HEMIS: When 52 young innovators dressed in maroon graduation robes gathered in the courtyard of a 17th century Buddhist monastery, surrounded by jagged mountains at nearly 13,000 ft in Ladakh, the convocation was anything but ordinary.
The first batch of year-long Naropa Fellowship graduated in a ceremony held on Sunday at the iconic Hemis Monastery premises, where Ladakh MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal and Chief Executive Councillor, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Gyal P Wangyal were among the guests.
The Naropa Fellowship, named after ancient Buddhist scholar Naropa, was inspired by His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa, of Drukpa Buddhist lineage, and co-founded by His Eminence Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche and educationist Pramath Raj Sinha, also founder of the Ashoka University.
"We named the fellowship after Naropa, as he was a great scholar and also was a student of the Nalanda University. The programme seeks to foster in these select candidates a spirit of innovation with a sensitive eye on the fragile Himalayan region. These are our Himalayan heroes," Rinpoche told PTI.
The Buddhist leader earlier spoke at the ceremony in Ladakhi as many monks watched the ceremony from the sidelines eagerly.
"It's an honour to present leaders of tomorrow who will create a meaningful impact in the Himalayan region," he was quoted as saying in a statement issued by authorities at Naropa Fellowship on Monday.
"With Ladakh being declared as a Union Territory, our vision is now aligned in removing major barriers in the prevailing education system in the region and create opportunities for youth to study and become successful entrepreneurs," Rinpoche said.
The Buddhist leader of the Drukpa lineage also emphasised on the beautiful setting of the convocation, which he said, will inspire these young minds to dream big but remain humble towards nature.
The 52 fellows, drawn from different parts of the country, including one-third from Ladakh region, collected their certificates on a modest stage that was dwarfed by towering dry, brown mountains and overhanging skies on a sunny afternoon in heavenly Ladakh.
Namgyal said the fellowship was introduced for the first time in Ladakh, and such steps were needed for Ladakh's future as also for the global ecological system.
With Ladakh standing at a cusp of a historic change, these 52 young, dynamic entrepreneurs, during their fellowship, came up with several innovative projects across diverse fields to shape the future of the Himalayan region with sustainable solutions.
"Perhaps, never has been a convocation held in such a beautiful and iconic setting where the grand beauty of nature puts you in a sense of awe. And, as you graduate today after finishing the fellowship, innovation will be your watchword but the sustainability of the Himalayan region at the core of it," said Sinha, also Dean of the Fellowship.
Hemis village, situated in an idyllic environment near the shimmering Indus River, is located about 45 km from Leh town.
The eponymous monastery, the largest Drukpa lineage monastery, is perched in the mountains in a picturesque setting.
Giving a touch of Ladakhi culture, many parents attended the event in traditional attire, and one even spun a Buddhist wheel as the ceremony was underway, while little monks watched the programme from the first floor of a building in the courtyard.
The maroon robes of fellows matched the colour of traditional robes worn by monks amid the iconic architecture of the monastery.
Wangyal, in his address, said the Naropa Fellowship injects entrepreneurial skill that will "foster a sustainable environment in Ladakh and also in other parts of the country".
"Through innovation people in the Himalayan region will thrive and prosper for generations to come.
This fellowship will address also rising challenges of unemployment and lack of training and skills, besides the steady cultural erosion of our old school tradition and morality," he said.
He said the younger generation needs to be educated "about the struggles of our forefathers and companionship with nature, and the Ladakhi culture".
Rudrangshu Mukherjee, chancellor of Ashoka University in his keynote speech, cited experiences of filmmaker Satyajit Ray at the Visva Bharati university in Shantiniketan about its aura, saying, similarly, the setting of "rough-hewn mountains and Indus river nearby should inspire a sense of contemplation and a sense of wonder".