We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our site. Click here to find out more. Allow cookies

arrow Register here

Forgotten password?


Day 36: Dharamsala and McLeodganj

Michael Palin - HimalayaOn a terrace of land with tall pines falling away to one side are a series of stupas, the dome-shaped shrines in which are kept scriptures or remains or clay likenesses of the gods. A great wall of prayer flags forms a backdrop behind them. There's a residual night-time chill in the air but already a line of devotees are quietly moving along a line of brightly painted prayer wheels, which culminates in one huge wheel about eight feet high. They spin them and murmur prayers as they go. They then feed sprigs of juniper branch into small open ovens and leave gifts by the fire, a flask of tea or a bottle of barley wine. The aromatic, spicy smell of the wood smoke mingles with the pines to give a strong heady flavour to the dawn.

As the sun rises its rays hit the columns of smoke and turn them into long diagonal shafts of light. At that moment four monks, cross-legged on the floor before a microphone, begin to recite prayers.

Dogs sniff around. A herd of cows plods slowly across the front of the temple past the prayer wheels and on into the woods. No-one seems to bat an eyelid. It's part of life and all life is sacred to the Buddhist.

The only organized part of what seems to me a delightfully laid-back, unstructured ceremony is a ritual throwing of tsampa, barley flour. I'm encouraged to join in and, picking up a handful of the flour, I take my place in line facing the stupas. Prayers are recited, hands are raised three times and then, altogether, we toss the flour forwards, an offering to the gods, and a wake-up call to their protectors.
Choose another day from Himalaya


  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 36: Dharamsala and McLeodganj
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Dharamsala
  • Book page no: 79

Bookmarks will keep your place in one or more series. But you'll need to register and/or log in.


  • Sightseeing
  • Day 5 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 18 
  • Full Circle
  • Day 16 
  • Pole to Pole