It looks like a massive team training ride, with all the cyclists dressed in red jackets, black tights, and white & red helmets, but this group of cyclists are 500 Buddhist nuns from India, Nepal , Bhutan and Tibet, who cycled 4000 km from Nepal to India to promote equality and raise awareness of human trafficking.
You need to be hardy to cycle 4,000 km in the Himalyas, even more so when you camp in the open on the way!
This wasthe fourth such ride that these members of the Gyalwang Drukpa order had taken part in. It is unusual for a variety of reasons, the first being that Buddhist nuns do not usually take part in physical activity and are restricted to domestic chores; however, Gyalwang Drukpa, who cycled with the nuns on their long distance ride) was motivated by his mother to campaign for equality and did not see the sense in restricting physical activity. When this change to the norm came about, there was resistance from some Buddhist monks, which led to classes in martial arts for the nuns, and so they are often nicknamed the “Kung Fu Nuns”.
It is also unusual to see so many cyclists in similar attire – sometimes spread out by as much as 5km – en route from their starting point in Kathmandu and heading through monsoon hit Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh (you can understand why they had the rain jackets to wear!), before arriving at the sacred Golden Temple in Amritsar, then not long afterwards entering Jammu, finishing their ride in the North West India town of Leh.
“Besides cycling for environment and gender equality, I had wanted to cycle through the beautiful Kashmir valley to spread the message of peace and love” – Gyalwang Drukpa
The nuns had carried out relief work in Nepal after the earthquakes in April and May of last year, which left so many poor people homeless and destitute; this led to a rise in human trafficking of women and children not just in Nepal but the whole region, with people being sold into slavery or prostitution. It was therefore one of the aims of the ride to show that women have strength and power, like men, and should be valued equally.
Pleasingly, the nuns believe that they are bringing about a change in attitudes towards women, which is desperately needed in a region that suffers from feticide, child marriage and so-called “honour killings” – how killing your daughter (or anyone) can be honourable is beyond me.
According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, one of the nuns, 18-year-old nun Jigme Wangchuk Lhamo, was quoted as saying “Most of the people, when they see us on our bikes, think we are boys. Then they get shocked when we stop and tell them that not only are we girls, but we are also Buddhist nuns,” she said. “I think this helps change their attitudes about women and maybe value them as equals.”
Bike & Cycling News – SpyCycle
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