Dharamsala, as we know it, is the most prominent part of Kangra valley in Himachal Pradesh,which is even home to Dalai-lama in a small upper part called Mcleodgang.The place has recently caught the limelight with its revamped cricket field where a number of cricket matches are held throughout the year.
Most people come here for the matches, beautiful foot-hills and Himachali shopping experience, but, what most people miss out on is the beautiful Mann tea estate, which is open to anyone who wants to visit and observe the orthodox way of making tea. The factory is located amidst the beautiful tree estates with lovely, green, young leaves where you can observe a number of ladies handpicking the freshest tea leaves for all the different variety of teas to be manufactured.
On reaching the factory you notice a massive old-style construction where the same business has been going on for three generations. The executives would be happy to take you around the factory and give you a guided tour through the complete process of tea making, which involves steps like rolling, oxidation, drying and grading for different teas. The portfolio of teas that they carry is big with orthodox black, white, oolong, green, rose and saffron to name a few and, if you are really lucky, they may show you some really expensive varieties of tea that get manufactured on special orders like the Monkey-king tea which costs around 1000 USD/Kg and is exported to China. They even have a small outlet where you can buy the freshly manufactured tea in different grades and this is where I got my hands on rose, orthodox, white and Oolong tea.
After spending a complete afternoon in the beautiful gardens I was mostly reluctant to leave it but I had dedicated only a day to the place, so I had to part ways with it and head to Norbulingka Institute, which was started in 1988 as a Tibetan cultural preservation centre where you can have complete insight on Tibetan culture in an unadulterated form. Here, you can find the colorful Tibetan flags which are tied from one end to another since they believe that when the air blows, all the prayers written on these small pieces of cloth get blown to us and we stay blessed.
They also have a doll museum which has number of dolls on all the Tibetan idols in history, as well as a massive map of real Tibet which shocked me as I noticed that more than 60 percent of today’s China was former Tibet that had been invaded and stolen as a part of ethnic cleansing and a ploy to gain strategic advantage as Tibet is regarded as “The roof of the world.”They have a Thangka painting & sculpting institute,where a number of Tibetan people register and learn traditional art that helps them lead a cultured and economically safe life. For visitors, they have a few rooms, which can be taken for a cozy stay and a beautiful cafe if you wish to stay here for a day or two.
The whole region of Dharamsala has been under the strict watch of the Indian government as the Dalai-Lama and majority of Tibetans live here for whom India is their home now unlike Tibet as they still carry a fear of being killed back in Tibet. In all, I recommend a weekend getaway for Dharamsala specific and a week’s time for the complete region, which would combine Mcleodgang, Dharamkot and Kangra valley. So pack your bags and head forth before it’s too late.
- Get There- By air Gaggal airport is 13.5 KM, by train Pathankot is 82 KM, by road Delhi is 500 KM.
- Stay- Norbulingka Institute for mid range and numerous cottages for budget.
- Eat- Humming bird cafe
- Good for- Tibetan history, Tea gardens and weekend getaways