Landscape/Geography of state:
The lower Kangra valley has wide and hilly plains and is covered with tea plantations and rice and wheat fields. The upper valley is covered with pine forests, Himalayan oak, rhododendron and deodar forests. The region lies on the edge of the Dhauladhar mountain range - the Pir Panjal region of the outer Himalayas with peaks rising to 5,200 meters (17,000 feet).
Geography of Dharamsala: Dharamsala has two sections. Lower Dharamsala includes the Kotiwali Bazaar and is primarily an Indian community. Upper Dharamsala includes McLeod Ganj, where most of the Tibetan community lives, and the Tibetan Government in Exile is based.
Namesake: David McLeod,
Lieutenant Governer of Punjab
Original peoples: Gaddi tribe - a nomadic people; Dasa tribe - a warrior people
Next Settlers: The area became a British hill station in the mid-1800ís.
Tibetan Settlement: In 1959,
nearly 80,000 Tibetan refugees followed His Holiness the Dalai Lama to
Dharamsala when the Prime Minister Nehru offered the location to Tibetans
Mc Leod Ganj to Tibetan Govít in Exile:
McLeod Ganj to Baghsu:
McLeod Ganj to Dharamkot:
McLeod Ganj to Dal Lake/TCV area:
Transportation to and from Dharamsala:
Air: As of December 1999, flights from Dehli to Gaggal Airport (40 minute taxi ride to Lower Dharamsala) resumed - 5500 rupees one way
To Dehli: 10-14 hours
To Agra (via Delhi) -
To Pathankot (a major stop
over for forwarding places) -
To Varanasi(via first going
to Pathankot) - 350 rupees/2nd
To Manali - via public bus only - 110 rupees
To Bombay (via first going
to Delhi) - 350 rupees/2nd class
To Rishikesh - via public
bus from Dharamsala to Haridwar -
The bus stand. It is the center of McLeod Ganj and a spot that absolutely everyone passes through at least once per day, probably more. It is the place where people meet, where people arrive and where they leave from. The bus stand is where you get a bus, taxi or rickshaw. It is where you can buy anything from peanuts and cigarettes to the newspaper and prayer beads. To take in the atmosphere of the bus stand is to feel the pulse of this community. At any given moment you will see Tibetan monks walking to a puja, Indian men intensly chatting arm in arm, colorful sari clad Indian women doing their marketing, Tibetan men and women turning their prayer beads, children playing with each other. You also see the westerners - coming and going, taking in this stimulating culture. All of this is backdropped by the screaching of bus, taxi and rickshaw horns. All of McLeod Ganj's major roads meet at the bus stand. Jogibara Road leads to lower Dharamsala. Temple Road to the Main Temple, Tsuglag Khang. Tipa Road to the village of Dharamkot and Bhagsu Road to the village of Bhagsu. The Dharamsala Road heads down to lower Dharamsala and finally the Tushita Road to the Tibetan Childrenís Village.
Named after a 7th century temple in Lhasa, Tsuglag Khang is simple in comparison, yet still fascinating and extremely peaceful. The temple enshrines three main images: a three meter high gilted bronze stature of the Shakyamuni Buddha; one of Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion of whom the Dalai Lama is considered an incarnation; and Padmasambhava, the 8th century Indian who introduced Buddhism to Tibet. Both Avalokitesvara and Padmasambhava are facing Tibet.
The image of Avalokitesvara
has a powerful history. During the cultural revolution in China the
original Avalokitesvara image, which was in the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa,
was discarded into the streets with may other sacred Buddhist objects.
Some Tibetans managed to salvage a wrathful face and a peaceful face image
of the Avalokitesvara.
In 1967 these pieces made it to India via Nepal, having been passed through
thousands of hands in the process. In 1970, these faces were encased
in the new Avalokitesvara which stands at Tsuglag Khang. It is silver
crafted and has eleven faces, one thousand arms and one thousand eyes.
Also at Tsuglag Khang is a collection of sacred texts known as the Khagyur
and the Tengyur. The Khagyur are the direct teachings of Buddha.
The Tengyur are commentaries on the Khagyur by Indian and Tibetan scholars.
Both texts have been translated from original Sanskrit.
Every April TIPA holds an
annual Folk Opera Festival. It is an exciting time of year and many
folk operas, dance performances, plays and concerts are presented.
At other occasions TIPA also holds performances, for example during Losar,
for visiting dignitaries and other important dates.
After crossing through Nepal, refugees make their way to Dharamsala via Dehli where their first stop upon arriving is the Reception Center. Every day dozens of refugees flood the Reception Center and are given medical care, food and lodging. After spending a few weeks at the center they are directed onward to a Tibetan Settlement, often in South India.
In addition to assisting
new arrivals from Tibet, the Reception Center helps fresh refugees in their
search for employment or to enroll in school or monastaries. The
center also provides training and financial assistance to help refugees
start their own small businesses.
There are two TCV schools in the Dharamsala area. The main school, known as upper TCV, is situated on 43 acres about two kilometers away from McLeod Ganj. Here there are thirty eight homes, four hostels, a baby room, modern school building, sports grounds and a handicraft center all serving about three thousand children from infancy to age 18. Lower TCV has about one thousand children.