October 16, 2006

Dharamasala, McLeod Ganj, Norbulinka Institute (Tibetan Buddhist)

Our destination today was Dharamasala to visit the residence of the Dalai Lama (leader of Tibetan Buddhists).

We passed by the Palampur tea estates and stopped at a stand by the side of the road. This area was not set up for tourists as in Coimbature. We admired a few tea and chicory plants before buying a small quantity of tea (which turned out to taste like mowed grass and was promptly given away).

We then visited the Chamunda Mata temple devoted to the Hindu Goddess Chamundi Devi. The approach to the temple was spotless, with rows of stores each with neat piles of offerings. We witnessed an aggressive monkey who grabbed a bag of edible offerings from a woman. The monkey scattered the goods and a group of monkeys pounced on the food. The temple itself was located on a river making it very peaceful.

We made a quick stop at the Chinmaya mission where Kris's aunt and mother have spent time in retreats.

Finally, we reached the residence of the Dalai Lama (exiled from Tibet in 1960) and temple which are actually in McLeod Ganj (770 meters). There was a group of noisy teenagers who somewhat spoiled the ambience and many of the statues in the temple were covered. I did enjoy spinning the prayer wheels and absorbing the good fortune they have to offer.

We had a pleasant lunch and terrific views from the upstairs terrace of a restaurant in town.

Our last stop for the day was Norbulinka Institute – dedicated for preservation of Tibetan culture. The shop contained beautiful crafts but were too expensive in our opinion. The cafĂ© had nice tea and cake. The real highlight was the Losel Doll museum. It was surprisingly informative and we recommend it highly.

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