Friday, September 20, 2013

The Land of the Dalai Lama, Weird T-Shirts, Yoga & Meditation in McLeod Ganj

The sun was shying down with its last rays drawing a weak shadow over the ever dominant Dhauladhar Mountains. I have seen this sight more than enough but I have never been this captivated by sun’s light works over the majestic mountains. Maybe it was because, I know that it will be months or even years before I step foot in the land of the Dalai Lama.

Bhagsu Waterfall

McLeod Ganj was established as a cantonment/ a summer retreat by the British Raj, though the Raj have left the country it still is a Military Training Camp and a popular weekend getaway spot from Delhi, Haryana and Punjab. This tiny heaven was awakened by hordes of Tibetan fleeing their country after the failed uprising of 1959 against the Communist Party of China. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama took asylum in the magnificent Dhauladhar Range along with his entourage. The Dalai Lama established the Government of Tibet in exile in 1960, making McLeod Ganj his official residence. Today, it’s known as ‘Little Lhasa’ and from the many posters of Lhasa hanging in almost all the restaurants and Tibetan owned business here, it does look like a miniature version of Lhasa.

Namgyalma Stupa

 Strolling through the streets of McLeod Ganj, it’s almost impossible to ignore, how much the Tibetans are hungry for freedom. The amount of t-shirts, bags, blankets, posters and even smoking pipes and bongs with ‘FREE TIBET’ on it makes it more evident that they are dying for a revolution that will set them free. Some shops have picture of that guy who set himself on fire in New Delhi as a protest against the visit by the Chinese president. Everything in this small settlement screams of freedom, to live in their country without someone controlling their sovereignty, which I believe is everyone’s right.

Monastery Inside Namgyalma Stupa

As I try to recline my seat, I can’t stop thinking whether I have I seen it all here or did I miss anything out?  But the loud Bollywood songs coming from the mobile phone two seats behind me, the giggling of the newly married couples right next to my seat  and  the smell of the jasmine hair oil from the newly bride won’t let me concentrate. I’ve trekked all the way up to Triund, explored the entire town on foot, visited the main Tibetan Monastery, took a cab down to Namgyalma Stupa and even saw a guy slipping to the pool right below the Bhagsu waterfall but something kept on bugging me that I have missed out something.

View of Triund 

I have never been that much into mediation, in fact I’ve always considered mediation as something where you learn how to sleep sitting but then I meet this software engineer from New Delhi who took a ten days mediation course in a Tibetan Monastery. Looking at him, I can sense that he was in peace with himself. I can make it out from his eyes and his voice, though I have not ruled out the idea that he might be a good faker or a really good actor. As he told how amazing the whole experience was, people from different walks of life, from different parts of the globe signing up for peace, answer to problems, plus some hippies just because it’s ‘very Exotic Eastern’ or may be to spread their smell to the area.

View of McLeod Ganj from Upper Dharamkot

The ten days journey to peace as according to him was eye opening and it was not an easy task to achieve. Complete silence for ten days, no smoking, alcohol or any kind of recreational drugs, though smokers were allowed to go off the monastery for a quick smoke. Restriction was not only on how one behaves but also on diet. Meals were boiled or steamed, no meat, no spice nor oil and it does make sense as diarrhea and constipation would make the whole silent meditation concept almost impossible.


Talking to him about the whole ten days experience kept me thinking; maybe I need something like this in my life, maybe this is why I feel like I’ve missed something here in McLeod Ganj because I’ve seen thousands of flyers and posters advertising about yoga and meditation. Maybe I needed this but that was when reality kicked in like a mother. I have a job and bills to pay. If I think with a clear mind, 99% of my problems can be solved with money. I don’t need meditation, I need money and my only solution is to work hard.

Yeah, I did really left something up there, my underwear and a shirt in the hotel.