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Himalaya

Day 36: Dharamsala and McLeodganj

Himachal Pradesh, India 
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Country life in Himachal Pradesh. Rich land, poor farmers.
Michael Palin - HimalayaIt's six o'clock in the morning and the first streaks of light are in the sky as we drive along the narrow streets of Dharamsala and continue up the road that climbs through pine, oak and rhododendron woods to the less mellifluous sounding village of McLeodganj. ('Ganj' means market and McLeod, presumably, was a Scotsman.) To complicate matters, this place with a Hindu-Scots name is filled with Tibetans.

The reason they're here is that the Chinese, having invaded Tibet in 1949, began to consolidate their political power by eliminating any opposition. In 1959 this resulted in an uprising in Lhasa, which was put down with such force that, fearing for his life, the Dalai Lama, leader of Tibetan Buddhism and Head of State, decided to flee his country.

He crossed the Himalaya into India and in a brave gesture of generosity, Prime Minister Nehru gave him sanctuary and later a more permanent home in Dharamsala. (Many other countries would have had misgivings about what this would do to their relations with China.) Chinese oppression of Buddhists is less virulent now than it was at the height of the Cultural Revolution, but they have tightened their economic and political hold on Tibet and 44 years after his flight, the Dalai Lama, and the Tibetan government, remain in exile.

We're up this early to catch a dawn ceremony at the Lhagyal Ri Temple, just a short walk down the hill from the monastery where the Dalai Lama now lives.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 36: Dharamsala and McLeodganj
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Dharamsala
  • Book page no: 79

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