Exploring Serenity and Bliss at Little Lhasa
Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before. — Dalai Lama.
As a kid, my heart used to glow from within seeing dandelions fluttering in the wind. It was so exciting during those halcyon days to keep the tender dandelion in the palm of my hand and to burden it with a truckload of childhood wishes. Dandelion parallels our life journey as it is a world traveler.
Diwali was just around the corner. A long weekend was stretching ahead and so I thought of heading to Dharamshala to unwind to be away from the chaotic city. The view of mountains in the early morning thrilled the inner kid in me. The Buddhist culture was explicitly visible in all nooks and corners and the place was teeming with tourists.
Mcleodganj is also known as Little Lhasa is a quiet hill station in the Kangra valley nestled under the mighty Dhauladhar Range. It is a melting pot of Tibetans, monks, tourists, research students, and foreigners and is also home to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the 14th Dalai Lama.
The view from the cottage at Macleodganj was amazing providing a breathtaking view of the snow-capped peaks of the Dhauladhar. Standing near the French window holding Heinrich Harrer’s “Seven Years in Tibet”, I felt elated to be in this paradise.
A considerable time of the day was spent at Norbulingka Institute which is named after the traditional summer residence of the Lamas in Tibet. The institute is dedicated to preserving Tibetan arts and culture and also houses a training institute. The Losel Doll Museum inside the institute reminded me of the Shankar’s International Dolls Museum back in Delhi. The museum boasts a unique collection of intricately detailed dolls depicting the costumes of people representing the different regions of Tibet.
The most awaited part of my Macleodganj trip was the visit to Namgyal Monastery often referred to as “Dalai Lama’s Temple. Mcleodganj is like a miniature form of Tibet with many shops selling Tibetan handicrafts, oxidized jewelry, prayer flags,thanga paintings, and prayer wheels.
On the way to the temple, there were so many posters depicting the atrocities committed by the Chinese regime and there were signboards and posters about Tibet’s stolen child- Gedhun Choekyi Nyima,11th Panchen Lama often referred to as the world’s youngest political prisoner and also about Tibetan martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the Tibetan cause. The posters charged with layers of meaning depicted the ongoing freedom struggle movement in Tibet.
I performed “Kora’(Tibetan word for circumambulating) around the Dalai Lama complex and a sweet Tibetan lady taught my clumsy self how to prostrate properly inside the temple.Inside the complex, monks were chanting hymns and outside the main hall, there was a huge prayer wheel with the ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’” mantras. We took turns spinning the prayer wheel. Tibetans believe that turning this mantra wheel will earn them blessings equal to reciting the mantras.
It was interesting to observe the young Buddhist monks engaged in debate inside the Complex. The training looked like a hand slapping contest with the questioner challenging the arguments of the defender.
After shopping at the flea market, we went to one Tibetan restaurant and gorged on the traditional cuisine consisting of Thukpa, fried momos dipped in fiery tomato sauce, and Tibetan butter tea.
Even though the trip was an enlightening experience, I felt so much empathy for the Tibetan diaspora who were rooted out of their homeland and forced to flee to escape the atrocities of the Chinese regime.
Words are not enough to salute the perseverance and resilience of these people who still live with the hope that one day they will be able to breathe in a Free Tibet. This similar sentiment was echoed by the young and old alike whom I had met during the journey. It was a beautiful Diwali sans crackers and sweets under the comforts of Dhauladhar. Like the pappus that one sees gliding around during summer, let the dormant traveler in us be awakened to the beauty around us.