Dharamshala literally means a place dedicated to religious and charitable work. It is the name of a famous town in Himachal Pradesh, located in the foothills of the Himalayas. Apart from its scenic beauty, it is also a very popular tourist spot because it is the present home of the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama is the spiritual head of the Tibetans. When there was a political problem in Tibet, the Dalai Lama and his followers came to India, and settled in Dharamshala.
In ancient India, rest houses, called dharamshalas, were built near remote temples for pilgrims to stay, and there was one such rest house in the area, which is how the place got it name.
Now, Dharamshala is sometimes called ‘Little Lhasa’, or ‘Dhasa’, a combination of ‘Dharamshala’ and ‘Lhasa’ because of the large number of Tibetans there. (Lhasa is the administrative capital of the region of Tibet.)
Dharamshala is actually divided into two parts, set at two different heights. The Tibetan settlement is in the upper part, known as Mcleodganj, named after a former British Governor of Punjab. The place is a unique blend of Tibetan and modern western culture set in an Indian village.
Thousands of pilgrims from India and all over the world come to Dharamshala hoping to see and hear the Dalai Lama and enjoy the culture of Tibet, including some yummy Tibetan street food.
There are beautiful trekking paths in the area, and a breathtaking waterfall. It is a centre of Buddhism. The Tsuglagkhang is the biggest Tibetan temple outside Tibet. There is also a Tibetan Museum and a library. Prayer wheels and monks, an old church and an ancient Hindu temple contribute to the religious atmosphere of the place.
Truly, Dharamshala is a home for religion and charity.