As our bus crawled into the misty highlands of Dharamsala, we felt like we had left India behind. The humid heat and raucous chaos were all gone, only to be replaced by cool mountain air and calm serenity. Tibetan monks stroll languidly through the town’s narrow alleys. Since China claimed Tibetan territories, the Tibet government including His Holiness the Dalai Lamai have been in exile here in Dharamsala, India. Tucked in the highlands of the Indian Himalayas, Dharamsala has a mystic air for both its heavenly location and its spiritual residents.
Poised above the main city center of Dharamsala is McLeod Ganj, the main base for Tibetans refugees and these days, hordes of tourists. The mountain station was set up by British Officer McLeod who was stationed here when the British ruled India. Today, it’s home to the largest Tibetan community outside of Tibet – naturally, you can expect to see evidence of Tibetan existence in every corner of the town.
A bright red Tibetan temple stands in the heart of McLeod Ganj, flanked by two main streets. The temple is decorated with intricate Buddhist carvings, shimmering golden figurines and praying wheels. Climbing to the rooftop of the temple, we were treated to a view of the bustling town – misty clouds hung mid-air backdropped by a shade of obscure greenery.
Tushita Meditation Center
Curious to learn more about the town’s relation with Tibetan Buddhism, we hiked up to the surrounding forest to visit the Tushita Meditation Center. The center organizes intensive meditation courses conducted by both Tibetan and Western teachers. Besides these month-long retreats, you can also sign up for short meditation classes that gives you an introduction to all forms of meditation. Non-Buddhists are welcomed to attend. His Holiness Dalai Lama even gives teachings here whenever he’s in town. Be sure to check out Tushita’s website for the schedule.
The People of Tibet
One of the most interesting places in McLeod Ganj was the Tibet Museum. It told the story of the Tibetans – how their resilience have brought them here. They’d traversed miles and overcome difficulties like frost bites and extreme weather and find home here. In their eyes, I could see determination and strength.
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