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Nuns peddle message of peace

Clad in black sweatpants, red jackets and white helmets, the hundreds of cyclists pedalling the treacherously steep, narrow mountain passes to India from Nepal could be mistaken for a Himalayan version of the Tour de France.

The similarity, however, ends there. This journey is longer and tougher, the prize has no financial value or global recognition, and the participants are not professional cyclists but Buddhist nuns from India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.

Five hundred nuns from the Buddhist sect known as the Drukpa Order last Saturday completed a 4,000km bicycle trek from Kathmandu to the city of Leh in North India to raise awareness about human trafficking in the remote region.

It had taken them just over two months to complete the journey.

The bicycle trek from Nepal into India is nothing new for the Drukpa nuns. This is their fourth such journey, meeting locals, government officials and religious leaders to spread messages of gender equality, peaceful co-existence and respect for the environment.

Dubbed the "gongfu nuns" due to their training in martial arts, they also deliver food to the poor, help villagers get medical care.

Led by the Gyalwang Drukpa, head of the Drukpa Order, the nuns raise eyebrows, especially among Buddhists, for their unorthodox activities.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2016, with the headline 'Nuns peddle message of peace'. Print Edition | Subscribe