The arrival of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, along with thousands of refugees at Dharamshala in 1959, made the life here here more active. A number of Tibetan settlements, with religious education and other rehabilitation centres mushroomed all over the Mcleodganj area. As Dharamshala became the headquarters of the Tibetan Government in exile, prominent personalities started arriving here. Mcleodganj emerged as a major Buddhist centre. The Gompa, a sacred place of learning and worship for Buddhists, houses a 1500 year old idol of Guru Padam-Sambhav and a life size image of Avalokiteshvra. Historic relic brought from Lahasa during the culturalrevolution have also been preserved here. A huge collection of 225 volumes of Lord Buddha’s sermons and discourses all in Sanskrit and called ‘Thangyur’ in Tibetan have been safely placed in silken embroidered poaches in corner of the temple.
The market in Mcleodganj. Which is basically a Tibetan settlement is lined with small shops selling Tibetan carpets, paintings and other handicraft items. A large number of restaurants, specializing in Tibetan cuisine are packedwith tourists wanting to have a taste of this peculiar food. To preserve and develop in exile the artistic literary aspects of Tibetan culture the Tibetan Institute of performing Arts (TIPA) was founded in August 1959, in Dharamshala (Mcleodganj). TIPA was the one of the first institutions to be established by the Tibetan government after it escaped to India (A.D. 1959). The main focus of TIPA is to train a younger generation of artists who were born and brought up in India. TIPA has a very rich collection of traditional costumes and jewellery from various regions of Tibet. TIPA also holds an annual opera festival called ‘SHOTOU’ which was an annual feature in Lhasa prior to 1959.
The traditional paintings called ‘Thankas’ are a unique Tibetan art form. Tibetan ‘Thankas’ as a medium of expressing Buddhist ideals and, as such they have sacred objects. As the destruction and dilution of ancient cultures across the world is becoming more evident, the Norbulingka Institute has been set with the motive of preserving such art forms. Young Tibetans, including monks are taught this art by a selected group of teachers who managed to escape to India. The wood carving school offers complete training in the art of traditional wood carving. In fact, the annual Himalayan International Festival held in Mcleodganj in December every year has become a cultural bonanza for the tourists as well as the locals. Artists from Nepal, North eastern states, Jammu & Kashmir take part in the festival which attract people from all over the world.