After McLeod Ganj

The trip to McLeod Ganj netted me a few days in Delhi because of the flight times of Kam Air and of Kingfisher. I was able to get my shoes repaired in the time I had in Delhi before the return to Kabul.

Originally attracted by the offer of a cut rate shoe shine from this fellow from Rajasthan, (Are all those that shine shoes from that state?) I accepted his advice for the much needed repairs on these shoes. I forgot to ask how much the repairs would cost before he was halfway through the stitching and gluing. I will probably get another few years of service from the shoes so it was still worth the price.


Paharganj Shoe Repair 1


Paharganj Shoe Repair 2


Paharganj Shoe Repair 3

Connaught Place is now officially Rajiv Chowk. It’s still more common to hear it referred to by the old name. On Sunday cricket players replace shoppers. The games are only interrupted when it is necessary to retrieve a ball from one of the rooftops.


Connaught Place (Rajiv Chowk) Cricket

McLeod Ganj – Around Town

Thirty-eight years can bring a lot of changes to a place. McLeod Ganj has grown a lot since 1973. The prayer wheels at the center of the city did not use to have a temple structure enclosing them. All the retail shops along this strip through the middle section of the square have been built after my first visit here.

At least you retain the impression as you walk into town that the majority of the people here are seeking the middle way. I did not, however, see any of the bumper stickers that I had seen in the US, “My other vehicle is the Mahayana.”


McLeod Ganj – Graffiti

The center of town had seen lots of construction, as seen in the next photos. The other annoying change was the amount of vehicular traffic in this part of the city.


McLeod Ganj – Prayer Wheels


McLeod Ganj – City Center 1


McLeod Ganj – City Center 2

Transportation to and from McLeod Ganj still came and went from the same place that it does now. There’s just a lot more of it these days.


McLeod Ganj – Bus Stop

The Temple Road is still familiar. I could not find the path we used in 1973 to walk into Dharamsala to buy chocolate special beedis or the occasional sweet. That was also the location of a bank where travelers checks could be cashed. We would get a bundle of 100 one rupee notes so that we were less troubled by claims of “no change” from the shop keepers.


McLeod Ganj – Temple Road

There’s still construction going on. What is shown below is just off of Temple Road.


McLeod Ganj – Construction

Don’t be put off by my comments about changes to McLeod Ganj. The Dalai Lama does not give weekly public audiences as he did in 1973. He is more likely to be teaching or visiting somewhere else when you visit the seat of the Tibetan Government in Exile. But I have reason to believe you will be received in McLeod Ganj. (I am sure Paul Simon’s “Graceland” would have been titled “McLeod Ganj” if  it had rolled off the tongue a little better.)

Kingfisher Airlines had daily flights to Kangra Airport (Dharamsala) at the time of my visit.

Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat

Information on the Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat is readily available on the ‘net and I won’t post any here. The monastery and education center is marvelous from a photographic perspective and the photos are what I brought away from my visit and walk through the grounds.


Cow and prayer flags

Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat Stupas 1


Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat Stupa detail

Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat Stupas 2

Prayer Flags

Prayer flags are part of the McLeod Ganj landscape. They are functional and not design elements. There’s no sacrilege when they appear next to clothes drying on a laundry line.


Prayer flags with laundry

They are very much in evidence at the Norbulingka Institute.


Prayer flags at Norbulingka Institute

The largest collection of prayer flags has to be those I found at the Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat.


Prayer flags at Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat 1


Prayer flags at Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat 2


Prayer flags at Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat 3

Norbulingka Institute

When I managed to visit Norbulingka Institute in 2011 I was unhappy that I had missed visiting this center of Tibetan culture in 1973. I found out later that Norbulingka Institute was founded in 1988. I didn’t feel so bad then. (What sort of lesson is that?)

This is worth the trip from McLeod Ganj. Norbulingka Institute is a quiet refuge where Tibetan art and culture are preserved and where it is possible to see people at work producing traditional crafts.

Details on Norbulingka Institute are readily available on the internet. I’ll let these pictures describe some of the highlights for me. The only anecdote I will share from my visit is the fact that this is the only place I have seen where the spinning direction of prayer wheels is noted. This way,  those unfamiliar with the practice do not inadvertently subtract prayers with their spinning.


Tibetan colors


Traditional crafts


Thangka painting


Tibet in miniature 1


Tibet in miniature 2


Water driven prayer wheel


Seat of Happiness Temple


Seat of Happiness Temple and mountains

Mountains – McLeod Ganj

McLeod Ganj is in Himachal Pradesh in the mountains. Not just any mountains but the Himalayas, the youngest and thus the tallest of the world’s mountain ranges. The Himalayan mountains around the Kangra district are part of the Dhauladhar range. The tallest of these is just over 5600 meters. These peaks are part of the spectacular scenery around this region.


Mountain view along the trail leading to McLeod Ganj

This sort of view is what made the walk from Dal Lake to McLeod Ganj such a nice trip.


Ominous view of mountain above forest

This peak always appeared very spooky whenever it popped into view.


Mountains above McLeod Ganj

This perspective includes a portion of McLeod Ganj with the mountains towering above.

Bhagsu Nag Waterfall

On the other side of McLeod Ganj from Dal Lake and the Church of St. John in the Wilderness, though still within walking distance, is the Bhagsu Nag Temple and Waterfall. This is another place I missed seeing in 1973. The walk was as scenic as the waterfall itself.

Here we have a Picture Me photo I was asked to take. I passed on my business card so they could send an email address and I could forward a copy of the picture. I never heard from any of them. It was just a matter of taking part in a tourist ritual.


Picture Me on the road to Bhagsu Nag


Sheep Stupa

This stupa is found as you round the bend coming out of McLeod Ganj on Bhagsu Road.


Construction Crew

This construction was going on not far from the Bhagsu Nag Temple. Sometimes the old techniques work the best. There was no way to move any mechanized equipment onto this site.


Heavy Construction.

And there are no phosphates or sodium laurel sulphate added to the water when you use the traditional approach to washing clothes or hair in the mountain stream.


Cleaning the old fashioned way.


Bhagsu Nag Waterfall

The last image is that of the waterfall itself. A popular spot for the weekend Indian tourist crowd. A trip through the grounds of the (Hindu) Bhagsu Nag Temple is required to visit the waterfall.

Dal Lake

In 1973 I did not get over to Dal Lake. In 2011 I stayed at the Dal Lake Resort. It was conveniently booked on Agoda and provided the opportunity for a four kilometer walk into town each day. The trip back (uphill) was typically done by auto rickshaw, or bajai as they are known to those who have spent time in Indonesia. (Bajaj is an Indian manufacturer who makes these three-wheeled passenger transporters.)

Dal Lake was lacking in water. When I visited there was not enough water for even a single houseboat like you would find on the Dal Lake in Srinagar. But the area was pleasant and away from the busy town that McLeod Ganj had become. The sunrise and sunset views from the hotel were gorgeous. An inexpensive breakfast could be had a short walk from the hotel at a friendly, family-run Tibetan restaurant. If I took the slightly longer route into town I could walk on the grounds of the Church of St. John in the Wilderness. I even managed to venture to Naddi, a little further off the western tourist trail. Aside from the chorus of dogs exchanging greetings at sunset it was a quiet section of Upper Dharamsala.


Broadcast Tower and Dal Lake Resort

I guess it is appropriate for me to pick a location near a broadcast tower. The building in the center is the Dal Lake Resort.


Dry Dal Lake

I did mention it was dry, didn’t I?


Paddle Swan at Dal Lake

In wetter days you could paddle a swan around the lake.


Dog at Dal Lake


Cow at Dal Lake

Let’s end this sequence with a tourist quality scenic photo . . . something that will make everyone want to visit or revisit Dal Lake.


Sunset at Dal Lake Resort

. . . or is it sunrise?

Church of St. John in the Wilderness

I have been negligent in adding material to this blog. When will I ever get the 1975 photos of Afghanistan posted? They were the reason for the domain name and this whole blog idea.

Oh well, let me move closer to that day by adding some photos from my second trip to McLeod Gang. First trip 1973. Second trip November 2011. The first time through I did not get over to Dal Lake or visit the Church of St. John in the Wilderness. This Presbyterian church would be right at home anywhere in Scotland. And it was here that I did my first “Picture Me” picture, with this Indian group capturing a memory of their visit to the church.


Picture Me at Church of St. John in the Wilderness


Church of St. John in the Wilderness

James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin and 12th Earl of Kincardine, grave monument at Church of St. James in the Wilderness.

Cemetery at Church of St. John in the Wilderness. McLeod Ganj is seen in the distance.