Thousands of Tibetan Buddhists have left this town in Himachal Pradesh and have reached Bodh Gaya in Bihar to listen to the teachings of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and participate in the highly-venerated ‘Kalachakra’ (Wheel of Time) ceremony.
The spiritual leader, along with monks of the Namgyal Monastery, started a ritual preparation on Monday to consecrate the venue.
The ‘Kalachakra’ preliminary teachings will be held from January 5-8, while the Dalai Lama will confer the 34th Kalachakra initiation from January 11-13, event organisers said.
McLeodganj, a suburb of this town where the Tibetan government-in-exile is based, and is home to a large Tibetan population, is looking abandoned.
“Most of our family members have already reached Bodh Gaya to participate in teachings and seek blessings of Guru-ji (the Dalai Lama),” said octogenarian shopkeeper Tenzin Choewang.
He said owing to poor heath he could not attend the Kalachakra ceremony for the first time in his life.
“For us the Kalachakra ceremony is like the Pope coming to dedicate a new church,” his youngest grandson Tenzin, who preferred to stay back, added.
Lobsang Sangay, the democratically-elected Prime Minister, along with his cabinet colleagues and top functionaries, is also camping in Bodh Gaya, a sacred place with over 2,000 years of history.
The 34th Kalachakra initiation, being organised by the Central Tibetan Administration, saw more than 100,000 devotees on the first day of the ritual preparation. Most of them have come from over 17 countries, including China, Mongolia, the US and Australia.
Wangmo Dolkar, who earns a livelihood by selling Tibetan dumplings or momos outside the Tsuglagkhang temple here, said most of the local vendors have reached Bodh Gaya.
Since most of the locals are in Bodh Gaya and thousands of devotees are coming there from across the world, it is the best opportunity to earn handsomely there, she said.
Lobsang Wangyal, the producer and director of the Tibetan Music Awards based in McLeodganj who is currently in Bodh Gaya, said the Bihar government has made elaborate arrangements for the ceremony.
“We are ringing in the New Year on a very positive note with the teachings and blessings of His Holiness,” Wangyal told IANS over the phone.
He said the local administration has made elaborate security arrangements for the ceremony.
Members of the hospitality industry here said the deserted McLeodganj, which became an attraction for tourists in search of Tibetan culture and spiritual sustenance after India allowed the Dalai Lama to settle here, will impact their business.
“Our business is normally hit when His Holiness is travelling. This time it is impacted more as a large number of locals have also travelled out of the town,” said Pankaj Chadha, owner of the McLio restaurant.
The spiritual guru’s teachings are free and open to the public. Even board and lodging is free for the participants, says the Dalai Lama’s office.
The teaching sessions are held at the request of followers and devotees, mostly Westerners and Asians. The Dalai Lama teaches in Tibetan and there are simultaneous translations in English, Hindi and Chinese for the participants.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese Communist rule in 1959.
The government-in-exile is based in Dharamsala and has never won formal recognition from any country though contacts are maintained at various levels. IANS