In March 1959, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and approximately 100,000 Tibetan refugees, fled from Tibet to India. The then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru granted the Tibetans asylum and later offered Upper Dharamsala as a base for the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), which functions as the Tibetan Government in exile.
Upper Dharamsala, or to use its British name, McLeod Ganj, is perched on the side of a mountain in the Kangra valley, which is a part of the Himachal Pradesh region of the lower Himalayas. It is ideal for the Tibetan community, who are not used to the intense heat and humidity of the Indian plains. After the Dalai Lama took up residence in McLeod Ganj, numerous Tibetans made the long journey from the more southern Tibetan communities to enjoy McLeod Ganj's temperate climate.
McLeod Ganj is a mainly Tibetan locality, immersed in the preservation of its own unique culture, language and lifestyle. The town provides the Tibetan refugee community with educational facilities (from nurseries to adult education centers such as Lha), places of worship, primary health care clinics, hospitals, and access to traditional Tibetan medicinal practices. Several important monasteries in McLeod Ganj house the thousands of monks who have made the treacherous journey, sometimes on foot, across the Himalayas, to be close to their spiritual leader.
McLeod Ganj is now a thriving tourist hill station that receives hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, who come to marvel at the beautiful mountains, streams and waterfalls, and unique Indian town immersed in the culture of Tibet. The town is especially busy when the Dalai Lama gives his famous Open Teachings. The Tibetan community accommodates tourists with an open, gentle manner, friendly smiles, traditional Tibetan cooking (don't miss the momos), and beautiful Tibetan arts and crafts for sale.
Lha is located right in the middle of McLeod Ganj's main bazaar on Temple Road opposite the State Bank of India. Lha utilizes the upper floor of a building owned by the Tibetan Handicraft Co-op (whose shop is at street level in the same building). Lha's rent is paid directly to the Co-op, which is a conglomerate of approximately 400 Tibetan families working together to preserve the diverse handicrafts that originated in Tibet. Hence, even the money paid in rent by Lha finds itself back to the Tibetan community.
Fast Facts on the climate of Dharamsala
Between 1,250 and 1,982 metres.
Maximum 38 degree Celsius in June; minimum 0 degree C. in January.
Varies between 290 and 380cm. Monsoon season is July to September.
For information on how to get to Mcleod Ganj from Delhi, living costs and what to bring see Travel Guide: Guide for Volunteers.
Read 2414 times
We've compiled some helpful information to give you some tips if you're coming from abroad.
One of the best ways to get a feeling what it's like volunteering with Lha is to read our website - familiarize yourself with the projects and community services offered at Lha, watch the slideshow on our homepage or read the Lha blog describing what previous volunteers have done to support the Tibetan community in exile.
If you haven't visited India before, it's best to get a guide book such as the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide to get a better idea of what the culture, climate, customs, and cost of living is like. You can also find some pretty good information online at Lonely Planet or Rough Guide.
These guides also include information on visas, immunization shots, what to bring, health tips and more.
You MUST get a visa before arriving in India, and these are easily accessible from your country's Indian Embassy or mission.
Most people travel on the standard tourist visa. A tourist visa is non-extendable and non-convertible. Six-month multiple-entry tourist visas (valid from the date of issue) are granted to nationals of most countries regardless of how long you intend to stay. Longer term tourist visas are available under certain conditions.
For more information, go to the website of the Ministry of Home Affairs: Government of India.
There are additional restrictions on travelers from Bangladesh and Pakistan, as well as certain Eastern European, African and Central Asian countries. Check any special conditions for your nationality with the Indian embassy in your country.
PLEASE NOTE: Lha cannot assist with your visa application. However, you can use the following address for your contact information: Ahimsa House, Temple Road, McLeod Ganj – 176219, Dharamsala, District Kangra, H.P, India.
There is a major international airport in Delhi – Indira Gandhi International Airport - approximately 12 hours by bus from Dharamsala.
The Tibetan colony, Manju Ka Tilla, which is located one hour from Delhi international airport (taxi 800-1200Rs), has affordable accommodation.
From Delhi, the easiest way to get directly to McLeod Ganj is by overnight bus. Many travel agencies in Delhi provide bus tickets for approximately 800-1200 Indian rupees, depending on whether you choose a normal bus or a Volvo coach.
Lha recommends using a bus service that operates from the Tibetan colony Manju Ka Tilla in Delhi so you will be delivered directly to McLeod Ganj. Other government-owned buses usually stop in Lower Dharamsala, and an additional local bus must be taken to McLeod Ganj (about a half hour ride). Ask about our Reception and Orientation service to take all the hassle out of your travel!
There is an airport in Kangra, about 25 kilometers from McLeod Ganj which receives flights from Delhi twice a day.
Climate can vary substantially in this part of the world, so be prepared for all types of weather. Bring cotton wet-weather gear including raincoats and umbrellas during monsoon (July-Sept), thermals or warm clothes during the winter months (Nov-Feb) and cottons for summer (April-June). Be sure to bring a good pair of hiking boots or walking shoes to enjoy the beautiful surrounding nature of the Himalayan foothills. Many of these items can be bought here, but high quality footwear and rain jackets are hard to find.
Don't forget extra amounts of prescription medication, as you might not find it readily available in the area. Many staple items are easily and cheaply bought for longer-term stays, such as pots and pans, dishware, and other household items. Many organizations request that if you have a portable computer, to please bring it with you as their resources are limited.
Due to the elevation and climate, Malaria is a very low risk while in McLeod Ganj. However, should you be staying in other low-lying areas of India, we suggest bringing malaria prophylactics with you. There are mosquitoes in McLeod Ganj, so mosquito protection is advised.
You'll be happy to hear that the cost of living in this part of the world is dramatically cheaper than in western countries. In Dharamsala, you can live comfortably on as little as $400 US a month for lodging and meals (with more typical budgets running from $500-700) though it is possible to live for less.
Dorm rooms start at 450 rupees (US$8) per night. For longer-term lodging, rooms can be found with cooking facilities and range from 9000-15000 rupees (US$160-$270) per month. Villages near Jogiwara Road, below McLeod Ganj, and around Bhagsu Road offer quieter accommodation out of town.
PLEASE NOTE: During the winter months it gets extremely cold and while heaters can be provided by guesthouses, this is at an extra cost of anything between 200-300 rupees per day. Please enquire at your guesthouse what the cost is before budgeting your stay.
ATMs have been installed in McLeod Ganj with the State Bank of India, PNB, ICICI and HDFC Bank. However, some international ATM cards have been reported to be rejected by the ATMs. It is advisable to bring alternate methods for procuring cash such as credit cards and traveler's cheques.
These can be exchanged for Indian rupees at many places in Mcleod Ganj and Dharamshala.
Read 4173 times
We have published a range of resources for you to check our credentials and to provide comprehensive information about our organisation. Specifically, our pamphlets set out our mission statement, vision, purpose, objectives and a brief explanation of our programs. If you are interested in volunteering with Lha, Volunteer Handbook will provide you with all the information you need to understand the community we serve, how the organisation is run and the procedures to which we adhere to. The PowerPoint Presentation is a user-friendly version of our brochures. It contains information about each of our community services and programs for foreign visitors, along with photos and facts. You can also find reports of evaluation of Lha’s Cultural Exchange program and Skill Building programs.
This brochure is a resource of all essential facts about our organization. Within it, you will find detail information about Lha's background, our objectives and mission, volunteer opportunities and services, how donations are used and information about the various projects and initiations undertaken by Lha. It also includes some testimonials from our students, volunteers and Cultural Exchange Programme participants. To know more, click here.
This pamphlet is a good source of quick and easy to understand information about our organization. It provides information about the various services Lha provides to the Tibetan community, the local Indian community, people from the Himalayan region, and to foreign visitors and volunteers as well. It briefly explains the impact of Lha's work in the last 10 years. For more information, see the brochure.
Lha Cultural Exchange Programme allows visiting foreign groups to interact with our students, to explore and learn more about the Tibetan culture, tradition, Tibetan community in exile, Tibetan medicine and Buddhism. Lha arranges different activities and talks for the groups. If you are interested in this programme, this brochure contains a gist of everything related to the programme. From the basic introduction, to what this programme is, this short brochure will give you a brief insight, including feedback from our former participants. More information here.
Lha Tibet Fair Trade (LTFT) acts as a certified cooperative, offering a wide range of handmade Tibetan craftworks – from handloom textiles to jewelry, home décor and personal accessories to Tibetan art. LTFT is a licensed import, export, and wholesale company to support Tibetan artisans while seeking to make Lha more sustainable and self-sufficient. Read the full brochure.
If you are interested in volunteering with Lha, this handbook will provide you with all the information you need to understand the community we serve and how the organization is run. There is information about our mission, purpose, visions and different volunteer opportunities. To know more, click here.
For a quick glimpse at the wide variety of social services Lha provides to the Dharamsala community, as well as our programs for international visitors and volunteers, please take a look at our powerpoint presentation. This document can also be a useful tool for fundraising or raising awareness about Lha in your own community, if you want to stay involved with Lha after you return home, this powerpoint presentation will be helpful. Read more.
To help orient you to the range of community resources available in Dharamsala, including health services, language schools, Tibetan educational centers, cultural institutions, political organizations, and monastic centers, we’ve created this comprehensive resource guide. It provides a brief description, as well as contact information for each organizations and varius charities in the town. Read more.
Lha Skill Building Program Evaluation Report 2015
Professional project evaluators, Mike Crooke and Marion Brown from Australia have independently undertaken an evaluation of the Lha skill building programs. Findings of the evaluation showed that the current structure of the Lha skill building program was on the whole, effective and relevant to the needs of the students. Their report also came up with suggestions for further development like arranging conversation classes for all the languages. Lha skill building program includes language classes of English, French, German, Chinese, Tibetan, IT classes and vocational training in yoga, massage and photography. To read full report.
Lha Cultural Exchange Program Evaluation Report April 2015
Professional project evaluators Mike Crooke and Marion Brown from Australia have independently undertaken an evaluation of the Lha cultural exchange program. Their evaluation report confirmed that including those who have some criticisms, Lha is doing a very good job in planning, managing and implementing the Cultural Exchange Programs. They have also suggested having a simple contract/agreement that spells out the roles, responsibilities and expectations of both Lha and the visiting institutions. To read full report
Read 7677 times