Bir is a small mountain town in northern Himachal Pradesh with a large, well-established Tibetan community. Set against the backdrop of the Dhauladhar Range of the Indian Himalayas, the town is picturesque, although the rubbish-strewn roadsides and waterways of the Tibetan Colony down the hill from Bir proper are an unfortunate contrast to its golden roofed temples, and to the greenery of Upper Bir Bir Proper and the surrounding villages. The Tibetan Colony is actually in the village of Chowgan. Bir proper, sometimes referred to as "Indian Bir" or "Upper Bir", is the small market and surrounding farming community located in the foothills above Chowgan.
The founding of Bir: Local accounts indicate that Bir was first settled by immigrants from Bengal around 1600 C.E. These families settled in Bir proper. Other groups migrated in much more recently, starting in the early 20th century C.E. (http://birhp.com/history-...)
The Tibetan Colony: In 1966 the third Neten Chokling 1928-1973, an incarnate lama of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, brought his family and a small entourage to Bir. With the help of foreign aid Neten Chokling purchased over 200 acres of land and established a Tibetan settlement where 300 Tibetan families were given land to build houses. At this time Chokling Rinpoche also started building in Bir a new Neten monastery and disciples who had followed him into India formed its first sangha. When the third Chokling Rinpoche passed away in 1973, his eldest son, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche b 1951, assumed responsibility for completing his fatherâs vision. The fourth Neten Chokling incarnation was born in 1973 in Bhutan and brought to Bir at a young age where the family of the third Chokling took him under their wings. In 2004 full responsibility for Pema Ewam ChÃ¶gar Gyurme Ling Monastery in Bir was passed to the fourth Neten Chokling. The monastery, now a place of study and practice for over 120 monks, served as the setting for Khyentse Norbuâs 1999 feature film âThe Cup.â (http://www.imdb.com/title...)
Other Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Bir include: Palyul ChÃ¶khorling Monastery Nyingma under the guidance of Rigo Tulku Rinpoche; Bir Dirru Monastery / Bir Sakya Lama Society under the guidance of the 15th Gyalsay Tulku Rinpoche and the 14th Dungyud Rinpoche; and Drikung Dozin Theckcho Ling Monastery Drikung Kagyu under guidance of Ontul Rinpoche.
A variety of information on the Bir-Billing area is available at the Bir Portal BirHP.com, a community-supported online guide for visitors and residents of the greater Bir area.