My long walks lead me several times to the abode of Dalai Lama in search of the charm that attracts thousands of people to this small town in the Himalayas. A narrow long passage and empty hallways greeted me to a prayer hall colourfully decorated like every Tibetan Monastery is. The open spaces around the prayer hall, perhaps teeming with people on some days to listen to the lectures of His Holiness, now remained silent but for the laughter of a few tourists and murmuring chants of monks passing by.
His Holiness himself was away and travelling as he normally is for most days of the year. For a moment the open surroundings of the temple appeared to have little of interest in the absence of Dalai Lama. The prayer halls were empty and I did not feel a sense of belonging that I hoped to experience in his abode. I sauntered aimlessly from one end of the temple to other,watching the few tourists who made a quick tour of the temple and the genial monks with rosaries humming their chants. A small number of devout Tibetans prostrated repeatedly in front of the prayer hall, bowing down and coming up again and again, sometime joined by western faces coming under Richard-Gere-like influence from Buddhist preachings. Many of the prostrating Tibetans appeared calm and contented, offering unrequited devotion to their spiritual leader and to the forces of the other world. But a few faces gave away a hint of anxiety and pain, perhaps towards their kins suffering from suppression in their homeland.
A small museum, curated by men who escaped from Tibet to India, tells the story and state of Tibetan People in their homeland today. The displays at the museum show images of Tibetan warriors trying to face People’s Liberation Army, images of Chinese Soldiers in the plateau, the stories of Tibetans escaping through high passes buried in snow, destroyed monasteries and forced education that children now go through.
Hot momos anyone?
Walking past the Dalai Lama Temple, stopping briefly to buy freshly baked potato momos from Tibetan Women who sold it on the street, I dragged my feet downhill to discover a circumambulation path around the temple. A small paved path went through a cedar grove behind the temple, taken by a few monks and worldly Tibetan but rarely any tourists. The quiet, green path through the slopes was decorated with brightly couloured prayer flags and painted mani-stones. A few minutes of walking, I stumbled into two monks carefully carving the stones with the sacred mantra – ‘Om Mani Padmeham,’ working the chisel slowly on the rocks and stopping occasionally for a conversation with passing monks.
Further along the path was a small place of worship next to a home for Tibetan senior citizens. In front of this were a few stupas placed haphazardly along the slopes, surrounded by a riot of colourful prayer flags that added a cheerfulness touch to the circumambulation path.
Beyond this was a thick vegetation where I spent nearly an hour looking at several birds which I had never seen before and never known their names before arriving at the gates of the temple again.