Photo Essay: Tibetans in Dharamshala (India)

The late 1950s saw the beginning of the Tibetan resistance movement and uprisings against China. But the enemy was too big, and therefore, the possibility of success almost zero. As a result, thousands of Tibetans were killed. The Dalai Lama and some members of the Tibetan government subsequently fled to India, followed within a year by about 80,000 Tibetans.

Today, more than 1,25,000 Tibetans live outside Tibet, without any hope to go back. This brings us to Dharamshala, a small town located in the Himalayan foothills of north India. Dharamshala is important for many reasons: it is the largest settlement of Tibetan community and host to the Dalai Lama along with the Government-in-Exile. (Check out this photo-essay to see more of the town.)

In this photo-essay, we’ll catch a glimpse of the life of ordinary Tibetans, residing in Dharamshala. Let’s start then, shall we?

Tibetans are politically active people. They make sure that they raise their voice, particularly when it comes to the matters of world peace, human rights, and China. You will often see them protesting for one thing or another at the main square.

Buddhist monk in Mcleodganj Dharamshala

Traditionally, there has been a practice of at least one child in the family joining monastery. This is why monks and nuns are everywhere to be seen. Some preaching on the streets…

Buddhist nun in mcleodganj dharamshala

And some relaxing at a coffee shop.

Buddhist tibetan monks in mcleodganj dharamshala

Tibetans have traditionally been traders and merchants. For centuries, they have been visiting India to buy and sell goods. This practice continues as they have set up shops in every corner of the town.

Mcleodganj market

They have brought a cafe culture in the town. Wherever you turn, there is a cafe — and each one of them is as cosy and comfy as you would expect in a hill station.

Mcleodganj cafe

The same goes for street food. There has been a momo-and-chowmein pandemic in recent years. Even in a small town like this, you’ll find hundreds of momo-and-chowmein vendors.

Mcleodganj street food

Tibetan women play an important role in the family. They take up different kinds of jobs to support not just the family but the community as a whole.

Tibetan woman in mcleodganj

Tibetans work very hard to preserve their history. They have dedicated groups working on this. It is due to their intimate connection with their roots that they have preserved every aspect of Tibetan language, religion, art and culture. In fact, they have created a mini Lhasa in Dharamshala.

Tibetan artist dharamshala

Most Tibetans live a comfortable life in Dharamshala. The new generations don’t really consider the idea of going back to Tibet. The old ones, however, do talk about the past with moist eyes.

Tibetan woman in dharamshala

In today’s world, every time when someone asks this question — what do immigrants do to a place? — we expect a negative response. But, when it comes to Tibetans, the answer is usually something like this: immigrants make the place richer — socially, culturally, aesthetically. Without them, Dharamshala wouldn’t be nearly as beautiful.

Note: I own the copyrights to all the images used in this photo-essay. Kindly contact me at if you wish to use them for any personal or professional work. Thank you.

Published by Deepak Rana

A writer, a wanderer. Keeps dreaming and aspires to make them true.

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