The Himalayas of India: Ladakh and Dharamsala,
Himachal Pradesh - The Tibetan Library, Bhagsu Hike, Dalai Lama's Temple
Page 8 of 16
July - I flew down to Delhi from Leh, stopping off to buy these samosas in
the Delhi airport. But instead of chutney, I received two packages of
ketchup. Would I stoop so low, adding ketchup to these noble
samosas? The answer was yes. On the second one I tried it - wasn't as bad as I thought
I was on my way to the hill station of Dharamsala, home of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Tom had just been there, going ahead of me before heading home. I also had some friends, Rebecca and Ronny from The Tibet Connection, who were living there.
My lungs breathed in the moist oxygen-rich air of Himachal Pradesh, a large contrast from the bone-dry thin air of Ladakh. I had built up "Ladakhi Lungs", and felt good and strong in these lower elevation of only 1700m (5580 ft).
been expecting you!"
I had just walked down to the Hotel Ladies Home Venture, and Azad the Kashmiri was smiling, his head waggling. "Your friend told me that you were coming." I got a single room with attached bath for 150RS (just over four bucks) a night.
There were some surprising changes at the Ladies Home Venture, however:
#1 - There were no ladies here!!! It's run by Azad from Srinagar . Where'd the ladies go? Well, the female owner apparently is super busy with her new duties as the head of the Tibetan Association, according to happy hospitable Azad.
#2 - The trees had grown so much that they obscured what was a stunning view of the Kangra Valley.
Above, Jogibara Road near the Main Bus Stand in rainy McLeod Ganj, up the spine of the hill from Dharamsala.
walked around McLeod Ganj that evening, trying to locate my favorite Amdo
Tibetan restaurant on Jogibara, where Lisa and I ate frequently eight years
ago. I couldn't find it, and no one seemed to know about it.
I still remembered their delicious giant spring rolls and thukpa soup
with fresh handmade noodles.
Main Bus Stand, the heart of the town, with McLlos Restaurant in front, McLeod Ganj. I walked past the prayer wheels, spinning all of them while being mindful of our cat Waylon's deteriorating health. I realize that this probably wasn't how prayer wheels worked, but that's what I did anyway.
That evening, I had some dreams about Waylon. I don't remember specifics, just Lisa being upset and some things about Waylon. When I awoke, I was anxious and sad.
July - I called Lisa. Waylon, our cat, had lumps in his tail, lungs,
and neck, and was very sick. He wasn't eating much. She was
going to take Waylon to the oncologist to find out more the next day.
I went to have muesli with curd, honey and fruit at Gakyi's. I met someone from Denmark named Lis there. She volunteered at LHA, teaching Tibetans English. She invited me to go with her to see the Karmapa give his Wednesday public audience at his temple in Dharamsala. This sounded great. I had planned to walk down to the Tibetan Library and Archives, the one last place on this trip to ask for manuscripts referencing Jesus in India. But that could wait tomorrow so I could see the Karmapa.
Beforehand, Lis mentioned the Karmapa's flock of female admirers,
and sure enough, there were more than a few thirty-something women dressed
very nicely, and sometimes, rather salaciously. I had read about these 30-something
female admirers from Sarah MacDonald's "Holy Cow" book as well.
Lis and the author were correct. The temple was filled with Karmapa groupies, white women in
their 30s and 40s, some with plunging necklines. After the public
audience, several stood outside, completely still, palms pressed in prayer,
eyes shut, facing toward the temple.
Another "challenge" some young Western women in Dharamsala take up is to see if they can bed a monk, a man who has taken monastic vows of celibacy for spiritual pursuit.
And it's not uncommon to see women hooking up with long-haired Tibetans, often the ones with the high cheekbones from the Kham province. After all, what could be more romantic to a Western woman than to hook up with a wild-haired nomad who escaped over the Himalayas? And to be fair, this sort of arrangement is mutually beneficial.
|A boy monk and a soldier share a laugh outside the Karmapa Temple and what might be an unusual photo showing the interesting interactions from disparate groups of people that occur in India.|
|Monks on their way to class at the Karmapa Temple in Dharamsala.|
walking with the Karmapa Temple looming above.
Lis and I ate noodles with her two friends. We then, by taxi, searched for the OSHO retreat, which took about 45 minutes even though it was not far from the Karmapa Temple. It was on a small rural road, stretched along a beautiful stream. The grounds were peaceful, clean, and gorgeous. I appreciated the day's activities, a welcome distraction from thinking about Waylon.
|A young man from Himachal Pradesh espouses his philosophy on relationships.|
July - I grabbed a banana-chocolate cake from the First Cup Cafe near Ladies
Home Venture, where I was staying, and walked down Jogibara Road to the
Tibetan Library and Archives below. I arrived early, hanging out with
two friendly dogs while watching Tibetans circumambulate the Library due
to its many sacred manuscripts.
I met the Librarian Lobsang Shastri to ask if he knew of any manuscripts mentioning Jesus in India. He was helpful, but quickly said that there were no references to "Yeshu" or "Issa" or "Yuz Asaf". He was familiar with "Jesus Lived in India" by Holger Kersten, but dismissed the stories as "mad".
"I have never seen a reference to it here, " Lobsang said. "My friends, some scholars, were discussing this. But they have not seen it either. And they have looked." We exchanged contact information, and I thanked him and left. I had run out of "Jesus in India" things to look for.
|Looking up towards the Main Bus Stand on Temple Road, McLeod Ganj.|
walked up to Bhagsu, just 2km away from the Main Bus Stand.
I walked through the town of Bhagsu, which had grown from a small village eight years ago into a town with several very tall glass hotels, a place, along with Dharamkot, that was very popular with budget travelers and Israelis.
I saw these Hindu pilgrims along the way, chanting and ringing bells while walking up the main street in Bhagsu.
had seen Om Shanti Cave on a map of Dharamsala, located on a footpath below
Bhagsu Nag Temple, an old Shiva temple near a swimming pool fed by the
waters of the towering peaks above.
I hiked around for quite some time, eventually encountering barking dogs protecting a curious slate and concrete house built onto the lower side of a massive boulder. "Japanese?" the man at the front door said. "Korean?" "No, Chinese." "From over there?" he pointed vaguely in the direction of USA". He smiled. I hiked further, but couldn't locate the cave., a hundred miles away. "
|Unable to locate the cave, I figured I needed something else to see. I walked over to Bhagsu Falls, which I found as enchanting as I remembered from our trip eight years ago.|
had gone to the
Olympic Torch Relay in San Francisco in April. San Francisco
played host to the only North American appearance of the Olympic Torch. On
the day before this event, I accompanied four vans stuffed full of Tibetans
and Tibetan supporters to San Francisco to photograph and participate in the
protests for two days.
And the protests had continued around the world, and of course, here in Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj. Everyone realized that this was Tibet's best chance to gain some publicity for the brutal crackdown the Chinese had imposed on Tibet, turning it into a hellish military lockdown, searching homes and monasteries in the middle of the night and whisking people away.
snoozing briefly, I already felt like I had had a full day, going to the
Tibetan Library and hiking. Yet it was only 2:30 in the afternoon.
I emailed, then walked down Temple Road to the Dalai Lama's Temple.
It thundered and began raining. As I got arrived at the temple, the
skies unleashed torrents of rain. I circumambulated the temple, spinning
the prayer wheels for Waylon.
A sign in front of the shoe rack at the Dalai Lama's Temple, offering some sound advice.
The Himalayas of India: Ladakh and Dharamsala, Summer 2008
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Contact photographer/musician Ken Lee