When one is in the town of McLeod Ganj which is in the Kangra Valley district of Himachal Pradesh there are two places that one should not miss out on visiting. The first is the Dalai Lama Temple and the other one is the Tibetan Museum both of which are in the Dalai Lama temple complex.
The complex is just a short 15 minute downhill easy walk along Temple Road from Mall center which is just about the Mcleod Ganj bus stand in upper Dharamsala.
The Dalai Lama Temple complex is open daily, from sunrise to sunset, and visitors are welcome to explore the peaceful ambiance of the surroundings. Outside the main gates there are a lot of cars parked and also a huge number of people gathered during the day and also hawkers selling street food.
Just as one enters through the main gate one will notice a few Lamas sitting with a table outside at a counter for donations. There are also a few shops selling Tibetan books and also t-shirts one will also notice a few black pillars which are in honor of the Tibetan martyrs who laid their life down for a free Tibet. Just outside the entrance to the temple one will have to go through a mandatory security check for safety reason since the interior of the temple is also the residence of the 14th Dalai Lama.
It is very unlikely that one will even get a chance to get a glimpse of the Dalai Lama near his own residence as he his busy with his political and spiritual duties. In the compound of the temple, one will see a lot of children running around and playing all through the day. There are also a few monks and nuns who meditate in the compound.
Once one enters the main part of the temple one will notice thousands of people sitting on the floor praying and chanting with their prayer beads, prayer wheels or from their books. Tourists are allowed to join in the prayers or walk around and have a look at the unique sculptures and artwork in the temple while the monks and locals are busy in their chants and meditation. But in many places inside the temple photography is not allowed of the sculptures and it’s best if one respects that rule.
The main prayer wheel is located in the center of the temple which is gold plated and is filled with thousands of Avalokiteshvara mantras “Om Mani Padme Hum” and by turning the wheel in the clockwise direction one earns merits equal to the recitation of the mantras filled inside the wheels. This temple was built in 1989 and inaugurated by the Dalai Lama himself. One can join local residents for a meditative walk around the temple complex. Along the way, you will see many prayer flags and “mani” stones.
The Tibetan Museum which is just adjacent to the Dalai Lama temple was inaugurated by the 14th Dalai Lama himself on the April 30th, 2000. The museum is open six days a week from 9am to 5pm and closed on Mondays. There is an entrance fee of Rs5 to enter. The museum displays the enormous cultural wealth of Tibet and also the struggle that their people in Tibet are facing since the Chinese have invaded and taken over their homeland.
There are many escape stories of many of the Tibetans who have managed to escape from Tibet by walking over the snow capped Himalayan Mountains and come to safer places like Nepal and India the most famous of them all being that of the 14th Dalai Lama himself.
There are also many sculptures that depict the pain and trauma that the people in Tibet are going through. What will strike one the most is the uniform that one of the Tibetan prisoners wore while he was tortured by the Chinese in prison. On display is also some of the torture instruments used. There is also a small theater within the museum which plays documentaries that make people aware about the struggle in Tibet.
A visit to the Dalai Lama Temple complex is truly worth every second spent there. One gets to know a lot about the struggle in Tibet, about the way of life of the Tibetan people and about their religion.
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