Discovering The Splendour Of McLeod Ganj
The quaint suburban town of McLeod Ganj made a lasting impression on the nomad in me in spite of the fact that the duration of my visit spanned a mere 72 hours. My revelatory journey to the Tibetan enclave in the foothills of the Himalayas came about right after my freshman year, and I made my way through the provinces of this happy settlement that the Dalai Lama and thousands of refugees call home. A place where the literary works of the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh come alive, the graceful flair of this city warmed the cockles of my heart and in more ways than one, permanently shackled my soul to its foundations.
Come spring, the architectural and cultural throb of Himachal Pradesh manifests itself through McLeod Ganj as tourists throng the city. Wandering around the buzzing ‘Little Lhasa’, I encountered juxtaposed scenes of monks dancing merrily in the streets and a melancholic flautist seated at the foot of a grand Buddha statue. Namgyal Monastery, the city’s greatest monastery since 16th Century and the seat for the 14th Dalai Lama brimmed with paintings and sculptures of Buddhism idols.
McLeod Ganj is famous for its various tipples and as night fell, I found myself being lured towards the bustle of one of its oldest restaurants, McLo, which is equipped with a bar where homegrown chefs dish up a medley of cuisines. I wolfed down a serving of Tingmo (steamed Tibetian bread) with garlic Kampo and got lost in the tangy and salty flavours that were only augmented by the sweetness of the bread.
I woke up early next morning when the mist was still thick from nightfall and hastily made my way to Tsuglagkhang, not wanting to miss the morning prayer with the monks. By midday, I was scanning the markets for keepsakes and had also explored the Tibetian museum, the shrines of Kora Circuit and Tibetian Institute of Performing Arts before trekking to Bhagsunath temple. Perched at an elevation of 5,507 feet, the 20 meters long Bhangu fall on the temple’s edge is believed to have sacred healing powers. For those who don’t believe in such tales of lore, simply watching those majestic waters in motion is sure to soothe your jaded mind.
Tired as I was after the trek, the realisation that my trip was almost at its end energised me for a downtown shopping session at the local street market. That night, having gotten better acquainted with the beverages, I opted for a glass of Chhaang, which is their traditional potation. Wandering through the hallways of the 12th-century Tsuglagkhang complex, I spent the walking past neighbourhoods where I bumped into Kieran, a 9-year-old boy, who, fascinated by my camera, asked me to take pictures of his siblings, which was followed by an evening of sipping herbal root tea and listening to age-old tales of the town. I left the town with some valuable buys that consisted of locally produced sauces, ginger brownies and hand-painted teapots, but I clutched most dearly on to that intangible gift manufactured by my own mind — memories.
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