Our visit to Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, Part 1
After a long, dark car ride winding through the mountains in the middle of the night, we arrived in Dharamshala at the crack of dawn, where Tsetan’s son was waiting for us. He gave us a warm welcome and surprised us with a hot breakfast that he had prepared in the early hours of the morning! I was so touched by the effort he made to ensure that we had hot food on a freezing morning.
After we had some food and a little rest, he made Gita a very happy girl by pulling a Pomeranian puppy out of his jacket! She was excited to hear that there are a lot of dogs in the vicinity and that it was ok to pet them as they are very friendly
After a few hours of rest, he came to pick us up and we started out walk through the freezing rain and sleet to the Dalai Lama Monastery. It was quite a slippery uphill climb and for someone who hasn’t been around snowy conditions at all for about thirteen years, it was a challenge. We finally made it there and indeed it was worth the walk.
The atmosphere and energy at the Dalai Lama Temple was peaceful and serene, just what we needed after a long and arduous journey from Brisbane. Much of what I saw there reminded me of my trip to Bhutan and visits to the monasteries there. The prayer wheels and chanting carried with it a strong sense of peace and serenity. Even the monkeys in the courtyard were not aggressive and seemed to be peaceful and happy.
I think one of my favourite aspects was lighting the lamps, it reminded me of my visit to Bhutan where I did a similar ritual in a Buddhist monastery and also reminded me of some ceremonies in Mauritius. The atmosphere was very calm, healing and restorative.
We spent a couple of hours at the temple, it was a very enjoyable, and educational experience and one thing that I can definitely say is that the photos do not do it justice.
Attached to the temple is a museum dedicated to the struggle faced by the Tibetan people, including those who had crossed over into India. Even though I have had quite a bit of exposure to Tibetan people outside of Tibet and had heard stories from Tsetan’s family and several others, it was eye opening and confronting. It is said that a photo is worth a thousand words and that was definitely the case.
I opted not to take photos of the more confronting exhibits as I felt that it would have been disrespectful to those involved.
I felt deeply grateful to the government of India for allowing the Tibetan refugees to live there, after all, had they not, I never would have met Tsetan or her family.
We ended the evening with some delicious and warming Tibetan food, a perfect end to an intense couple of days!
In the next blog post, I will talk about other aspects of our visit to Dharamshala and the Kangra valley, including some delicious Himachali food!