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Published: September 25th 2005
A bit of history or guide book stuff: About 55 years ago communist China took over Tibet, and ever since China is working to destroy the independent Tibetan culture. On the way they killed many Tibetans, and in 1959 the Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lamah, decided to go in exile and try to fight for freedom from outside Tibet. India gave the him and his group political asylum, and more than that, they let them fight for their freedom (in peaceful measures only) from their new home. McLeod Ganj is the center of that Tibetan community in exile. The Dalai Lamah lives here (when he's not traveling around the world pleading for his case), and it's also the place of the headquarters of the government in exile. Many Tibetans live here, not only those that came here in 1959 - people still come here. Since in China they can't have Tibetan education, some families send their kids (trekking through the mountains) to live here, when they're only 9 or 10 years old. Some arrive when they're older.
The result is a thriving community, that is very different from the Indian community around. Their manners are different, their clothes are different, their
A "prayer wheels" in the temple
You have to turn them, this is equivalent to citing many prayers! Happy days....
looks of course (they have Asian look), their food, their culture. You don't see Tibetan beggers, as the community takes care of its poor. When you enter a Tibetan shop, you can browse peacefully (in an Indian shop you're normally "attacked" by too harsh marketing methods...) It's very interesting to learn about them.
In effort to keep their culture alive, they have several cultural centers around. We visited one of them, a place called Norbulingka, 14 kms from McLeod. It contains a beautifully decorated temple, some art workshops for different Tibetan arts, a luxurious hotel (where we unfortunately didn't stay) and a lovely dolls museum that presents different life scenes back in Tibet.
We also visited the local temple in McLeod Ganj, which is the Dalai Lamah's "local temple" - he lives right next to it. I was impressed by their great invention of the prayer wheels - rolling them replaces actual citing of prayers, isn't that useful?
The Tibetan aspect of culture we learned best was food... We liked their momos (similar to dim sum but it's probably better not be said :-), and some of their breads. Daphna and me went to a cooking class, where the gorgeous
chef taught us how to make them. Unfortunately the students were all girls (six Israelis and one English) and we were too busy looking at the teacher that I am not sure we learned the lesson well enough :-)
Another aspect of Tibetan culture we enjoyed was the Tibetan massage. Ooch, that was great and so cheap!
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