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Published September 9th 2016
Dharamsala, India - Where This is a True Story
Dharamshala: Where Many Races and Religions Co-Exist Harmoniously
Dharamshala lies in the foothills of the Himalayas were some people suffer altitude sickness due to its height. The British settled the area as a hill station to send their wives and children when the plains below got too hot in summer. St Johns Church with its cemetery for the gentry is a clear reminder of this era.
McLeod Ganj - the Tibetan village built into the mountain side
Then the locals invited the Dalai Lama to settle there as the hill station had become stagnant after the British returned home. And once he settled there many other Tibetans joined him so the Tibetan Buddhist community is very well established with their own schools and medical centres plus various charities and services for those who have been severely tortured by the Chinese who invaded Tibet in 1950. They are readily discernible by their colourful outfits and unusual jewellery from the various regions of Tibet wherever you look.
From there many others came – the hippies of the 70s were attracted to Buddhism and now have their own established centre, Tushita. This in turn attracted a reasonable community of ex-pats to reside in the area, each adapting to life in India in their own way. They come for parasailing, yoga, dance, cooking or religious classes whilst peak season attracts visitors for the above and trekking. There is something for everyone.
Then with so many foreigners arriving the traders saw great business opportunities. Firstly from the Punjab, the Sikhs joined the local Hindus and began to build up their businesses. With the unrest on the Pakistan border many young Kashmiri men of military age fled the turmoil and set up small businesses also.
Along the way the Israelis discovered the region and their young people fresh from the scars of military service in their homeland came with their 3-6 years of wages to party hard in the Dharamkot area and found themselves also attracted to Buddhism. This resulted in five Rabbis and a synagogue opening to cater to their needs rather than have them convert.
Interest from India
So much activity assured that the neighbouring military settlement expanded out from the road winding up to McLeod Ganj where training and exercises ensure that their presence is prominent. Which in turn makes the area invisible on Google Maps.
Now the poorer Indians who may never have the funds to travel abroad come in the droves for various reasons: in winter to experience the snow; out of curiosity to check out the various foreigners; and the Punjabis to party with alcohol and women – forbidden by religion in their state just south of this region.
So each of these different races have built their own churches or temples in the area and openly support each other in pursuit of their chosen spiritual path. There is respect for those who eat meat and those who don't, and for those who need their animals killed in a certain manner in order to eat, such as the Jews and Muslims. Each small business has an altar in their shop and any customer must respect their opening rituals before business can commence e.g. incense and prayers or Sikhs being unable to give refunds until they have had their first purchase for the day.
And a huge bonus is that there is a fabulous range of top quality eateries in the area to cater for all those who dare to make the venture up to this exotic, exciting and eclectic region in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, India.