Why are Tibetan Buddhist in McLeod Ganj?
Though India is a diverse semi-tolerant multicultural country the Buddhist religion is almost unknown outside of McLeod Ganj and it may appear strange to visitors as to why this picturesque hill station is the Tibetan Buddhist religious centre in a country which is dominated by Hindus, Muslims with a spattering of Christians.
Tibetan Buddhists and McLeod Ganj - The Lisbon Thesis
The first stage of the answer, which may appear obvious, is that McLeod Ganj is not the traditional and religious centre of the Tibetan Buddhist religion. Their religious home land was the city of Lhasa in South Western China but they were forced to flee during the early years of Chinese communism.
The colourful Buddhist monks of McLeod Ganj
The actual day the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists, fled his home city was on the 30 March 1959. Marxism communism had little tolerance for religions and the Chinese Communists sought to eradicate all religious orders which could have provided opposition to their revolutionary views. During the 1950s political pressure and harsh tactics had sought to quell the power of the Tibetan religion.
The political tensions reached a climax when the Dalai Lama was invited to attend a theatrical show with the Communist Commissioner of the region. The Dalai Lama sensed a possible trap when he was advised not to bring his bodyguards and come unarmed. As if from a scene in a movie, the Dalai Lama slipped out of highly policed Lhasa dressed as a lowly worker. The Chinese sought aggressively to locate the Dalai Lama and in the weeks after his escape many hundreds of Tibetans died at mass protests and as the Chinese sought information. The Dalai Lama was never again to return to Lhasa and even in today's modern China tensions remain.
The colourful Namgyalma Stupa in McLeod Ganj
This plan of escape was advised by the Dalai lama's personal protector, the Nechung Oracle, and possibly instigated by CI A agents who had been covertly funding resistance in Tibet for the previous five years. The closest non-Communist border with Tibet was that of India's, but this involved travelling across some of the most in the inhospitable terrain in the world. Luckily the escape was in March just as the mountain passes were clearing from the harsh winter snow.
The escape party traveled by nights fearing capture by the enraged Communists and it took 15 days to reach the border, during which time most observers thought the capture or assassination of the Dalai lama had occurred. The small party of refugees were met at the Indian town of Bomdila and the Indian government offered the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhists political asylum in India. So why did India offer political asylum to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Buddhists?