“I like the mountains because they make me feel small. They help me sort out what’s important in life,” someone once said. Honestly, I couldn’t agree more. With so many changes that have taken place in my life in the last year, this year is all about settling in and rediscovering myself. I promised myself that I will travel more – not just to explore new places, but also to come back “home”, to feel more rooted and yet free in my spirit.
In the past few days, I visited Dharamsala and Mcleodganj in Himachal Pradesh, for the first time. This was for a media visit organised by the newly launched luxury resort in Kangra district – Hyatt Regency Dharamsala, incidentally the first of its kind in the area. Sprawled across 6.5 acres in the profound depths of the Dhauladhar range, it is the first mountain resort property of the Hyatt group in India. We were greeted by the warm, courteous staff, and quickly settled in rooms that opened to the most breathtaking view of the snow-clad mountains. Could I have asked for a better kind of solitude? I guess not.
I couldn’t help but notice how almost everyone in the town spoke in fluent Punjabi, and it reminded me of all that I’ve read and heard about Undivided Punjab. Kangra district was once a part of the British Province of Punjab. Now a beautiful confluence of the Punjabi and Himachali traditions, Dharamsala and Mcleodganj are an ideal model of multiculturalism – with a hint of the remains of the Raj in it’s architecture, and happily taking to the recent Tibetan lifestyle and culture.
The team from the resort had arranged a city tour for us, which started with an early morning trek to the Bhagsu-Nag temple and falls. It is believed, as per Hindu mythology, that Bhagsu was a king whose region was plagued by drought. He set out, promising his subjects that he would bring water. Thereby, his search brought him to these mountains, and to a lake – the Nag Dal – which belonged to the serpent king. They believe that Bhagsu also possessed magical powers, because of which he managed to transfer the water from the lake into a kamandal (water receptacle). The serpent king discovered that night that his lake had been emptied and he set out to look for Bhagsu, who was responsible for this. This followed a physical confrontation between the two, in which Bhagsu was lethally injured, and the kamandal fell, releasing the water that flowed down the mountain. Realising that his end was near, he surrendered to Nag, asking only that the water be allowed to flow on so that his people would be relieved from the drought. Nag relented after noticing the selflessness of the king, and since then, the water flowed free, and this place came to be known as a combination of both their names – Bhagsu Nag. Fascinating, isn’t it?
While this trek was about soaking in the natural and mythological beauty of the land, it was followed by a trip to Tsuglagkhang, or commonly known as The Dalai Lama Temple. It is the home of The 14th Dalai Lama in Mcleodganj. The first place you’ll notice as you enter the complex is the Tibet Museum, and it is here that the realities become too real and the heart too heavy. A permanent exhibition titled ‘A Long Look Homeward’ is dedicated to Tibet’s recent history: the Chinese occupation and the Tibetan exile. As I explored and read about the struggle, I realised that I struggled to document it in photos, and hence, you won’t see any of it here. This is a place that must be visited to understand what the loss of home means, or for that matter, what home is.
As you enter the temple premise, you can feel a sense of positivity and gratitude that takes over. Honestly, I couldn’t be more thankful for this. The prayer wheels that keep turning, the conviction with which people walk around and the fire that keeps burning, all come together to keep your faith alive, give you a reason to believe.
“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.”
They say that if you wish for something from your heart, the universe conspires to make it come true for you. Some months ago, I had the thought of expanding this blog further to talk of more personal experiences. Since the past two months, everything has been working out in such a manner that at times it leaves me stumped. It has only been 50 days since 2020 began, and I’ve already been to four new cities/towns – through work and quick, quaint getaways. These trips have added to me as a person – I’ve learnt, explored, broken down at times and have become stronger, emotionally. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for me.
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