Happy Valley, Mussoorie - Dalai Lama's first home in India

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On 17th March 1959, a young man escaped in disguise from his own home, a home he could never return back to. The world thought he was dead already until two weeks later he reappeared in Tezpur, Assam. The young man was Tenzin Gyatso, the 24 years old 14th Dalai Lama who had just escaped from Lhasa in Tibet. Against the might of China, India gave asylum to Dalai Lama and the Tibetean government in exile. Mussoorie was one of Pandit Nehru's favourite hill-station and it was considered relatively safe to move Dalai Lama there in an innocuous valley appropriately called Happy Valley near the hill station.

Buddhist Monastery Happy Valley Mussoorie
First view of Happy Valley near Mussoorie

This is how Dalai Lama made Happy Valley his first home in India and for one full year he stayed there. During this period a Tibetean school and a small but beautiful Buddhist Temple was established. However, by the end of first year the intelligence reports that came from the region were not encouraging - despite the Z grade security to Dalai Lama, there was a looming threat of his assassination. A decision was made to shift him to the hitherto unknown hill town called Dharmashala in nearby Himachal Pradesh. The town was well protected by army's large presence and back then there were also no tourists there.

Buddhist Monastery Happy Valley Mussoorie
The Buddhist Monastery at Happy Valley
Buddhist Monastery Happy Valley Mussoorie
Interiors of the monastery
Buddhist Monastery Happy Valley Mussoorie
The entrance to the monastery

Check out the video of the Monastery here:



Happy Valley now

So after one year Dalai Lama moved and the center of Tibetean influence in India shifted, but a large Tibetean population stayed back. They continued to flourish and Happy Valley became their permanent home.

However, when I did the trek to the Happy Valley, I knew very little about the history of the place. I was lucky to meet an enthusiastic lama, Lopsang Samten, who narrated parts of the above history with help of a young student from the Tibetean school. I think he was impressed with my interest in Tibetean history, and so invited me to attend a cultural festival later in the morning at the school.

Buddhist Monastery Happy Valley Mussoorie
Lama Lopsang Samten
Buddhist Monastery Happy Valley Mussoorie
Buddhist scriptures from Tibet

On December 10, 1987 Dalai Lama gave his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize and every year the day is celebrated here, and luckily for me it was 10th December today.

I followed the young students to their school near by and experienced a school function after so many years. After the singing of National Anthem and other prayers, there were lovely performances by school students celebrating the culture of Tibet. It's rather amazing that they have managed to keep their culture alive - everyone speaks Tibetean, read the original scriptures and some even have families in Tibet, and that keeps them connected to their roots.

Happy Valley Mussoorie Dalai Lama
Procession through the school
Happy Valley Mussoorie Dalai Lama
A Tibetean song being performed by the students
Happy Valley Mussoorie Dalai Lama
Young kids joining in :)

Check out the videos here:





Golden Buddha

Right opposite to the school on a windy hill, there is a beautiful golden statue of Buddha put up recently in 2014, and that's where I headed to next. The view from the hill is great as well - on one side you can see Kempty village, and on the other side Mussoorie is visible. The air is chilled but felt really nice even in December. We ate our breakfast on the way down from the hill. It seemed like a perfect morning in the lap of Himalayas.

Happy Valley Mussoorie Dalai Lama
Golden Buddha at Happy Valley

Check out the video at the top:



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As an afterthought, travel always amazes me so much - there is so much around me that I don't know. Each trip helps me understand my country better and makes me appreciate what all our leaders did back in the days, and how much we have forgotten. What if Nehru had refused asylum to Dalai Lama in 1959? He had undertaken a 'Look East' policy in the 1950s to focus on India's relationship with China, and in that context the decision was even more commendable. Let's embrace the future, but let's also not forget our country's beautiful past. Let's not forget our history.

Read more: Panditji, Dalai Lama and Happy Valley

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11 comments:

  1. I thought I knew everything that was worth knowing about Mussoorie and then I read your post.

    Feasted my eyes on the pictures. Updated my knowledge.
    Thank you.

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  2. What beautiful light! Lovely photographs and interesting fact file :)

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  3. Slow claps. Just brilliant.

    Shubham

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  4. Yeah, It is a such a peaceful place to visit. Thank you Siddhartha for sharing.

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  5. Stunning captures Siddhartha! Happy valley looks so beautiful and serene...

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  6. Great captures. Having lived in Dehradoon, I visited Mussoorie many times. Wasn't aware of Happy Valley, so definitely on for my next visit !

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  7. Wow Superb article great things to be known and great captures.
    Thank You

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  8. Great post and lovely pics!

    ReplyDelete