Norbulingka also known as heart of Tibetan culture is a place which acts as a bassinet for the revival of Tibetan art and culture. Norbulingka is an institute where one can make full use of their talent and use it to practice their crafts. This institute is dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan culture and art. Norbulingka institute is created to preserve the richness of Tibetan culture and pass it to the new generations, who are interested in pursuing their culture heritage. Here the people themselves act as patrons and provide job and training to each other. It is a kind of self-sustaining community. Now let’s dig deep into its history first.
It all began is 1948, when Kelsang Yeshi, the former minister of the department of Religion and culture along with his wife Kim Yeshi imagined a place which could act as the bassinet for preserving the culture of Buddhism and a place like heaven where artists could preserve their own culture. The goal behind Norbulingka was to return the Tibetan art and culture to its glory. Other idea was to create a place where outsiders could witness the crafts and art work done by the artists there and also to make them feel how it is like to be in Tibetan community.
With huge donations from the people who believed in Norbulingka, land was finally purchased from Government and its construction began in early 1980’s. The institute was created in a way that the temple was found at the middle and other buildings were created all around the temple as a type of fort. The construction of huge 14ft gilded Buddha God’s statue took place which was designed from hand hammered sheets of copper. Its construction completed in around 1995 and finally it was inaugurated by his holiness the Dalai Lama.
MY TOUR TO NORBULINGKA
When I got to know about all the above things about this place, I got very much excited and decided to visit this place. As I have my relatives in Palampur so I decided to stay there and from there I would visit Norbulingka. This was my entire plan. On 2nd September 2018, I reached Palampur after an 8 hours’ long drive from my hometown (Theog). Next day I started my journey to Norbulingka. It is located in Sidhpur a small suburb in Dharamshala. If you are in Palampur then it would hardly take an hour to reach there. I reached there around 11 am in the morning on 3rd September 2018.
Now let me tell you about some information about this place:
- Opening hours: Norbulingka’s opening hours are from 9am to 5.30pm in evening. Workshops and offices remain close on Sunday and also on the second Saturday of every month but the places like cafeteria, museums and shops remain open all the time.
- Reaching there: As I have mentioned earlier this place is located in Sidhpur which is a small suburb of Dharamshala. If you are in Dharamshala then it is hardly 20 minutes distance from there and from Mcleodganj it would take around 40 minutes to reach this place.
- By plane: The airport is located in Gaggal which is around 20 minutes from Norbulingka. Air India and Spice jet run daily flights to Gaggal airport but I don’t find them reliable especially in monsoon season.
- By Bus: This is by far the best way to reach Norbulingka. You can easily grab a bus from anywhere to reach this place. You can take Volvo from Chandigarh ISBT or directly from Delhi to reach Dharamshala and from there you can easily book a cab or best way is to travel in local private buses.
After reaching there I parked my car outside (limited parking keep in mind). At entrance you’ll be asked to pay a sum of 40 rupees as an entry ticket. You can also have a local guide with you or you can explore the place yourselves which is best I guess. You will be able to observe artists making the old art forms of ancient painting, wood carving and many more things. There are total of 9 workshops which include thangka painting, statue making, thangka applique, woodcarving, applique, wood painting, tailoring, weaving, and screen printing. One thing to notice in Norbulingka is its architecture. The architecture of the place is so beautiful that if feels like you have come to a place somewhere located in China. Its architecture follows the design proportions of Avalokitesvara, the deity of compassion which is the typical traditional design from Tibet. Other thing to notice is the peace that this place offers. You’ll surely feel an essence of calmness inside this place.
The major highlight of the place is its flowing water. The water comes from the high hills directly in the middle of Norbulingka and the way this flowing water is used for decorating the place is just amazing. There are small shores of water all around the place which makes it even more beautiful.
As you go forward, you’ll notice the amazing Humming bird cafeteria designed and carved in woods. You’ll see most of the foreigners there. The place remains calm and peaceful and one can enjoy a small cup of coffee there. Walking forward for two minutes you’ll see the main temple of Buddhists. The temple is made up of typical Tibetan style and is one of the most amazing buildings found there. Everyone can go inside the temple and pray. There’s also an ancient library on the first floor of the temple where you’ll find most of the ancient stuff mostly related to the history and culture of Buddhism. I have never found a place quitter than this in my whole life.
Now there are two sections on both sides of temple one is the Losel doll’s museum and other one is the local shop where you can find traditional things like dresses, traditional male clothes, paintings, wood carvings, bags and many more things. Losel doll’s museum is a place worth seeing. Here is a collection of 150 dolls which depicts the overall traditional dresses which people wear in different plateaus of Tibet. It clearly shows the richness and diversity of the Tibetan people. One thing to notice about these dolls is that the dresses made for these dolls are made from same clothes and material that people actually wear themselves.
So, guys this was all about my experience about The Norbulingka institute. While coming back from there I discovered one more amazing monastery which I will cover in my next article. So, stay tuned for more articles like this!