City Highlights of Dharamsala
Amidst superb vistas of Dhualdhar hills, high above rugged terrains of upper Kangra Valley, Dharamsala (meaning shelter/rest house for pilgrims) is synonymous with beauty and spirituality. The holy abode of the charismatic Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, Dharamsala ideally blends rich Tibetan Buddhist culture and architecture, evident in several Buddhist Viharas/Gompas, while retaining its erstwhile English lifestyles. Explore Norbulingka Institute for Tibetan literary and artistic culture; Losel Doll Museum; The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) and Shiva Cave Temple, the natural cave temple of Trilokpur. Delve further into Tibetan culture with visits to the Namgyal Monastery, a sacred building enclosing the Dalai Lama’s residence; Tsuglagkhang Complex, the Holy abode of the Dalai Lama; Tibet Museum-Mcleodganj, the first modern Museum; Tibetan Children’s Village School for Tibetan Refugee/Destitute Children; and Men-Tsee-Khang – the Tibetan Medical and Astro Institute.
3h-Visit Gyuto Monastery and Temple of Karmapa
Visit the lovely Gyuto Monastery and Temple of the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa (head of the Karma Kagyu, a major school of Tibetan Buddhism)…Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s abode, located about 6kms from Dharamsala at Sidhbari. Founded in 1474 in eastern Tibet by Jetsun Kunga Dhondup..the main disciple of the first Dalai Lama, it is home to over 500 monks and popular with pilgrims. Also called ‘TCV School’, it houses a majestic image of ‘Sakyamuni Buddha’ enshrined in a small chamber. It is one of Tibet’s most famous monasteries specializing in the study of Tantric meditation, Tantric ritual arts and Buddhist philosophy. Karmapa means ‘the one who carries out buddha-activity’ or ‘the embodiment of all the activities of the buddhas’.
3-4h-Kangra Fort and Temple Visit
Kangra Fort, 20kms from Dharamsala, takes first mention in Alexander the Great’s war records. It is the largest fort in the Himalayas..perhaps India’s oldest dated fort with historical significance and structural beauty. Entry is via a small courtyard between 2 gates known as ‘Pataks’ dating from the Sikh period..a narrow passage leads to the top via the Ahani and Amiri Darwaza. The climb up leads through 7 gates..en route view some idols embossed into the walls. See 3 richly carved shrines – Lakshmi Narayana, Sitala, and Ambika Devi – the former 2 were turned into a mass of ruins by the 1905 earthquake. Near the Fort in Kangra’s old town, visit the beautiful Adi Narayan Jain temple (built 30yrs ago) incorporating skillful stone carvings in traditional Jain styles..notice an exquisite rosette at the centre of the ceiling.
30Min-Visit to Masroor Rock Cut Temples
Visit the little known remarkable group of 15 richly carved monolithic ‘Masroor’ Rock-cut Temples..dating back to the 8th century, sculpted in similar styles of the Kailash temple at Ajanta-Ellora caves..built by hand in the Indo-Aryan style. This protected monument in the sub-Himalayan region has richly ornamental cave temples and contains 3 stone images of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita depicted in the sanctum of the main temple, and also has the figure of Lord Shiva in the middle of the lintel. The entire temple complex lies atop a 2500ft high hillock, having a large rectangular water pond and affords amazing views of the snow clad Dhauladhar Range.
30Min-Visit to Kangra Art-Craft Museum
Visit the Kangra Art Gallery/Museum..a unique museum displaying the artifacts of Tibetan and Buddhist cultures, some of which date far back to 5th century! Started in 1990, the Museum also houses an Art gallery displaying fine miniature paintings from Kangra’s rich past.. specimens of famous Kangra Kalam works or the Pahari miniature paintings, the exquisite art that is actively promoted from the museum. See pottery, rare coin memorabilia, sculptures, anthropological materials, temple carvings, fabrics, weapons, palanquins belonging to local rajas, jewelry of various tribes, embroided costumes and wood carvings. Visit the section dedicated to contemporary artworks..elevating the museum’s attraction. Here, local artists display their work..some can even be bought. There is also a section housing the works of contemporary sculptures and photographers.
1h-Meditation Class in Tushita
Enjoy a 1-hr Meditation program at Tushita Meditation Center, specializing in the study and practice of Buddhism from Tibetan Mahayana traditions. It is located on a steep hill above McLeodganj..the seat in exile of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, founded by Lama Thubten Yeshe and his main student Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Tushita aims at providing a friendly, conducive environment for people of all nationalities/backgrounds to learn about and put into practice Buddha’s teachings. They organize regular introductory courses on Buddhist philosophy and meditation, as also intermediate level courses/group retreats for experienced students. Daily schedules combine teachings with various meditation styles and discussion groups. There are different (free) meditation programs. To allow for reflection and meditation, participants require to keep silence for the course, except during group discussions or question-answer sessions.