Notes on a Himalayan Town: A Tibetan Community’s Perspective
What does Dharamshala as a place mean for the Tibetan community in contemporary milieu? Has Dharamshala changed from a place of temporary refuge to a place that provides permanence and stability to the community? This paper delves into these questions with a view to explore the transition of a small western Himalayan hamlet into a sub urban space from a community’s perspective. Dharamshala, a hill town in Himachal Pradesh (northern state in India) is known worldwide as the de-facto Tibetan capital. His Holiness Dalai Lama and the Tibetan community have been instrumental in making this place popular but the meaning that Tibetan community ascribe to the place is important to view. From an initial place of refuge to the harbinger of Tibetan exile identity, the association of Tibetans with the place has changed over six decades in exile. While the dream of achieving autonomy or independence for Tibet remains uncertain, Dharamshala is becoming a connecting link for exile Tibetans scattered over different places within India, Nepal and Western countries. In order to explore the issue at hand, the work will rely on qualitative methodology. Field generated data based on in-depth interviews and observations will be used to decipher the ways in which the Tibetan community associate itself with Dharamshala. Archival sources will be consulted to view the evolution of the place with specific reference to the Tibetan community. With a growing number of Tibetans migrating to Western countries from India and His Holiness growing old, the changing dynamics of place-identity relationship is pertinent to explore. The paper attempts to view this relationship not only from the vantage point of the official position of the Tibetan Government-in-exile, but through the first-hand accounts of Tibetans who have lived experiences of being in Dharamshala.