Sunday, 28 March 2010

Mcleod Ganj

Named after a former Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, David Mcleod, who established a British garrison here in the mid-1850s, it's now famously the home of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile.
Thursday 25 March: Luckily I get the last available room in the pleasant Om Hotel (there is, of course, no place like Om!) and visit Tse Chok Ling Monastery just below the hotel before exploring the village's twin main streets.
I'd been on a spending spree in Shimla: compact battery charger, immersion heater, tin cup, reading glasses and now I pick out my first
souvenir of the trip, a plain vest - maroon in colour in empathy with the flowing robes of the Buddhist monks.
A dinner of fried mutton momo and locally produced cider makes a welcome change from Indian fare. Momo is a Tibetan dish - like little filo pastry pasties filled with minced lamb - delicious. I'm not going to starve in Tibet.
Friday 26: Dalai Lama temple is top of my list and from the balcony I get my first ever glimpse of the snow-streaked high Himalayas. The temple complex is modern but has prayer wheels, monks quietly chanting mantras and
in the courtyard some debating furiously with much stamping of feet and loud clapping to bring home a point. I'm surprised to realise I've been smiling the whole time - I'm happy to be in such a heart-warming place.
Next is the Tibet Museum. There's not much to see but it
tells the tragic story of the 'liberation' of Tibet during the madness of the 'cultural revolution' and subsequent Chinese repression and atrocities against the people of Tibet. By demolishing monasteries, imprisoning and torturing Buddhists and using financial incentives to flood Tibet with Han Chinese the Beijing Government are effectively making one of the world's more interesting and peace-loving cultures extinct. I return after lunch to see an American documentary Red Flag Over Tibet (1995) which graphically illustrates the same sad theme. The Han influx has made ethnic Tibetans a minority in their own country and Lhasa has been rebuilt, in concrete, glass and steel, Chinese style.
Saturday 27:
Today I visit The Tibetan Library and adjoining temple then later join the Buddhist pilgrims on a clockwise circuit of the Dalai Lama complex. Prayer flags everywhere and I'm delighted to discover little Tsangpa Monastery and a seemingly endless parade of colourful prayer wheels.
Sunday 28: The aptly named St John in the Wilderness church is the last remnant of the Raj here and there is memorial to James Bruce, Earl of Elgin and, Viceroy and Governor General of India.
I'm glad I came to Mcloed before heading over the mountains to Tibet. But I'm not finished with India yet, there are still a handful of places I want to see.
Photos of Mcleod Ganj.
Overnight bus to Shimla, train down to Kalka and on to Delhi for the sleeper train to . . . Bhopal.