Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Land of Tibetans in Dharamshala: Closer to Heaven

It is always nice to have a vacation in a faraway place, to unwind and escape from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. It is a great time to relax and become one with yourself while enjoying the soothing ambiance of the place.

Since I am in India for the second time, It was surprising to receive an invitation to visit the Northern State of Himachal Pradesh, particularly in the highlands of Dharamshala--the place of the Tibetans-in-exile.

From the Tibetan Colony called Majnu Ka Tilla in Delhi, it took approximately 12 hours to reach Dharamshala. The bus departed at 7 pm on the 22nd, and I arrived at 7 am the following day. It is the longest land travel on a single journey I have experienced. 

At the boarding point in Delhi, I got to talk to some people about the history and culture of Tibet and its people living in the upper Dharamsala called Mcleod Ganj. The bus got delayed for an hour and a half, so I was lucky not to get bored while waiting. It was a pleasant conversation, and I have instilled the knowledge I gained at that moment.

In the bus stand of Dharamsala, It took approximately 10 minutes to reach the hotel at Naddi Village--about 3 km. from Mcleod Ganj. The journey was smooth since they had a good road linking the northern state. When I stepped off the bus, it was so cold as the temperature reached near zero degrees centigrade. The whole day was rainy, the place was covered by fog, and the wind was chilly.

I had time to set my things and prepare myself to go to Mcleod Ganj after breakfast and a few hours to rest and contemplate. Back in Delhi, I have already read about popular tourist spots and activities. I wanted to spend my time wisely and get the best thing that Dharamsala could offer, so it is nice to have planned ahead of time.

The Dhauladhar Range

Although it rained on my first day of the visit, I got to see the picturesque panoramic view of the Dhauladhar range, which is widely visible on the balcony of a hotel in the Kangra district. Viewing the snow-capped mountain range with the tall deodar and pine trees in the Alps is truly magnificent. The Dauladhar range offers a great view of the whole Kangra Valley. Currently, the mountain is closed for trekking since the weather is unpredictable. 

I have planned to go trekking on the triund hill, which is about 9 km. from Mcleod Ganj, and it would take 2-3 hours to reach there, and they said it's a good place for sightseeing the frosty mountains and the alpine forest at the ridge of the Dhauladhar range. Since it is temporarily closed, I only get to see it from afar while imagining the life of the Naddi/Gaddi people living in the cold mountains and what it is like to be there at the snowline of the Himalayan foothill. I needed 3 thick blankets at night, and going closer to the snowy mountains would be a great challenge to conquer.

I am in the Naddi Village and have witnessed their peaceful and harmonious lives. In a culturally preserved place, they live simply with contentment and happiness. They are friendly people, and seeing them early in the morning bringing their cows in a greener pasture on this hill road is a beautiful experience.

In the afternoon, I prepared to go to Mcleod Ganj to Tsuglagkhang temple--the place of the Dalai Lama. It was drizzling and cold, but I dared to go some sightseeing. I walked uphill and entered the temple full of monks and tourists.

I have felt the place's serenity and seen the monks' pleasant smiles while roaming around the Namgyal monastery of the temple. I have been there for 2 hours to glimpse the Tibetans-in-exile. They are peaceful and happy despite the misery they have suffered under Chinese rule in Tibet.

The Tibetans in Mcleod Ganj have formed their Government under the leadership of the 14th Dalai Lama. I met a Tibetan souvenir vendor just below the temple and briefly discussed their condition. I then learned that the Tibetans fled to Dharamsala after the failed uprising in 1959 headed by the current Dalai Lama. They suffered cruelty and harsh treatment from the Chinese invaders, and the best thing they did was to have themselves in exile. 

After 50 years, the Chinese Government has kept its sovereignty, which they have fought for several decades. The history I learned from this encounter gave me knowledge of the existence of the Tibetans in Dharamsala.

Adjacent to the Namgyal monastery is the residence of the Dalai Lama. The most surprising moment was when I learned that the Dalai Lama was in town and had been meditating in his room for that period. He will give a talk on the morning of the 25th. It is open to the public, and there is no need to register for this event. My visit was good luck, and I will attend the lecture of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. I still have a day to explore the place before the course of the Dalai Lama, so I need to prepare myself to see and meet the Holy Man.

It was raining in the afternoon before I left the Monastery, so I decided to have a cup cafe latte in the nearby coffee shop. I stayed briefly to warm up since I couldn't go out and bear the downpour of rain. I thought of not getting sick and reserving my energy to see the Dalai Lama, so I bought an umbrella and started walking up to the square center, the central area of Mcleod Ganj. 

Along the way, I passed some souvenir shops, bookstores, tea shops, restaurants, and hotels. It was still raining when I standby to wait for the cab driver to return to the hotel. I planned to stay in Mcleod Ganj until 8 pm, but since it was raining and cold, I decided to rest and be ready for another journey the next day.

Bearing extreme temperatures is a challenge. I am used to a tropical and humid climate, but I am now becoming tolerant of cold weather that reaches a negative degree centigrade at some point. In a few days, I will be leaving this heavenly place, and what I will be carrying is not a thing but a collection of memorable experiences from the finest areas of the sacred mountain and the wisdom from the great people.

© 2013 Del Cusay

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