“I teach only two things, O disciples, the nature of suffering, and the cessation of suffering” — Gautama Buddha
Ages have passed since he quoted this. Since then, his principles have travelled far and wide, accumulating fame and spreading wisdom.
Years later, on March 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, brought the legacy of Buddha to Dharamshala after being offered refuge in India. That’s when India received a piece of the beautiful Tibetan way of life.
I have been here in McLeod Ganj for four days now. It is not enough to decode the intricacies of Buddhism and Tibetan culture. But what I did see is how the Tibetan way of life dedicates itself to spreading joy and eradicating suffering. I enjoy the positive aura of this place.
All cultures express themselves through various mediums. Two most common ways through which the Tibetan culture expresses itself is through its art and food. So here, I will attempt to help you discover McLeod Ganj through these two ways.
Unfortunately, photography of the artwork inside the monasteries is strictly prohibited. I can only tell you what you can do once you get there.
Everything here that needs to be experienced is located within distances that can be covered by foot. All you really need to do is spend days traversing from one monastery to another. The local food can be tasted on the way.
Other than the local art in shops and prayer flags hung across the town, the best artwork is all housed inside the monasteries and temples.
As you enter a Buddhist monastery, you will notice the prayer wheels along the periphery. They are cylinders with a calligraphic Sanskrit mantra written on it.
Om Mani Padme Hum
It is said that each turn the wheel makes is said to purify oneself of negativity. You will also notice that most of the Art on the walls have mantras written along concentric circles. I cannot tell you why this is so since I do not have the credibility to summarize Buddhism, but I must urge you to converse with the monks there and find out. They are wonderful people with oodles of wisdom and insight.
One of the things I believe you must try and discover is how Tibetans have the capacity to imbibe their ways into different cultures so peacefully. They give it their all to accommodate others well. This can be easily experienced through your time satisfying your appetite. Not just the food but their service as well.
For this, I have created a flexible one-day plan to help you discover McLeod Ganj your own way. It won’t contain any fixed path but a few activities that definitely should be done.
When you wake up and set out after an egg-less breakfast, go about as you please, you must first find out the dinner timings of a restaurant called ‘Lung Ta’, for reasons that will be known towards the end of the article. At the appropriate time, brunch at ‘Shambhala Coffee Meals’. There you must have the poached egg (they make perfect ones). Vegetarians may try whatever they please; they serve delicious food with varied options.
Once again you may wander around and discover what your heart desires. You may research online about the places which would interest you, or alternatively, discover them along the way as you wander about.
Coming to lunch, there is a special place I reserve for this mealtime. There is a road that diverges from the main town to ‘Dharamkot’. The first 50 meters of that road comprise of quite a few Tibetan Cafes where you can eat a hearty meal. If you are on a budget, the lunch might be the highest you will spend on and it won’t be much.
By now you would have a pretty good idea of the layout of McLeod Ganj. Direct your itinerary to the next ‘appetite’ point that is Peace Cafe. There sit down for a cup of Tibetan Butter tea and some potato cheese Bheleks.
The roadside momos are also quite enjoyable, and they can be your pit stop while moving around. Do visit ‘Tibet Quality Bakery’, among the various stalls you stop by.
The final destination for dinner is ‘Lung Ta’, famous for its Japanese cuisine. This place, I believe, serves the most delicious food in McLeod Ganj. It is also the most pocket-friendly place too. I have visited the place twice for dinner, and both times I have come back dancing with a smile on my face.
They serve only a few authentic Japanese vegetarian recipes but great ones. Keep in mind that this place opens for five hours every day, hence I recommended finding out the times that morning.
Once you have covered these points, you would have the knowledge and the orientation of Mcleod Ganj and you may plan your best few days there accordingly. My work here is done, and I shall leave you with a Tibetan phrase
Or ‘Good Luck!’ (it is only a rendition and not a direct translation)