Dharamsala India in 72 photos.

Dharamsala, India

Dharamsala, India

After spending nearly 2 weeks relaxing in Manali (Magnificent Manali – 107 Photos), I headed off to Mcleod Ganj, a suburb of Dharamsala.  Dharamsala, or “spiritual sanctuary” in English is a city in the upper parts of the Kangra Valley in Himachal Pradesh and operates as the Kangra district headquarters.  Dharamsala has 12 major suburbs, including the most famous, Mcleod Ganj, home of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso and the Tibetan government in exile.

Mcleod Ganj at sunset

Mcleod Ganj taken from the road to Bhagsu

This is Mcleod Ganj, the most famous of the Dharamsala suburbs.  It’s home to the Tibetan government in exile, including the Dalai Lama.  This shot was taken on one of my many strolls to the neighboring towns of Bhagsu and Dharamkot.  Mcleod Ganj has been a famous place for backpackers for a long time.  As time goes by with major backpacker destinations, the neighboring cities tend to attract those looking for less tourists, and more peace and quiet.  Bhagsu and Dharamkot both offer that, but compared to busier places in India, even Mcleod Ganj seemed quiet to me.

Bhangsu waterfall

Bhagsunag waterfall

Typical for this region of India, the area surrounding Dharamsala is well known around the world for the beautiful trekking opportunities.  These range from short day trips like the one to Bhagsunag waterfall to the multi day treks to places like Triund and beyond.  There are many companies in town that will offer you package deals including equipment and guides for these more difficult treks.  On any trek, bring enough food and water for the duration and possibly longer.  Also consider that weather can go from hot and sunny to dark and cold really quickly.  Bring a jacket.

 

Mcleod Ganj Hostel

My home in Mcleod.

This was the guesthouse I stayed in.  I really wish I could remember the name of the place, but alas, my memories of the place are stronger than my memories of the name.  Besides offering several different rooms at great rates, this was one of the 2 dorm room style hostels I stayed in during my whole 6 months in India.  The man who owned the place, Baba Azad, was an absolute treat to be around.  We spent many afternoons just hanging out, drinking tea, and learning about each other.  His friendship was truly valued.

Indian Sadhu

Indian Sadhu

I really love the idea of sadhus.  A sadhu is someone who renounces the material world in order to find spiritual salvation.  In theory this is great and really resonates with many of my personal beliefs, but unfortunately not all of them are sincere about it.  Donning the orange robes worn by many sadhus, for thousands of years criminals have used this as a method of hiding from the law.  I’ve also heard plenty of stories of people using the sadhu path as a way of escaping the responsibility of taking care of their family.  In other words, some sadhus are just bums.

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Yuri and his motorcycle.

Motorcycles are a really common way to get around India both as a local and a foreigner.  Many people I personally know have purchased and rented bikes in the country and ridden them all over.  It offers great flexibility in your travels allowing you the freedom to go wherever a road takes you and having more control of when you do it.  The photo is of a friend of mine that I met in Vrindavan a couple of months prior.  We spent an afternoon just riding around the area seeing the sites and drinking tea.  This photo was taken while we were lost.

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Home of the Tibetan people in exile.

After the 1951 Chinese invasion of Tibet, or as referred to in China as “The Liberation of Tibet,” Tibet lost it’s autonomy.  After a failed uprising in 1959, the then government – along with HH the 14th Dalai Lama – went into exile in Dharamsala, India.  As someone who has been heavily influenced by Buddhism, it was a dream of mine to visit Mcleod Ganj where the Dalai Lama resides.

Buddhist Monks in Mcleod Ganj

Buddhist Monks in Mcleod Ganj

Everywhere you look in the area, the Tibetan influence is strong.  You can enjoy delicious thenthuk, learn about meditation and other Buddhist ideas, or volunteer with causes working with Tibetan exiles.

Dharamsala, India in 71 photos!