Flights usually depart London in the evening.
The group flight arrives in Amritsar. Those not travelling on the group flight will meet us at the hotel. In the evening there will be an opportunity to visit the famed Golden Temple of the Sikhs and witness the night ceremonies in which the scriptures are put away.
After breakfast we drive to Dharamsala, our base for the coming week, On arrival, there will be a general orientation and a first visit to the Dalai Lama's temple compound.
We join the Tibetan public to hear the elected leader of the Tibetan Exile Community's address in the Dalai Lama's presence at the commemoration of the failed Lhasa Uprising, following which the Dalai Lama and thousands of followers escaped into exile. The Tibetan National Anthem is sung after the series of speeches and solemn Tibetan patriots march through the town.
We have time to explore the small hillstation of Mcleod Ganj, now home to many Tibetan exiles and also a popular tourist destination. In and around the town are the Namgyal Monastery with its Kalachakra Temple, the Thekchen Choling temple and the circumambulatory path around the Dalai Lama's residence. We will visit the TCV Tibetan Childrens' Village School.
Today, going down to the Tibetan government-in-exile compound we have a chance to visit the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Nechung Monastery and the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute.
After breakfast we take a short drive to the Norbulingka Institute in the Kangra Valley. On our way we have the chance see where tea is grown and prepared from the local gardens. The Norbulingka Institute, committed to the preservation of Tibetan culture, formally opened in 1995 and employs around 450 people, many of whom have recently arrived from Tibet. Currently about 70 students are training in literary studies and a variety of crafts including Thangka painting, metal statue work, woodwork and applique. It is a fascinating place, built in Tibetan style with Japanese influence and set in landscaped gardens. We will visit Dolmaling Nunnery, a short walk from Norbulingka, which is an innovative educational institution for Buddhist women, from which some of the first fully qualified Buddhist women teachers will soon graduate. We may be able to watch formal debates.
Today we have the opportunity to visit the Qusar Tibetan Healing Centre to consult the resident doctors and see Tibetan medicines being made. Later, we will take a walk through the wheat fields to Nishtha Rural Health, Education and Environment Centre, an NGO working with local Indian villagers.
In the valley below Dharamsala town, not far from Norbulingka, is Gyuto Monastery, the Upper Tantric College, formerly housed in Lhasa's Ramoche Temple. Nowadays it is also the temporary residence of the young Gyalwang Karmapa, historically the first lama in Tibet to have a recognised reincarnation and head of the Karma Kagyu tradition. We will hope to have an audience with him. Later in the day, those interested can visit the Reception Centre nearby, where people newly arrived from Tibet are accommodated prior to their assignment to one of the many education or training institutions for Tibetans.
We join thousands of monks and lay-people to hear the Dalai Lama's annual explanation of one of the Jataka Tales or stories of the previous lives of the Buddha in the garden of the temple. He teaches in Tibetan, but his words are translated into English and are broadcast on an FM frequency by radio microphone. He islikely to give something of an introduction to Tibetan Buddhism. A great opportunity. Dotted around the town are relics of its colonial past, Nowrojee's shop, Raj style bungalows. An easy walk out of McLeod Ganj brings us to the impressive Church of St John in the Wilderness, built in 1852 and burial place of Lord Elgin, a former Viceroy of Imperial India. From here it is short pleasant walk through the woods to Tse-chok-ling Monastery, which retains some of the atmosphere of old Tibet. There will be time to look into the many shops selling books and other Tibetan items.
Today we take a pleasant drive through the Kangra Valley to Taragarh, beyond the tea-growing town of Palampur. Our hotel used to be the country house of the erstwhile royal family of Kashmir as the memorabilia and extensive gardens remind us. Nearby is Tashi Jong a community of Tibetans from Kham, Eastern Tibet, who support themselves and their monastery through various craft works.
In the forest near Bir is Sherabling Monastery, with its richly decorated temple, established by Tai Situ Rinpoche, one the Karmapa's principle teachers. In Bir are several more Tibetan monasteries. Closer to Taragarh, time permitiing we may visit Dongyu Gatsal Ling, a nunnery set up for Himalayan nuns of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage by Jetsun Tenzin Palmo an expeienced English Buddhist nun.
Leaving Taragarh we return to Amritsar as we begin the journey home.
Those on the flight inclusive package will depart this morning for the daytime flight back to London. Land Only arrangements will finish after check-out from the hotel.