McLeod Ganj, high above Dharamshala in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India is the home of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan school of Buddhism.
His Holiness escaped across the Himalayas to this region of northern India following the failed Tibetan uprising against the Chinese in 1959.
The Dalai Lama lives in a monastery in this small mountainside town on the edge of the ever present snow-capped foothills of the Himalayas which set an impressive backdrop.
Part of the ritual adopted by Tibetan Buddhists is to ‘circum- perambulate’ the temple on a daily basis. A path has been built on the vertiginous slopes around the temple to facilitate this activity. It’s no mean feat. The inclines are steep and at nearly 7000 feet above sea-level, the air is thin for people not used to this altitude.
His Holiness is in residence and is teaching so the town is bustling. McLeod Ganj normally attracts visitors from around the world, monks, mendicants and just the curious. But, when there is the opportunity to see His Holiness and hear him speak… you can imagine the activity level in the town increases.
Setting off from a favourite coffee shop (Moonpeak Coffee – with the best Cafe Latte she has ever tasted, claims my wife Sue Naylor) the town is busy. Surprisingly though the path is quiet. Perhaps everybody is in the temple listening to His Holiness.
Dotted along the path, seats are positioned on which to rest and over 200 prayer wheels of various sizes exist to spin your prayers to heaven. Prayers are carved in stone and left around the path. Small stone cairns have been built along the edges of the path, a physical testament to the passing of many thousands of feet and to the beliefs held by the pilgrims. The sun is warm A street dog lays sleeping on the path. His head coloured red for the Hindu festival of Holi.
You find yourself sharing the path with sacred cattle, street dogs, monks, beggars, and troupes of monkeys cross the path as well as other pilgrims making their slow way around the temple.
Oh yes… about Gandhi.