I admit I knew that the Dalai Lama and a large part of the Tibetan Buddhist community had not lived in Tibet for years. The sad history of exile, to which the Tibetan Buddhists were forced following a severe and unjust policy by the Chinese government, is now known throughout the world. But only a couple of years ago I discovered that there was a place in India that became famous for being the home of the Dalai Lama, as well as the seat of the Tibetan government in exile.
This place is Dharamsala, a small town located in the Kangra Valley, in the state of Himachal Pradesh, in northern India. A city that before the arrival of the Dalai Lama’s followers was a fairly unknown place, but which is now known as Little Lhasa and is one of the most important centers for the study of Buddhism and the history of Tibet.
Dharamsala has a lower part where it centers the historic center and a more typical Tibetan high, here is the village of McLeod Ganj, the residence of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile.
Dharamsala and McLeod Ganji have now become tourist spots, where there are even a couple of fast foods, which I could not believe. It is fair to say that here you breathe a very different atmosphere from other parts of India. In fact, it does not seem to be still in the subcontinent, especially for the kitchen and the physiognomy of the people. And it is curious to see people with more Chinese / Mongolian traits who wear not with kurta but with typically Tibetan clothes. As it is also curious to come across monks who walk or shop. Listen to Tibetan music rather than Indian music!
It is here, at Mc Leod Ganji, that I tasted for the first time the Momo, ravioli stuffed with vegetables or meat, typical of the Tibetan cuisine, from which I soon became an employee. Fortunately, (although at that time I did not know yet), shortly after I went to Nepal, home of the Momo, and this great street food became a daily delicacy!
In this part of the world, from these altitudes onwards, we will often hear about Little Tibet.
Dharamsala is, in fact, a strategic point as it is the point of arrival or departure of the road to Manali and Ladakh, the real and the only Little Tibet! But even in Nepal, the Tibetan culture is imbued in the territory, in its people and its culture. And in Nepal, you will often hear about Tibet and Bhutan.
Returning to Dharamsala, it is surrounded by large coniferous and cedar forests and from here numerous trekking routes start, such as the Triund Trek. It is a path that will take away all day long, quite easy even if long, but much depends on the weather conditions. When I walked the Triund, as we climbed we found snow, even 2030 cm high and this did not facilitate the climb, but especially the descent with the snow that had melted in the sun.
I recommend visiting these areas in the spring for several reasons; first of all, the cold temperatures that are recorded, but also if you go from these parts to follow yoga courses or meditations of various kinds. Many places, shops, various centers are in fact closed during the low season, especially in Dharamcot, where I was a friend of a friend.
Since, for all things, there is the downside of going out of season, it will be possible to enjoy a little ‘quieter and run into less tourist and observe the lives of the inhabitants when the season is not open yet.