PRESERVING TIBETAN CULTURE AT NORBULINGKA INSTITUTE – DHARAMSALA, HIMACHAL PRADESH
#SoloTravel has always beguiled me! It was a beautiful morning, unadulterated and not to miss in life! The view from my cottage was stunningly perfect awe-struck my senses. I took my shades, got into my boots and headed down towards Dharamshala from Dharamkot passing by Mcloedganj. The destination was Norbulingka institute.
Wondering why I’m writing on an institute that has nothing much related to me, indeed the institute needs to be talked about. It lays 6 kms southwest to Dharamshala and as established in 1998 by Kelsang and Kim Yeshi Sidhpur. The name of the institute is derived from the traditional summer residence of the Dalai Lama which is in Lhasa (the capital of Tibet)
Getting around Norbulingka – I got enticed the moment I entered the institute by the gorgeous artifacts and colorful walls engraved and painted with traditional Tibetan art (thangka). The moment you step in you are enthralled by magnificent and gurgling streams that smoothly run through flawlessly maintained Japanese-styled gardens. You may get astonished to see or witness different species of Himalayan birds flocking and flittering among the treetops.
There lot to see and roam around in the institute which might take your hours to explore fully. Norbulingka institute’s main aim is to preserve the art and culture of Tibet in India. The institute comprises of a temple, stupa with deities who are worshiped in Tibetan culture, workshops for embroidery, paintings, statue making, wooden art, lush green gardens and hummingbird café for munching and chilling out!
Workshops – This institute will amaze you with the endurance and perseverance of the culture intact on safe hands. From, generations the artisans and craftsmen are working hard to conserve the traditional art form of paintings (thangka) and appliqué work.
Every year thousands of visitors come and explore the Norbulingka institute and take part in the workshops. The workshops give you vivid knowledge and understanding of intricate art form and culture of Tibet. You can take the workshop as per your choice of art form; there are workshops given on thangka sketching, wood painting, wood carving and appliqué workshops. Do not worry! you are always under the supervision of experts who would make you professional in the respective art form. After the completion of the workshop if you wish you can be offered to volunteer or work as well.
Shops – There is a shop inside the institute that sells the hand-made artifacts, paintings, and statues, which are made in-house at the workshop in the institute. The unique collection of appliqué, wood carvings, paintings are sold here. You can take any of the meticulously created thangka painting, statues or wall paintings for your home décor way back home. It is worth!
One of the best things you should not miss while visiting the institute is meeting the humans here. OMG! They are the wonderful people one can have all the pleasure knowing them. Every manager, artisan, craftsman, worker, tour guide has their own story to depict with the pain of being a refugee in India. The hard times they faced as refugees in India or caught hold by the military or stuck with kids and no food and no shelter. From my eyes out of many meet the two –
KALSANG KYPA – THE TOUR GUIDE – A great chap with sincerity towards whatever he does. He was a great help to me for all the time I was in the institute, exploring and learning new things about Tibetan culture. His journey was terrible but after being patient and having faith in oneself he found he is safe in Nepal and then he came to India. Wanted to say thank you!
DASAL – THANGKA PAINTER – He is a terrific thangka painter, since childhood he would draw mountains, valleys and hills. But as he learned more about Tibetan culture he now loves to paint only Buddha and thangkas.
Getting Here – Norbulingka is situated in Sidhpur, a suburb of Dharamsala, about 30 minutes from McLeod Ganj.
By Air – nearest airport is Gaggal, around 20 minutes from Norbulingka. Alternatively, you can take flight from Jammu or Amritsar, both are around 4 hours from Dharamsala.
By train – Pathankot is the nearest station. 2 hours from Dharamsala. Booking in advance is recommended.
By Bus – One of the most cost-effective and reliable way to reach is by bus. Volvo and Himachal Tourism buses ply on a timely basis; you can check the schedule online.
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