Thursday, September 13, 2012

Into the Buddhist Vale: Mc. Leod Ganj

There is no doubt that most of the hill stations in India; especially the ones in Himachal Pradesh bear heavy influence of the Tibiten Culture, and Buddhism. However I believe it’s fair to call Mc. Leod Ganj the best place to experience a different culture far away from what we have experienced or heard of general India (After all it’s also the capital of Buddhist under exile and home to the Dalai Lama). People know it for its Monestry and a good summer get away; however there is more and perhaps the best place to run to if frustrated of the routined city life. Movies and novels often show people running away to Tibet, or Nepal in search of inner peace. A cheaper option for cheap Indians is Mc.Leod Ganj also known as upper Dharmashala.

My visit was rather an un-predictable one; where I was expecting Mc. Leod Ganj to be like any other hill-station; though it was after having the lamb Thukpa and Tingmos (rolled breads) that I realized there is a lot more to the place. The place is inhabited mostly by Tibetans and western folks; who come down here to learn the ways of Buddhism, or understand their philosophy. Often you see them interviewing a Buddhist monk in a Cafe. ‘Free Tibet’ flags and ‘rescuing the next Dalai Lama from Chinese custody’ posters are a common sight on the streets. Perhaps one of the most spiritual experiences that I have had is that of the Monastery where devotees have their way of kneeling down, and pushing themselves forward at the altars (Just like any other Buddhist Monastery). However, something that you probably don’t observe at other monasteries in India is Monks having their debates on Buddha’s principles. I found it amusing for some reason; two monks challenging each other with intimidating gestures surrounded by a circle of onlookers. 

There are several treks one can take up from Mc. Leod Ganj; the most famous perhaps being that of the Triund peak, which offers the scenic beauty of Himachal Pradesh on one side of the range and Ice caped rock mountains on the other. Camping there is indeed an awesome experience, by a bonfire and overlooking the lights of various hill-stations in Himachal Pradesh. The trek; however does go on into the mountains to the Indrahar Pass. However due to time constraints one might leave behind the expedition, and wish that some other day he could fulfil his fantasy of taking the expedition and crossing over to Tibet on the other side.