agreement for monks from Mongolia to come to India to study Buddhism. During his service as India’s ambassador to Mongolia he encouraged more Mongolian monks to come to India and study at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics in Dharamsala, in Karnataka at the Drepung Gomang in Mundgod or the Sera Monastery in Bylakuppe, and in other places. Due to his efforts, the number of scholarships for Mongolians to study in India expanded from just a few to over 100.
In January 2004, India and Mongolia also signed an agreement to construct a Mongolian-run Buddhist monastery in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, where according to Buddhist tradition Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment. The Bihar government gave a free grant of land on which to build the monastery; then-Prime Minister of Mongolia Nambaryn Enkhbayar personally laid the foundation stone. Since independence, the Mongolian government has welcomed the influence of Tibetan Buddhism back into the country, viewing it as a basic human right to practice religion and regarding it as a cornerstone of society. Mongolia also has a number of practicing Mosques and Churches, although Buddhism dominates.
The late Penor Rinpoche’s Kunzang Palyul Choling, in partnership with the Khamariin Khiid in Sainshand Sum, Dornogovi Province, Mongolia, began sponsoring Mongolians to study Buddhism in India at the Namdroling Monastery in Bylakuppe in 2005. As of 2009 the office of the president of Mongolia estimated that more than 500 Mongolian citizens were living in India. About 300 of them were students in Indian universities and colleges, a third in Delhi alone. About 20 Mongolian students were taking EFL courses at the International School of English Language in Solan, Himachal Pradesh as of 2009, and another 20 at the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. In Pune that same year, there were 10 or so Mongolian information technology trainees and students. More than 230 Mongolian student-monks were living in Mundgod as of 2011, and the visit by the Indian President is expected to further boost religious and business ties between the two nations. There are, for instance, several Indian restaurants in Ulaanbaatar, and a number of internet cafes in Mongolia’s outer provinces with computers donated by the Indian government.
In many ways, Mongolia is beginning to replace Chinese occupied Tibet as the alternative destination for the study of Buddhism, much as the Dalai Lama has concentrated the development of Tibetan Buddhist beliefs in Dharamsala and other Buddhist centers in India. Mongolia, as a center for the study of Tibetan Buddhism, is beginning to have the same impact on the religion as Tibet would have done had it maintained its independence. Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama continues to recognize reincarnations of Mongolian Lamas. The highest religious position in Mongolia, the Bogd Khan, had in his eighth incarnation acted as the Head of State, including Government and Religion until his death in 1924. Nevertheless, the next reincarnation of the Bogd Khan was found in Tibet as a boy born in 1932 in Lhasa. This fact was not announced until the collapse of the USSR and democratic revolution in Mongolia. The Ninth Jebtsundamba Khutuktu, to give the Bogd Khan his official title, was formally enthroned in Dharamsala by the Dalai Lama in 1991, and in Mongolia in 1999. His new Palace is currently under construction at the Gandan Monastery in Ulaanbaatar, however his position is now restricted under Mongolia’s constitution to that of the highest religious authority in the country, and he has no political role.