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July 25, 2008

Dharamsala da Magic

The name Dharamsala has a tinge of magic about it. As a town, there is nothing exceptionally special about it but seen differently, the entire region including the town, Mcleodganj, Bhagsu Nag temple and Chamundi Devi mandir has a special charm about them. The town itself may just be a stopover for many on their way to Mcleodganj, but the quaint old time charm it exudes fills the imagination. Just standing in the bus stand and staring up at the Dhauladhar range can be awe inspiring. At certain times of the year, the entire range is covered with pure white snow imposing itself upon the landscape.

But Dharamsala is special also because there are so many nooks and corners where a normal tourist scarcely goes but those places in themselves leave a lifetimes’ imprint upon the mind.

Just before the bus stand, a small road diverges to a place named Chilgari. The woods here are lovely and dark and the view of the Kangra valley is unbelievable. When I reached that particular place, the sun was on its way down and enveloped as it was by a cover of dense clouds, little straight lines of rays was shooting down from that cover. The entire Kangra valley, well over 10 km long was bathed in orange and white light, painted as it is by some master artist.

Another less frequented area is that of the tea gardens. Though it is a private property, nobody really prevents you from having a look. Beautiful ladies carrying their baskets full of leaves reminds one of Darjeeling. The silence is stunning with your breath being the only companion. Still further up and away from the normal population, very close to Chilgari is a vast stretch of pine forests. It is surely an interesting experience listening to the pine trees whispering amongst themselves.
There again is the Kotwali bazaar, the region around the bus stand, the beautiful and well kept cantonment and the imposing Chamundi Devi mandir. Another well kept secret is the Kunal Pathri temple that is a leisurely three km walk from the bus stand through the best preserved forests of the region.

When you leave Dharamsala for Mcleodganj in a Rs 5 a trip jeep, it is an amazing sight. For as companions, you will find an assortment of Tibetans, several foreigners, some beggars shifting their routine to the profitable region in and around the monastery, and local residents – all oblivious to one another, busy in their own thoughts, as if in a search. And that well may be a truth, for many come to Mcleodganj to fill up a gap missing form their lives and many return contented in the basking warmth of the monasteries and temples that abound in the region.

Amongst my companions that day, the Indian stood out for he had the strange Indian habit of when going uphill, to start with his papers. He prefers missing the view but then he may be an old timer and the view may not hold much importance to him now. However, I find it difficult to understand that that particular jeep ride through the cantonment, Forbesganj and the old church with such spectacular sights had most people dozing off by the time they reached Mcleodganj. To add to the confusion in my mind, the very first sight of Mcleodganj might put you in disarray. Overpopulated with gentry from all parts of the world who walk over the filth without a bat of their eyelids and a garbage disposal system that need much more improvement, this is what we see.

However, soon you join the milling crowds as you realize that everything in that town and every road, also every person that I see walks up and down one path – that leading up to the main monastery and the Dalai Lama’s residence. A mass movement of faith and curiosity, enough to give one a heady feeling worth a lifetime. The small monasteries on the way, innumerable shops selling Tibetan handicrafts and trendy clothes wear, even the barber with his Tibetan styled shop add to the mystique of the place. All visitors, including me and I have been to this part several times have a certain look of amazement about them, as if they are being led by a pied piper.

More on Mcleodganj TO BE CONTINUED…..