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Himalaya

Day 36: Dharamsala and McLeodganj

Michael Palin - HimalayaPublic relations are important to the Tibetans, for McLeodganj is more than just temples and the Dalai Lama's residence. It is home to a flourishing number of enterprises, political, religious and commercial, all of which are designed to demonstrate the seriousness and competence of the government in exile. Everywhere we go we are handed well-produced information sheets by well-dressed, knowledgeable and patient young men, who do a thoroughly professional job of marketing the mysteries of Tibet. I discover a perfect example of old traditions and modern delivery when I visit the Tibetan Medical and Astrology Centre. Though there are beggars at the door, inside all is clean, whitewashed and businesslike. The ground floor is more like a warehouse, with sacks of herbs coming in and boxes of medicine going out. Upstairs the astrologers work away on quietly humming computers surrounded by the intricate Buddhist paintings on cloth that they call thangkas (pronounced 'tankers').

Outside the window prayer flags are tied to nests of satellite dishes. One sending out messages, the other receiving them.

Knowing I was coming here, I sent details of my place and time of birth to the Astrology Centre so that they could prepare a chart for me. The service costs around £50 a time and is available to anyone, as are the protective amulets that I notice they sell here (with instructions to wrap in yellow cloth and wear around the neck).

A young man, with curly dark hair, introduces himself as Phurbu Tsering, the astrologer in charge of my case. He is, like most of the young men here, neatly turned out in western style, with sports jacket, jeans and Gap shirt.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 36: Dharamsala and McLeodganj
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: McLeodganj
  • Book page no: 82

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