The land of sun burnt happy people, majestic landscapes and an aching blue sky
There is perhaps no other place in the world that arouses as much curiosity and debate as Tibet. Clichés abound – The Roof Of The World (it is the highest land mass on earth, with average elevation of 16,000 feet), The Seat Of Spirituality (owning to its practice of Buddhism – but the erstwhile nation wasn’t always peaceful), The Lost Horizon (the mythical Shangri-La described in author James Hilton’s novel). For Indians, it holds an even deeper fascination, owing to the 14th Dalai Lama’s escape to India during the rebellion of 1959.
This writer considers herself fortunate to have visited Tibet towards the end of 2009. Travelling to Tibet is not easy – a special permit is required, tourism is permitted only through authorized travel agencies who need to get the itineraries approved by the mainland Chinese government, and many “disturbed” places are off-bounds. It is a land full of contradictions : nature’s timeless grandeur at odds with recent infrastructure development; a ruthless climate constantly challenging its ruddy-faced inhabitants; and a people who gave up their violent past to embrace peace through Buddhism, only to lose their people, land and jobs to mainland China. In the unforgettable words of someone I met in a restaurant :
We became so peaceful that we forgot to watch out for ourselves
Why do we travel? People like us – not professional historians, writers or photographers – are mostly visitors when we travel. We see new sights, we try out new food, we tick mark the local experiences, sometimes we chat up with the residents. We are polite, and so we are also distant – we rarely have the opportunity, or the inclination, to fully immerse ourselves into the places we are visiting. Tibet – despite its many travel restrictions – does not permit you the safety of at-arm’s-length courtesy. Its landscape, people, history and dilemmas embrace you and swallow you up in a big giant hug that stays with you, long after you have returned home.
To me, Tibet is a land of sun-burnt faces and bright smiles, of curries that reminded me of home, of a merry old woman dragging herself up the stairs of Potala Palace, of countless men in red robes, of chubby young kids dotted with black to ward off the evil eye, of a piece of dazzling blue sky that I will carry in my heart forever. These five pictures, and a few more in our Tibet photo-logue on Pinterest & Google – are a slight attempt to capture the spirit of this mysterious land.
Stunning and stark are two words that are repeated often in Tibet. The Brahmaputra greets you as you drive from the airport towards Lhasa. The 35 km stretch is part of National Highway 318, which in turn is part of the 830 km route connecting Lhasa to the Sino-Nepal border.
The Potala Palace is Tibet’s most famous landmark. The official residence of the Dalai Lama, it’s construction was started in 1645. The fortress like stone structure has over 1,000 rooms and houses numerous treasures of Tibet’s erstwhile rulers, including elephant sized golden eggs!
The happy people of Tibet – seen here enjoying a debate between monks at Sera Monastery
Yamdrok Lake, one of the 3 “heavenly” lakes of Tibet. Like Indians with rivers, Tibetans consider their lakes sacred
“The peaceful liberation of Tibet” and “tender care”
Enjoy more stunning pictures of Tibet on Pinterest
All images are the property of the author. Please do not distribute or re-use without prior permission