Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj

McLeod Ganj is located about 3 km’s from Dharamsala and is the residence of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and is also home to a large population of Tibetan refugees. The Tibetan government-in-exile is located just down the hill. In the 1850’s the town began as a civilian settlement outside the British garrison of Dharamsala. McLeod Ganj was devastated by an earthquake in 1905 and after independence it sank into obscurity until the Dalai Lama arrived in 1960 after fleeing persecution in Tibet. Since then the area has grown into a vibrant centre of Tibetan culture and Buddhism.

The primary draw to McLeod Ganj is the Tsuglagkhang Complex which houses the Tsuglakhang, an equivalent of the Jokhang temple in Lhasa, Tibet. The complex also contains a monastery and the Tibet Museum.  As photos are prohibited in most of the temple areas there was little on the outside to photograph. Below is a monument to the martyrs who have given their lives in the struggle to free Tibet. The museum offers an excellent exhibit documenting the Chinese annexation of Tibet in 1949 and which continues to this day. Hundreds of photos of monks who immolated themselves in protest of the occupation line the walls. Excellent narratives and photo collages describe the religious, cultural and environmental destruction wrought by the Chinese occupiers. Today, over 60% of the population is Chinese with Tibetans reduced to below 40%. Poverty is rampant among the Tibetan people, job opportunities are scarce and what is available pays almost 50% less than a Chinese worker. The struggle continues and the hope is one day the Chinese will allow the culture and religion of the Tibetan people to once again flourish.

Below is a sign where you remove your shoes to enter the temple. Hmmm.. Me thinks there must be a few bad Buddhists building a budding business bartering Bata made shoes stolen from the Buddha temple and sold straight back to you!

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