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Named after a British governor of the province, Sir Ian Mcleod, the hill station was founded by the British in 1855, five years after they shifted their District Civil Administration Centre here from Kangra Fort. It was one of the 80 hill stations established by the British. It attracted international attention in 1960 when His Holiness the Dalai Lama, fleeing the Chinese occuptation of Tibet, made it his home and the seat of the Tibetan Government in exile. Today, Dharamsala has become the synonymous to the Tibetan government in exile. It became a Mecca for pilgrims from all over the world, both Tibetan and non-Tibetan, who come here to seek the blessings of the Dalai Lama and to study and practice Buddhist teachings. Even though, the Tibetan community dominates the town, Dharmasala retained the colonial lifestyle and British fervour.
Set against the backdrop of the dramatic Dhauladhar mountains, Dharamsala is perched on the high slopes in the upper reaches of Kangra Valley. Superb views over the Kangra Valley and Shiwaliks, and of the great granite mountains that almost overhang the town. The colourful temples and gompas which reflect the culture of Tibet are added attractions for the tourists. Dharamsala over looks the plains and is surrounded by dense pine trees and Deodar forests. A nearby snowline with numerous streams makes the surroundings very attractive.
The climate here is very pleasant during summer and in
winter the temperature reaches below freezing point. Dharmsala is well
suited for trekking also. Numerous ancient temples like Jwalamukhi, Brijeshwari
and Chamunda also lie on the plains below Dharamsala.
St. John's Church
Dalai Lama Temple Complex
The Dalai Lama temple complex is on Temple road. It is just a short walk from the Mcleod Ganj bus stand in upper Dharamsala. The temple complex is open daily, from sunrise to sunset. The complex houses the Namgyal Monastery , the main temple Tsug-Lag-Khang smaller shrine, Dalai Lama’s residence and administrative offices. The Dalai's Lama's Residence is opposite Tsug-Lag-Khang about a 10 mt walk from McLeod Ganj. His Holiness regularly receives visitors for public audiences. For an appointment for a private audience with the Dalai Lama, reserve advance to The Office of Tibet, 241 E 32nd Street, New York, NY- 10016. There is also a small café and a guesthouse in this complex.
Tsug-Lag-Khang (Central Cathedral)
It is the main temple of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Each March, the Dalai Lama gives 10 days of free public teachings at Tsug-Lag-Khang. For this no need to register in advance. One can see a sand mandala in progress. A collection of sacred texts, direct teachings of Buddha etc can be seen here. In this temple one can see impressive statue of Shakamuni Buddha, Padmasambhava ( the Indian yogi who introduced Buddhism to Tibet)n and Avalokitesvara or Chenresig, of whom the Dalai Lama is considered to be the current emanation. Note that visitors should remove shoes and walk clockwise around the temple and past the chorten (prayer wheels) before sitting down.
Next to the Tsulagkhang is a temple devoted to the Kalachakra. This temple is decorated with frescos depicting 722 deities of the mandala, Shakamuni Buddha, and the central Kalachakra image. The frescos were completed by a team of painters over a period of three years under the direction of the Dalai Lama and three master painters. Along the walls and columns of the temple are many traditional Tibetan Thangka paintings.
Named after the summer residence, built by the Seventh Dalai Lama in 1754, the Norbulinka Institute was established to preserve Tibetan Art and literature in exile. It trains refugee Tibetans to use authentic methods, tools and materials. The beautifully landscaped grounds include a temple, a museum, a shop and a guest house. It is located in the valley below Dhamasala and can be reached by bus or taxi.
It is a memorial to the Tibetans who died fighting in their homeland. It is built in a hybrid Indo-Tibetan style.
Founded by the Third Dalai Lama 'Sonam Gyatso' in 1575, the Namgyal Monastery is a tantric college that performs rituals for his Holiness. Located next to the Central Cathedral in McLeod Ganj, the monastery is a home to more than 180 monks, who perform prayers and rituals of all the major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Ph: 01892-221492.
Tibetan Library and Museum
It houses good range of books, magazines and photocopying
facilities. Visitors can attend lectures and classes on Tibetan culture
Just below the Tibetan library is the Nechung Monastery. It is the seat of the State Oracle of Tibet. The oracle plays a key role in the search for incarnations of each Dalai Lama.
Dolma Ling Nunnery
Located just behind the Norbulinka Instistute in the valley below lower Dharmasala, this is the base for the Tibetan Nuns Project which provides housing and education for over 350 refugee nuns who have fled persecution and torture in Tibet. Volunteer opportunities are available.
Chamunda Devi Temple
A 700 years old temple, Chanmunda Devi temple is a famous temple in Dharmasala. It is also a scenic spot with glorious views of the Dhauladhar mountains, the Baner Khud, Pathiar and Lahla forests. It is located at a distance of 15 km from15-km from Dharamshala in a tiny village of Dadh on Palampur road. Dedicated to Goddess Durga or Chamunda Devi, the temple has a 'Kund' (pond) in it. Devotees coming to the temple take a holy dip in the Kund usually. Because of its sacred importance, the main deity of the temple is not accessible by the visitors. At the back of the temple is a cave-like scoop where one can see Shiva Lingam. Apart from this temple, there is an Ayurvedic dispensary which provides medical treatments, library and a Sanskrit college run by the temple trust are situated in this complex. The library houses old manuscripts, astrology books, Hindu philosophy, Vedas, Puranas, Upnishads, Sanskrit and History. From here, one can buy books on reasonable rates. The Temple trust organizes free classes on Vedas and Puranas.
Dal Lake is 11 km from Dharamsala. One of the famous attraction in Dharmsala, the lake is considered as a sacred to locals. The lake has a small Shiva temple on its banks. It is a common belief that the dip in this holy lake will bring blesses of Lord Shiva. Surrounded by deep green Deodar forests, the annual fair held every year in September on the banks of the Lake is a major attraction to the tourists. It also serves as a best base camp for trekkers in Dharamsala and Mcleod Ganj.
Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA)
About a 15 minute walk from McLeod Ganj, TIPA gives
public performances of the musical, dance and theatrical traditions of
Tibet. It also conducts a 10-day Annual Shoton Festival which includes
performances by TIPA.