Dharamsala - "Little Tibet."
Home of the Dalai Lama and focus of the Tibetan community in exile, Dharamsala is surrounded by forests of chir pine, rhododendron and Himalayan Oak and has breathtaking views over the Kangra Valley and of the snow peaks that overhang the town.
Visit the Tsuglakhang Complex, which contains the residence of HH the Dalai Lama, Namgyal Monastery, and the Tsuglakhang and Kalachakra Temples. In the early mornings you can join Tibetans circumambulating the
Dalai Lamas residence on the Holy walk (or Kora) and in the afternoons watch monks debating in front of the main temple. Deepen your understanding of Tibetan art and culture through visiting the monasteries, museums and institutions connected with this unique and spiritual culture.
You can attend classes on Tibetan Buddhism and Meditation at the Tibetan Library or at the Tushita Institute, and every spring HH the Dalai Lama gives 10 days of special teachings in the main temple.
His Holiness also leads the prayers in the temple on special occasions - 10 days for Monlam Chenmo following Losar, Saga Dawa (May), and his own birthday (6 July.) It is also possible to join a public audience him at certain times.
Stay at Kashmir Cottage, a beautiful period guest house run by His Holiness's brother and sister-in-law, or at Chonor House, a quiet and beautiful place decorated in traditional Tibetan style and popular with diplomats, foreign journalists and Richard Gere! (Book well in advance to be sure of accommodation in either of these very popular guesthouses.
home of HH the Karmapa. At Sidhbari, 40 minute's drive from Dharamsala, is Gyuto Monastery where HH the Karmapa, head of the Karma Kargyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, resides in exile. It is possible to attend a public teaching and blessing with His Holiness twice a week. Visit the nearby Norbulingka Institute for the preservation of Tibetan Arts and Crafts and the Dolma Ling nunnery.
Jangchub Jong Buddhist Institute
Still under construction Jangchub Jong is situated in a magnificent and peaceful forest location, with a backdrop of spectacular snow mountains, near the tea gardens of Palampur. Founded by and home to HE Dorzong Rinpoche of the Drukpa Kargyu lineage, the temple is being stunningly decorated under the direction of the gifted artist Ven Dru gu Choegyal Rinpoche, and the site contains a particularly large and beautiful stupa.
Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery
This newly completed Drukpa Kargyu nunnery is presided over by the very remarkable Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, a British Tibetan Buddhist nun who spent 12 years meditating alone in a cave in Lahaul. (See "A Cave in the Snow" by Vickie Mackenzie.) The surrounding area of small farms and villages is ideal for easy day walks.
Tashi Jong Drukpa Kargyu Tibetan community nestles in an idyllic location in the foothills of the Dhauladar Range. Terraced paddy fields and pretty villages in a landscape of gentle unspoiled beauty surround it. Headed by HE Khamtrul Rinpoche Tashi Jong is famous for its elite group of Togden Yogis, its marvellous annual Cham (monastic dances) held for 5 days in the spring, and as an arts and crafts community of carpet weavers, wood carvers and thangka painters. Stay at the extra ordinary
Taragarh Palace Hotel
summer home of the son of the last maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, and revel in the tiger skins, colonial furnishings and grand family portraits before taking tea on the terrace or spending time walking, horse riding or swimming.
In a jungle location near to Baijnath lies Sherab Ling, the impressive seat in exile of HE Tai Situ Rinpoche, one of the major figures of the Karma Kargyu lineage. Buddhist ceremonies and teachings open to the public are conducted here throughout the year and the temple complex is worth visiting for its splendid decorations.
Bir and the Deer Park Institute
Nearby is Bir, a Tibetan exile community containing several monasteries set amidst tea gardens and with a backdrop of Snow Mountains. The newly established Deer Park Institute, an initiative of the polymath Sakyapa
Lama HE Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, runs a continuous programme of teachings and courses on different aspects of Buddhism aimed at lay Buddhist practitioners of all persuasions. Teachings on the Heart Sutra, a Zen retreat, lectures on Tibetan medicine and an annual Art retreat are some of the recent fare that have been on offer at this friendly Institute.
Tso Pema Lake
This small lake, set high up in the hills south west of Mandi, is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus and has two Tibetan Buddhist Gonpas, 3 Hindu temples and a Sikh Gurdwara. Padmasambhava, the great tantric yogi who helped to establish Buddhism in Tibet, meditated in the caves here with his consort Mandarava. Now dedicated monks, nuns and lay practitioners live and practice in them.
Other Buddhist Pilgrimage Places in Himachal:
Ki Gonpa, Dhankar Gonpa and Tabo Gonpa in Spiti. Lying close to the Tibetan frontier and only recently opened to foreign tourists the isolated Spiti valley has a haunting, arid beauty. Most people in Spiti are Buddhists and colourful Gonpas dominate the villages and village life.
Ki is the oldest and largest Gonpa in Spiti. It was built, in a spectacular location, by the famous Tibetan translator Rinchen Zangpo and belongs to the Gelugpa order. The Gonpa is famous for its priceless collection of Thangkas and has a Cham festival in June/July.
Built nearly 1,000 years ago Dhankar has a spectacular rocky setting and contains interesting sculptures and frescos.
Tabo is one of the most important monasteries in the Tibetan Buddhist world. It was built in the 10th century by the great scholar Rinchen Zangpo who brought artists from Kashmir to decorate the Gonpa. Along with Alchi in Ladakh and Tholing in western Tibet, Tabo has some of the best-preserved examples of Indo-Tibetan art remaining in the world. There are nine temples in the complex, or choskhor, dating from the 10th to the 16th century and all contain stunning artworks.
We at Rihan Travels are destination and vacation specialists. Having been into the industry for years we provide you all the information on unseen beautiful destinations in Himachal. We have studied, traveled, experienced and organized these wonderful locations and we look forward to sharing such fun filled travels and experiences with you.
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