Delhi to Dharamshala by bus
This was my first trip from Delhi to Dharamshala and was a little bit excited as had heard a lot about Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj and the Bhagsunag Waterfall. Dharamshala, home to the Dalai Lama and Tibetan government in exile, is now became one of most irresistible destination for me.
My journey started from the Maharana Pratap Inter State Bus Terminus, popularly known as Kashmere Gate ISBT where I took my bus to Dharamsala. It was a HRTC bus and was much comfortable to travel with, I already had booked my ticket from redbus so didn’t faced any difficulties in finding a suitable seat for me. I was earlier told by a few friends that check-in time in all the hotels in dharamshala is 12:00 noon, so I preferred a late night bus which was departed at 10:25 pm from Delhi. The bus took two stops during the journey. The first one was for the dinner near Murthal & another was somewhere at around 6:00 am for the tea.
After the tea break, I was almost awake and was looking at the beautiful snow covered mountains, standing tall in front of me. A beautiful morning breeze was welcoming me, and I was already feeling like in heaven as I was taking in much polluted air a few hours ago. My journey from Delhi to Dharamshala took almost ten hours and I reached Dharamshala at 9:00 am.
Dharamshala to McLeod Ganj
As soon as I reached Dharamshala bus stand, I found a bus to McLeod Ganj already there waiting for the passengers, but as I made a few friends on the way from Delhi, we all decided to take a taxi to McLeod Ganj and shared the fare. The journey from here was like a dream come true. It was a sunny day but still the morning cool breeze is rubbing my face gently. The mountains now feels to be more closer as we ascend to the beautiful town of McLeod Ganj across the twisting roads. I checked into my hotel room there which was next to the main McLeod Ganj square.
It was my first day so decided to spend some time in the local market or take some walk around. The hotel staff was much friendly and soft spoken so I asked them about the places to visit around. After my breakfast I started my walk to the beautiful Dharamkot village, the path was much shady and covered with pines on either side. In the evening I walked to the famous Buddhist Temple and the bazaar that was on either side of road located in McLeod Ganj itself. For the next day, the hotel guys booked a taxi for me which took me to places around.
Places to visit in McLeod Ganj
It’s easy to find your way around McLeod Ganj. At its northern end, the road up from the lower town arrives at a small square that serves as the bus stand. Roads radiating from here head south to the Dalai Lama’s Residence and the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, northeast to the village of Dharamkot, and to the Tibetan Children’s Village next to Dal Lake, and east to the of Bhagsu.
The Dalai Lama’s Residence (Temple Road)
The Dalai Lama settled temporarily in McLeod Ganj in 1960, and his Residence on the south edge of town has now become his permanent home in exile. In front of the private enclosure lies Dharamshala’s main Buddhist temple, Tsug Lakhang, shelters images of Sakyamuni (the historical Buddha), Padmasambhava (who introduced Buddhism to Tibet) and Avalokitesvara (the bodhisattva of compassion) seated in meditation postures, surrounded by offerings from devotees. After paying homage to the Buddha inside, devotees complete a Kora, a circumambulation of the temple complex (clockwise, starting at the trailhead below the monks’ quarters), turning the numerous prayer wheels to send prayers out in all directions. Every afternoon monks from the nearby Namgyal monastery hold fierce but disciplined debates in the courtyard opposite the temple.
Dharamkot is the starting point for walks to Triund (2975m) and treks over the high passes to the Chamba Valley. Taking a path down through the wooded slopes north of Dharamkot brings you to the small, murky Dal Lake. It stands behind the Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV), a huge complex providing education and training in traditional handicrafts for around two thousand students, many of whom are orphans or have been brought to safety by parents who have returned to Tibet. To the south, the creeping development has almost joined the village to the upper reaches of Bhagsu.
Bhagsu Road heads east from McLeod Ganj’s main square, skirting the hillside for 2km before reaching the village of Bhagsu with its ancient Shiva temple. The last few years have seen big changes here, with the construction of several hotels catering primarily for the domestic tourist market. However, it’s still a pleasant enough place, with a few cafés near the temple complex. Beyond the temple a path winding up the slopes of a small stream up to a waterfall.
Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts
The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts was founded in 1959 to preserve the Tibetan identity in exile. Around 150 people live on its campus, in the forests above McLeod Ganj overlooking Bhagsu, including artists, teachers, musicians and administrators. The TIPA troupe perform traditional lhamo operas, which derive from ancient masked dance dramas, and have played a morale-building role at Tibetan refugee camps throughout India, while also sharing Tibet’s cultural heritage with international audiences. Visit its office for information on upcoming events and tours.
The Norbulingka Institute
Located 8km from Dharamshala, near the village of Sidpur. The Norbulingka Institute, is dedicated to preserving literary and artistic Tibetan culture.
The complex of Tibetan-style buildings, built in 1985, is set amidst peaceful Japanese gardens, and centres on the two-storey Deden Tsuglakhang temple, which houses 1173 images of the Buddha and frescoes of the fourteen Dalai Lamas in the upper gallery. The gilded copper statue of Sakyamuni in the hall downstairs is the largest of its kind outside Tibet. Elsewhere in the complex, the Losel Doll Museum shows colourful dioramas packed with traditionally clothed dolls.
Overall it was a nice experience traveling in this beautiful town of Himachal Pradesh. The people here are as friendly as the climate is. Despite month of the April, I had to take blanket in the night and fans are a complete no at this time.
photo credit: deepgoswami McLeod Ganj: Dharamshala via photopin (license)