Dharamsala or Dharamshala is a small town where the Central Tibetan Administration Headquarters is situated. It is situated in Himachal Pradesh state, India.
McLeod Ganj town, Central Tibetan Administration Headquarters and Hill station in Dharamsala – Image Courtesy : Wikimedia
Dharamsala is beautiful hill station at an average altitude of 1,457 meters or 4780 feet above sea level, with snow-capped Himalayas as the backdrop. It is is at a distance of 18 kilometers from Kangra, the district head quarters.
History About Central Tibetan Administration
Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama, established Dharamshala as his residence and the headquarters of the ‘Central Tibetan Administration’, the Tibetan government in Exile, after his exile from Tibet, following the 1959 Tibetan uprising. The headquarters was initially at Mussoorie and was shifted to Dharamsala in 1960. The 14th Dalai Lama and thousands and thousands of his Tibetan Buddhist followers in exile were allowed to establish their base in Dharamsala by India. To teach their children about teachings of Buddha and to impart them with their Language, culture, religion, history, etc, his holiness the Dalai Lama established schools in the region. HH Dalai Lama (HH denotes His Holiness) also helped those in exile in agricultural settlement.
Central Tibetan Administration in McLeodGanj is situated just above Dharamsala town. McLeod Ganj is the most famous tourist destination at Dharamsala. It is also known as “Little Lhasa“. Lhasa is the administrative capital of Tibet.
Other than the schools on Buddhist teachings, they also undertake development projects for the welfare of Tibetan’s health, cultural and economic development. Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts was established in the year 1959 and Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies was established as the primary university for Tibetan higher education in India. Many of the monasteries and nunneries were re-founded by the Dalai Lama.
Places to visit in Dharamshala
Dalali Lama’s Residence inside Tsuglagkhang Complex at McLeod Ganj
Tsuglagkhang Complex contains the residence of the 14th Dalai Lama and a Tibetan Museum.
There is a massive statue of Lord Buddha inside the complex, along with other statues.
Kora is the act of walking around the Tsuglagkhang complex in clock-wise direction. It offers splendid view of the temple.
The complex is open from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Namgyal Gompa alias Dalai Lama’s Temple (Dalai Lama’s residence)
Namgyal Gompa alias Dalai Lama’s Temple is the official residence (Photang) of the His Holiness Dalai Lama.
Anybody can go inside Namgyal Gompa (monastery), irrespective of religion. Only condition is you need to keep silence. This monastery is the personal monastery of the Dalai Lama. It is also known as Namgyal Tantric College.
If you are lucky, you may come across Dalai Lama, during public teachings. Its free of cost. If you want to listen to the Teachings of Dalai Lama in person, you need to register months in advance. He teachings here are in Tibetan language.
In May 2011, Dalai lama his holiness has retired from political responsibilities. These responsibilities were transferred to the Central Tibetan Administration.
You can see the some of the monks debating in groups, normally in the afternoons. There are around 200 monks at this gompa.
There are a lot of prayer bells (in the shape of barrels) all around this Buddhist temple or gompa . You need to turn it clockwise, to get the effect of reciting that prayer. Don’t stop prayer, when the wheel is turning.
There is also a Tibetan museum inside Tsuglagkhang complex.
The Tibetan museum shows photos and videos of Chinese invasion of Tibet. At 3 p.m, there is a documentary. This Museum is closed on Mondays.
Dal Lake Near McLeod Ganj
Dal Lake near McLeod Ganj is considered as a sacred lake by many. It is believed that bathing in this lake washes one of his or her sins.Hence it is known as Poor man’s Kailash. (Pilgrims of several religions in India believe that going to Mount Kailash on foot will bring good fortune.)
View point is at around two or three kilometers from the above mentioned Dal lake.
St. John in the Wilderness Church
St. John in the Wilderness Church or St. John Church, is one of the oldest churches, on the way to McLeod Ganj. It was built in 1852. It is a CNI (Church of North India) church.
The massive Kangra earthquake of 1905 destroyed the church bell tower. (This earthquake killed an estimated 19,800 people.) A new bell was cast in 1915 , which was brought from England and was installed outside the church.
Graveyard of Lord Elgin, who served as the Governor-General & Viceroy of India, can be seen here.
Dharamsala Cricket Stadium
Dharamsala Cricket Stadium is the world’s top most high altitude cricket stadium.
Kangra Fort is believed to be the oldest dated fort in India. It is the largest fort in the Himalayas, for sure. It is at around 20 kilometers from Dharamsala, at Kangra. It is on the outskirts of Dharamsala.
Dharamsala Volunteering Work
Opportunities for volunteering work among Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala is available. Lha Charitable Trust is the pioneers in this field, working among the Tibetan refugees at Dharamsala, from 1997 on-wards. Skilled and unskilled individuals can work here as a volunteer, directly with Lha Charitable Trust.
How Do I Go To Central Tibetan Administration HQ and Hill Station Town of Dharamsala?
There are frequent night buses from New Delhi, Chandigarh, Shimla, etc, to Dharamsala.
Dharamsala-Kangra Airport at Gaggal (IOTA code is DHM) serves as the link between Dharamsala and the rest of the world for air travelers The airport is also called Gaggal Airport.
The nearest rail head on the broad gauge railway network (and nearest major rail-head) of Indian railways is Pathankot. The nearest rail head is ‘Chamunda Marg’, on a narrow gauge railway line, in Mandi District of Himachal Pradesh state.
How Do I Go To Dharamsala from Delhi?
Manju Ka Tila, a Tibtan colony in Delhi, is one of the starting point of buses to Dharamsala. There are many Air conditioned Volvo buses from here.
Bedi Travels is one of the top rated buses to Dharamsala from Delhi. They also operate buses to other places in Himachal Pradesh.
The Divine Hima, a Botique luxary Hotel
The Divine Hima is a luxury boutique hotel with a cafe and an art gallery at Dharamshala. They have some of the best wines, too. The room tariff for 3 nights and 4 days (package), on a twin sharing basis, is Rs 59000. The Divine Hima is situated a little away the town. But is worth the salt.