In all these centuries, in all its reincarnations, Dharamshala – the Pilgrim’s rest house – has unfailingly lived up to its name, welcoming tired travellers in search of spiritual bliss, providing a brief, noisy, colourful, hectic respite before the snow-clad Dhauladhar Range beckoned them onwards. Somewhere along the way, in less than 40 years, it has reinvented itself from halting station to destination. This is the end of the journey. Dense rows of brightly lit hotels with their fake Lhasa rooftops and bazaars now seem to dwarf the giant deodar pines and oaks that split it into upper and lower towns, perched like a spiritual Las Vegas on a spur of the Himalayas. And the town specially the upper half, known as McLeodganj is still celebrating its total conquest of the pilgrim’s soul.
The upper reaches of the Kangra valley are a curious mish-mash of cultures – Tibetan and Kashmiri curio shops, pizza shacks vying with Alu chaat and tandoori dhabas. Tibetan hippies and American monks, prayer gongs and Hindi film songs, Quint English and Jalandhar mod. And dominating it all, as pristine as in its original home on the other side of the Himalayas, a brand new Lhasa, temple, lama, summer palace, monasteries and all.
Things to do and see
In a little over a decade, McLeodganj was transformed into the thriving Little Lhasa of India. The meager years saw it growing with the Dalai Lama’s snowballing fame from a one shop town into a cosmopolitan centre where serious Buddhist scholars and the Dalai Lama’s International admirers rub shoulders with backpackers in search of New age entertainment.
True to the Dalai Lama’s principals of not disturbing the natural vegetation, the elegant 2 storeyed temple, called Tsuglhakhang, with its large square overlooking his palace- really a modest cottage where he lives with his beloved cats and flowers – was built without chopping a single tree. The temple in fact rest on some unusual columns which are actually trunks of deodars which are still growing, protected by adjustable iron rings.
This Stupa is a memorial to the Tibetan who died fighting in their homeland. Built in a Hybrid Indo Tibetian style, it soars definitely upwards.
Theatre, in the form of the traditional opera,is big in Tibetan culture. Tibetan who fled with Dalai Lama in 1959, certain that this art form would disappear unless they took immediate steps to preserve it, insisted on setting up TIPA, the Tibetan Institute of performing arts. With in 4 months of their arrival. Within a decade, TIPA became the centre of not only the Tibetan’s social life but of the town as well attracting hundreds of avid fans to its 10 day Shoton festival.
The church of John – in the Wilderness
This church with exquisite stained glass window depicting John the Bapatist with Jesus, was among the first buildings to be erected here by British in 1852. It is now the only surviving monument of that time.
Those who couldn’t afford to go to Kailash got their salvation by bathing in this water body.
The origin of this shrine revolves around the myth about the great fight between the demon king (Bhagsu) and the Snake God (Nag).
Experience Dharamsala & McLoedganj in a new unexplored light with Born2C Explorers program https://born2c.com/programs/programinfo/undiscovered-dharamsala