Pleasantly, my behavior during our ride from Old Manali to Mcleod Ganj was much more graceful than during my former car adventure. We were off to be present for the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday. Reservations had been made at my favorite hotel, the Pema Thang, but we were only allowed to stay for three night as the Tibetan Government in Exile had rented the whole hotel for visiting monks who had come from far and near to celebrate the auspicious day.
|My backside room at the top at Pama Thang|
|The Annex jus down the way|
|One of the views from the two hotels|
For the next 10-days we stayed on the same hill, my favorite location, at the Annex. Not as nice a hotel as Pema Thang, but with lovely Kashmiri innkeepers and a nice roof top restaurant where Jane could have a morning coffee and meet other interesting travelers.
Although, when someone speaks of the 14th Dalai Lama, they refer to his residence as Dharamshala, India, however he really resides on a large hill within the lower Himalayas in which Mcleod Ganj is nestled. His has a modest house above his temple with an Indian military outpost and a Tibetan old people’s home on the backside of his mountain enclave.
|The view of the Temple and the Dalai Lama's hill from|
my Pema Thang room
In 1959, after a major military invasion by the Chinese, at age 23, the Dalai Lama escaped from Tibet by riding with an escort through the Himalayas and arriving on the Eastern side of India in the state of Assam. All six of his escort, on their return to Lhasa, was brutally gunned down by the Chinese military. I have been told he stayed at the Black Hat sect’s of Tibetan Buddhism's Monastery of Rumtek, until he was allowed by the Indian government to set up his Tibetan Government in Exile in Dharamshala/Mcleod Ganj. This has grown into the world center for Tibetan Buddhism outside of Tibet itself. 'His Holiness' is till considered a refugee by the Indian Government and any Tibetans who join him or have joined him over the years are also are still considered refugees by India.
The Indian Government has been very protective of ‘His Holiness,’ a title he is known by in Tibet, and by his followers throughout the world. Besides the main Indian center of Tibetan Buddhism in Mcleod Ganj there is also an enormous enclave in southwest India north of Mysore. The famous Sara Monastery located outside of Lhasa has been replicated here and monks from all over the world come to study Buddhist teachings.
|The Dalai Lama's seat and dais inside the Temple|
|The Buddha Behind the Dalai Lama's seat and dais in the Temple|
Yet China, unable to control the growth, belief, and spirit of the religion both inside and outside Tibet, manipulates countries about their attitude toward the Dalai Lama. Example: recently the Dalai Lama has been refused entry into South Africa, for an international conference, a country that has large Chinese investments,
This season Jane and I were in Mcleod Ganj for the 80th birthday celebration of the Dalai Lama. The 80th year is considered an auspicious year for any individual in Tibetan Buddhism but so much more so for the Yellow Hat Sect leader of international Buddhism. On July 6th ‘His Holiness’s birthday will be celebrated by Buddhists through out the world. But here on Mcleod Ganj the celebration was held on June 21st through the 23th. The Temple was packed with well over 5000 people. Shops and restaurants closed, street stalls were empty and for three days the Tibetan Community held one big birthday party at the main Temple.
Whenever the Dalai Lama is in residence at the Mcleod Ganj Temple no cameras, or cellphones are allow, so I have no pictures of the ceremony. There are also both Indian military and his own personal armed guards to protect his holiness from assassination, yet this security is so low key one almost doesn’t notice its presence. Both one’s bag and person are searched before you may enter the temple during his presence there.
|Puting up decorations inside the temple for the big day|
|Monks practicing critical thinking in the temple courtyard|
clapping there hands together to make their point
The birthday activities consisted of birthday greetings from important India central and state government representatives, as well as international governments guests from Canada and Italy to name a few. There were Tibetan cultural dances, singers and music as well the outstanding elementary school drum and bagpipe band from the wonderful Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV – school – more about that later). During the morning events volunteers wandered among the crowd handing out Tibetan bread and pouring Butter Tea for those who wished to partake. Boxes of marvelous typical Tibetan candies were next shared with everyone as a mid morning snack. At two o’clock delicious box lunches, bottles of water and fresh mangos were given to everyone – and I mean all 50000 or more celebrates. One thing I have learned is that a Buddhist NEVER lets another go hungry.
|Outside decorations and crowds for the Dalai Lama's return from|
|Jane sitting with her Tibentan friends waiting for 'His|
Holiness" to return
|A cow who walked through before the Dalai Lama arrived|
|'His Holiness' arriving home from Australia for his birthday celebration|
The second day lasted even longer until early evening. That was the day the oracle in an elaborate costume who danced about, making mystical sounds. Soon his enormous hat gear was removed and he went into a trance and had to be lifted horizontal from the floor. Once out of that part of his trance, he spoke. He spoke for a long time. The only thing conveyed to me from his long speech, to the chagrin of the Chinese I'm sure, was that he would live another 20 or 30 years.
|A beautiful prayer wheel, typical of the wheels one finds through out the Buddhist world|
|A view of Mcleod Ganj from an opposite hillside|
Although there were celebrations on the third day, these were only for members of the Tibetan community who were also born in the Amdo, the Dalai Lama’s original home providence of Tibet. Special badges were handed out to those who could attend. ‘His Holiness’ skipped this event, but I understand from Amdo friends that they all had a very good time.
NEXT: MCLEOD GANJ, the town, TCV and NORBULINGKA
NEXT: MCLEOD GANJ, the town, TCV and NORBULINGKA