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Norbulingka Institute

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by Ian Marshall (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer and yogi living in Tepoztlan, Mexico where I'm running with my girlfriend. You can keep up with my other writing on or
Published January 5th 2013
Arts and crafts in a beautiful setting
The Norbulingka institute in Dharamsala town is modelled on the Dalai Lama's old winter palace in Tibet. Building began in 1988 and the complex was opened in 1995 for visitors to take in the various handicrafts and artistic endeavours being undertaken on its grounds.

Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala
Entrance to the Institute

As you enter the gardens there are prayer flags strewn everywhere among the trees and holy stupas, blowing in the wind and offering their many blessings to the universe.

Prayer Flags, Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala, India, Himachal Pradesh
Prayer Flags

These stupas usually contain relics from great practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism and the tradition is that you should circumambulate or walk around them in a clockwise direction saying prayers or chanting mantras.

The images are of Tibetan deities such as Medicine Buddhas who all have a place in the rich pantheon of this strain of Buddhism. It is quite unlike other forms of Buddhism, such as Zen, which can be stripped down. The mixing of the local Bon religion with Buddhism in Tibet can explain some of the fantastical imagery.

Buddha, Norbulingka Institute, Dharamsala
Buddha Image

Prayer Flags, Norbulingka Institute, Dharamsala
Close up on Prayer Flags

The gardens contain Japanese style water features and bridges and are a peaceful antidote to the bustling Indian city outside.

There are prayer Wheels to spin to send millions of Om Mani Padme Hum blessings to the universe.

Prayer Wheels, Norbulingka Institute, Dharamsala
Prayer Wheels

As you walk around there are many buildings where people are working on handicrafts from sculpture and wood carving through doll making to the extremely detailed and fantastic Thangka paintings which are highly stylised and typical of Tibetan Buddhism.

Wood carving, Norbulingka Institute, Dharamsala
Wood Carving

The main purpose of the Institute now is as a promoter of Tibetan artwork and culture and there is a large shop selling handicrafts of high quality although also of high price compared with what you can get in the market.

Also on site is a temple and residence for the Dalai Lama where he has been known to meet dignitaries although he doesn't often stay here any longer, preferring his site up the hill in Mcleod Ganj

Meeting Room, Dalai Lama, Norbulingka Institute, Dharamsala
Dalai Lama's Meeting Room

You can wander through the beautifully decorated temple rooms (or at least we could with our guide, Rabsel, from the LHA charity) and see the very simple bedroom that he sleeps in.

Dalai Lama, Temple, Buddha, Norbulingka Institute, Dharamsala
Dalai Lama temple

From the roof top of this building you get a good view of the town and valleys around this amazing part of the country. It is well worth a visit if you are in the area.

View, hills,Norbulingka Institute, Dharamsala, Dalai Lama
View of the vista
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Why? Supporting Tibetan Arts and crafts
When: Each Day
Phone: 91 1892 246405
Where: Norbulingka Institute PO Sidhpur (Nr Dharamsala) Distt Kangra HP 176057
Cost: Free
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