My thoughts and activities in Dharamsala

Monday, November 21, 2005

Kangra Fort

Yesterday was the first day that I have actually left Dharamsala since I have arrived. A group of us had met at the busstand at around 8:30am and took a jeep to lower Dharamsala. We squeezed about 9 people into a jeep. It was also the first time seeing the main road that leads to McLeod Ganj. I was surprise to know that a military base is directly below McLeod Ganj. When I had arrived in Dharamsala, my bus dropped me off in lower Dharamsala and not McLeod Ganj. So when I took a taxi up, we went by the road that passed the Exile government building. That is why I did not see that main road. When we finally reached lower Dharamsala, there was about twenty folks rushing the jeep. I had to push my way out of the ride. By the time that we had got out, all those folks had some how squeezed into that tiny ass jeep. I had almost lost my waterbottle in the process, but a sadhu baba in the jeep had found it, so we gave a couple of rupees (which some injis call rupes) to him. Another first of the day was taking a true grudgy Indian bus to Kangra. It is only about 14 km to Kangra from Dharamsala, the bus ride was great. The seats were not long enough, thus my knees could not fit in. The seat are hard as nails. But the smell of incense and the stare of Shiva and Parvati from the bus altar brought me some reassurance.The temperature and flora and fauna changed drastically, it was hotter with more true jungle. Throughout our group we have been saying that this was our chance to see the real India, for being in McLeod Ganj is so different. Mainly because of the tourism. I found this kind of interesting, for I do not have quite the same sentiment. No doubt that McLeod Ganj is set up for tourism and the Tibet culture is heavily present, to me it is the multifacetness that make this country so astonishing. Just with the amount of languages that it contains, I do not think that there is one India. Once in Kangra, we met up with our tour guide named Vikram. He had lived all his life in Kangra, and wants to attract tourism to the area. So far the state tourism of the Himachel Predesh focuses on McLeod Ganj and not the many other relics that can be found. From Kangra one can see the entire Himalayan foothill mountain range, that scenery is one that can not be seen in McLeod Ganj. First, Vikram took us to Hindu temple devoteed to Devi called the Brajeshwari Devi Temple . We had to take our shoes off and present offerings to the goddess who resided in the main mandir (temple). Outside the mandir there were many other side temples holding Shiva lingams, and the 12 manifestations of the goddess Kali. This temple is built on a site that has been holy for 4,000 years. The story goes that Shiva's first wife was Sati. Sati's parents did not approve of Lord Shiva ascetic ways. So due to the disapproval from Sati's parents, she threw herself into a fire or her parents did (I can't remember Vikram exact words). But in either case Shiva was not happy with this turn of events. So he took different part of the ashes and dispersed them around India. Sati breasts where placed at the Temple that we were visiting and thus it has been known for the practice of left-handed Tantra, which today is illegal. Somewhere in Assam, Sati's vagina is placed and at that temple left-handed tantricism in still practiced. Vikram told us that in Assam they will closed the Temple for ten days for tantric rituals. The whole story interesting, especially to the fact that Sati is also a event in which a widowed wife is suppose to throw herself into her husband's funeral pyre out of devotion. In some cases the other people end up throwing a widowed wife in the pyre. I enjoyed that temple and the associations that it had with Shiva and Tantra. After the temple we had tea with Vikram family. Inside Vikram house one sees a silk hanging of Buddha with Indian figures in the teaching mudra. A picture of Jesus, a picture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and a picture of Sri Sri Satya Sai Baba. I thought that is shows the Indian way of accepting various holy people of different faiths. And we asked Vikram about his choice of various faiths in his room. He said that he truly felt that all religions boiled down to how we treat each other and that they set up in the direction towards selflessness. I know that I tend to think that way myself, but at the same time I have seen the opposite due to what I feel to be identification as a person of a religion than a person striving for planetary betterment. After Vikram's place we had incredible lunch at Indian dhaba (Cafe). The food was incredible and so cheap. In McLeod Ganj it is a bit pricy. Eventually we hopped on some richshaws and headed for Kangra Fort. The fort is supposed of been built during the times of the great Indian epic the Mahabharata. It reminded me of something out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of doom. There were so many little side paths that looked like dungeons. Places were tons of booby traps could easily be imagined. I feel sad that my references of the fort came from popular movies. That reinforces how much effect pop culture has had on me and the world. I referred to the fort saying " Wow, this is just like Indiana Jones" but when the fact of the matter is that this fort was created way before Indiana Jones and had it own identity separate from Inji pop culture. The coolest thing out of the whole trip was when Vikram took us to spot were we had to tread some water through a river and we looked up the rock cliff and we saw a secret walkway that Vikram thinks was used for escape. No one knows where the tunnels starts. Part of the tunnel was blocked during a huge earthquake in 1905. The whole place was magical. On the top of the fort there was a small Jain shrine with a 3000 year old statue of Mahavira, at least according to Vikram. We talked to Vikram about how he feels about Tibetans in India and what was the general feeling amongst Indians for Tibetans. Vikrams has many Tibetans friends that he has known personally for years. And also he has great respect for HHDL, but he say that some Indians would like to see the Tibetans leave. When asked why, Vikram says that many some Indian feel that the Tibetans do not like Indians. He has witnessed this himself in McLeod Ganj, where he walked into a store and be asked to leave. But at the same time he knows Tibetans that treat him like family. Me and my tutor had a long discussion on this subject a few days ago and I find it to be very interesting. Anyways we spent most of the day in Kangra and had a great time. I will definitely go back in the future. Right before we left Vikram gave us pictures of original Kangra style paintings that he had taken. Mine was a Krishna gently washing Radha hair. We said our goodbyes and took the grudgy Indian bus back to McLeod Ganj and almost got into a accident. Our first bus was packed in tight. Lucky the second bus was roomy, LOL. I am glad to get out of McLeod Ganj for the day. And I am looking forward to attended the Kalachakra in South India. Work at Tibet Charity in quite regular for me. We had a meeting this pass Monday to add suggestions on how to improve it. They have text books which they are trying to implement, but some teachers feel that it is too late, and that it should wait until a new term. I will be working on give a clear pictures to the new volunteers over email. I have been contacted many volunteers and keeping up with them. Liking my time here, lowly my Tibetan is improving, what a job though. I hope that all is well. I am out.


No comments: