By Tenzin Phende*
It’s Lhakar once again. And this time I am in one of the largest Tibetan settlements, Doeguling settlement in Mundgod on an assignment from Dharamshala to cover the ongoing teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Even though its winter, the sun is unforgiving and the cool breeze of Dharamshala seem like a distant phenomenon over here. However, braving the heat, I visited several schools to see how Lhakar is celebrated in southern India, distanced in terms of space from the political energy of Dharamshala.
Lhakar or white-Wednesday, is a day celebrated as His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Soul-Day. It started home grown non-violent movement that began in Tibet in the aftermath of the 2008 pan Tibet uprising.
After enjoying a satisfying breakfast of Tibetan butter tea and bread, I headed out into the settlement on my mission to find people or symbols of the Lhakar movement.
As I wasn’t familiar with the settlement, I first visited the Tibetan settlement office to ask for some directions. Tselha, a staff that works at the office welcomed me with a warm smile, and offered some suggestions, which included schools and monasteries.
I then borrowed a scooter and went to two schools but they were having exams. I thought a shutterbug trying to capture them might distract them from their thought process. So, I left and went to another school.
This school, located in camp 6, is a Montessori and baby room. As I opened the iron gate and entered into the school, a lady came out and greeted me with a Tashi Delek, the traditional Tibetan greeting. I explained to her that I’m from Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR) and that am writing an article every Wednesday on Lhakar.
She welcomed me immediately and we went inside. There I saw young and cute Tibetan kids busy playing with toys. A little girl name Kyizom came running towards me with curios eyes, and asked me why I’m here. She was wearing a white Bhusu Onjug.
The school has only two rooms. One is for infants below 3 years of age and another is for children attending Montessori school. I was watching them as they are putting beads with different colour into a thin thread. While putting it into thread, they have to identify the colour of the beads in Tibetan.
The lady looking after these kids is called Madam Tashi Dolma, from camp 8. She said, “We have a total of 25 kids of 12 in baby room and 13 in Montessori. It is pretty hard for one person to look after the kids as when I go to pamper one kid, others start fighting.”
She looks after the kids in the baby room. They seem like really naughty kids fighting over for toys. Sometime few of them yell and cry. I was there for half an hour capturing some cherishing moments of those kids.
Then I went to the next room, where kids are laughing out loud while watching television. I was interested to see what they are laughing at. I moved my camera towards the TV, and it was showing Tom & Jerry dubbed in Tibetan language.
So I sat there with them to watch it for a while to see their expressions. I captured few expressive moods. One girl was wearing Chupa with Phangdhen (Apron for married Tibetan women). She looked endearing as she looked very comfortable int hem.
It was almost noon and I thought now I should start moving as I have to look for some more interesting things. I left thanking the teacher for sharing her experience with me.
I went back to the settlement office to collect some information. Tselha, office secretary narrated me how they celebrate Lhakar at settlement.
He explained that every Wednesday; one of the nine camps offer sangsol and prayers on Norbu Ri near camp 4.
He said, “Tibetan Settlement Officer attends the sangsol regularly. Everyone comes in Tibetan traditional attire.”
He further explained that Tibetans in the settlement eat only vegetarian on Lhakar as they make an effort not to eat non-vegetarian food on this day.
So, this was Lhakar this week in Doeguling Tibetan settlement in Mundgod.
*Tenzin Phende is photo editor at Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR).