A brief introduction about Dharamsala
Dharamsala is a tiny hill town in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, barely 28 sq km in area. It is surrounded by dense pine and deodar forests, small rivers and streams. The spectacular snow-capped 400 m high Dhauladhar range (meaning 'White Mountain'), overlooks the town and the entire valley.
Dharamsala is divided into two parts:Upper Dharamsala and Lower Dharamsala. Upper Dharamsala is at an altitude of nearly 1900 m. It comprises McLeod Ganj, Forsyth Ganj and Gangchen Kyishong.
Upper Dharamsala is sometimes called 'Little Tibet' or 'Little Lhasa' & because it is very Tibetan in character. McLeod Ganj is internationally known as the headquarters of the Tibetan Government in Exile, and the place where His Holiness, the Dalai Lama resides. In 1959, when the Dalai Lama fled Tibet along with hundreds of Tibetans and sought refuge in India, Jawaharlal Nehru, India's prime minister at the time, allocated the Kangra Valley to the exiles. The Dalai Lama resides in McLeod Ganj in Dharamsala.
The city of McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala
McLeod Ganj was originally inhabited by the semi-nomadic Gaddi tribe. Even today in the villages around McLeod Ganj, there are a considerable number of Gaddi families. They run hotels and restaurants, or sell their art and handicrafts to tourists. Many work for the government. There are plenty of restaurants run by Tibetan families, where one can have Italian, Thai, Japanese or Indian food, or the traditional Thupka (noodle With soup) and Tsampa (roasted barley flour) with salted butter tea. The small, restaurants have carom boards so one can snack on momos, doughnuts or cookies and, sip tea or hot chocolate while playing a game of carom.
The most important Buddhist monument in McLeod Ganj is Tsuglag Khang , the temple opposite the Dalai Lama's residence. It is called the 'Main Temple'. In it is enshrined an enormous 3-m high gilt statue of the Shakyamuni Buddha . To its right, facing Tibet, are the statues of Avalokitesvara or the Buddha of Compassion, of whom the Dalai Lama is the current emanation, and Padmasambhava , the Indian guru who helped to spread Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century.
Other places to see around Dharamsala
The Dalai Lama's presence brings tourists and volunteers from all over the world.
Scholars and research students from over 30 countries study at the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, which offers regular classes in Buddhist philosophy and the Tibetan language. Established in 1971, it is a repository for ancient Tibetan cultural objects, books and manuscripts.
The Church of St.John in the Wilderness is an old stone church in Forsyth Ganj, built in 1852, soon after the British annexed Kangra region. It was one of the few edifices that survived the great earthquake of 1905 that almost demolished Dharamsala.
Lower Dharamsala is at an altitude of around 1250 m. Kotwali bazaar is located here and other areas which are spread down the valley further. There are not many Tibetans here. The local Paharis who have been farmers for generations, lead simple lives growing rice and corn, and rearing goats and cows.
How to reach Dharamsala
By road from Delhi: there is a regular bus service from Delhi and the journey to Dharamsala takes about 1-3 hours.
By rail: the nearest railway station is Pathankot. From here it is a four to five hour journey by road to Dharamsala. Buses ply regularly between the two places. Taxis also available.
I was not aware of Dharmasala. Your simple good article enlightened my knowledge about Dharmasala, the abode of Dalai Lama.
Hi even I will say that I was really not aware of the place and prior to this article I used to think that there is nothing special about this place; but your simple article have changed my view and now I do feel like going to Dhramsala; I wish someday I will Abel able to visit the place.