Mussoorie: The picturesque hill town of Mussoorie occupies a special place in Tibetan history as the Queen of Hills was the first home of the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in India after his escape from Tibet.
Exactly 60 years ago, on April 20, 1959, the spiritual leader along with his followers reached Mussoorie after arrangements for his temporary stay were made at the hilltown.
Recalling Mussoorie’s connection with the Dalai Lama, historian Gopal Bhardwaj recalls, “A rousing welcome was given to the Dalai Lama the day he reached Mussoorie. I was a 9-year-old boy then and still vividly recall standing along the road with a tricolour in my hand to welcome Dalai Lama who was in a car and waving to people. His mother was also there along with him.”
Temporary stay arrangments were made for the spiritual leader and his retinue at Birla House near present-day Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) in Happy Valley.
Dalai Lama’s first meeting with PM Nehru also took place at Mussoorie on April 24, 1959. In his autobiography “Freedom in Exile”, Dalai Lama recalled that his meeting with PM lasted for over 4 hours.
The spiritual leader went on to stay in Mussoorie for over a year, leaving the hill station in the last week of April 1960, for Dharamshala, which was to become his permanent home and seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile. In his autobiography, the Dalai Lama recalled the year spent in Mussoorie as “a desperate year” since there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of the Tibetan people during this time. However, it was also a period of intense activity as the spiritual leader held several meetings with various people and also held his first press conference at Mussoorie which was attended by journalists from across the world.
Even though the Dalai Lama left Mussoorie after a year-long-stay, several Tibetans continued to stay on in Happy Valley and the area is now a flourishing Tibetan settlement housing institution like Tibetan Homes Foundation and Central School for Tibetans.
“His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s coming to Mussoorie was an important landmark in Tibetan history. We Tibetans are grateful to the people of India for their enormous love and support,” said Tsering Youdon, a resident of Mussoorie.