Scholars from the Drepung Monastic University are not your typical university students. Hailing from Mundgod, a Tibetan settlement in southern India, the institution's nearly 1,500 monks dedicate themselves to preserving Tibetan culture and religion.
The Drepung Monastic University in its first incarnation was founded in 1416. Located near Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, it was the largest Buddhist university in the nation. By 1959, more than 5,000 monks had joined the Drepung Gomang division of the university.
When the Dalai Lama was exiled to India shortly thereafter, only 100 of the scholars could accompany him. Ten years after the small band of monks fled Tibet, the monastery was re-established in Mundgod on a parcel of land donated by the Indian government.
For many Tibetan boys, monasteries outside Tibet are the only means of getting an education, and many families see their sons off with few hopes of ever meeting again. Annually, 150 new monks enter the Drepung institution, resulting in an ever-growing need for assistance with housing and living expenses.
The complexity and fluidness of Buddhism and its representation within the mandala form make it difficult for many westerners or non-Buddhists to understand. To help other cultures gain a better understanding of the Tibetan Buddhists arts and sciences in terms of both theoretical and practical training, the Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery continue to construct sand mandalas world-wide.