Archive for the ‘Dharamsala’ Category


June 7, 2014

street fashion dharamsala

street fashion dharamsala
Tenzin, 19. Tibetan. Works as a waiter. Likes whiskey. Lives in McleodGanj.

When I was in school everyone called me Genji because of my haircut. You know that film?

Crows Zero?

Yes. You watch it? Everybody thought I looked like him so now sometimes I say that’s my name.

Photographed in Mcleodganj, Dharamsala in November 2013.

Gaddi Woman

June 4, 2014

gaddi woman dancer street style india
Gaddi woman. Wedding dancer.

Photographed at a wedding in Dharamsala in November 2013.

Dharamsala Sadhu

May 27, 2014

indian sadhu street
Shaivite Sadhu//follower of Shiva.

Photographed in Mcleodganj, Dharamsala in November 2013.

Tibetan Grooms

May 19, 2014

tibetan fashion dharamsala

tibetan fashion dharamsala
Tshering Dhargyal, 24. In traditional Tibetan wedding attire a few weeks before his wedding.

street style dharamsala india

street style dharamsala india
Youlha Tsering, 24. In traditional Tibetan wedding attire with jeans on the day of his wedding.

Photographed in July 2012 and November 2013 in McleodGanj, Dharamsala.

Gaddi Women | Dharamsala

May 13, 2014

gaddi women himachal

gaddi women himachal
Gaddi women in McleodGanj main square.

Photographed in November 2013.

Old Tibetan Woman

March 1, 2014

street style dharamsala

street style dharamsala
Old Tibetan woman. Is wearing a Chuba — ‘a long capacious robe with wide, elongated sleeves. Caught up at the waist by a woolen girdle so that its skirts reach only to the knees and its upper folds form an enormous circular pocket round the chest. The striped woven apron implies she is married.’

Photographed at Kora in Mcleodganj, Dharamsala in November 2013.

Tsoknyi Gyatso

January 17, 2014

street style mcleodganj india
Tsoknyi Gyatso, 38. Tibetan monk. Lives in McLeodGanj. 

How is your ordinary day like?
Usually I get up around 5 am. Always try to get up little early because I practise Tibetan yoga. I do Surya Namaskars & kapalabhati. Then have breakfast — cheese with Tsampa & milk tea. Most Tibetan people eat Tsampa with sugar cheese and butter, but I don’t like sugar much. Then I listen to news about Tibetan issues. I also try to watch and listen to BBC and CNN to improve my English. Then I do my homework around 9/9.30. Then I chant from the Dharma book and meditate. In daytime I have two French classes and since last week I started going to LHA for conversation class. When I have free time I go to the temple and meditate. During my dinner I chat with my friends in Tibet on WeChat. It was created by the Chinese. Last month Chinese arrested a Tibetan woman because she shared many pictures of His Holiness with her friends and talked about what’s happening in Tibet. So we are just talking about normal stuff: what we are eating, what did you do today, how is the weather. Our conversations on WeChat are meaningless.

Do you believe in reincarnation?
Yes. When I was 25 years old there were many Tibetan children around who remembered everything about their previous lives. They could recognize their previous parents, friends, monasteries, everything. Mind and body are different. Body is like the cloth of mind. When we stop breathing mind goes out to a place between death and birth till it is born again.

How do you define mind?
Mind is the root — the essence of you. Mind is very flexible. If we try we can mould it. Mind is you. Many people believe mind is in heart. Science says it’s here [points to his head]. We are always busy thinking about many things. This makes us sad. Busy meaningless life. We have no contentment. We have to stop thinking and try to keep it silent.

How do you make the mind silent?
[Laughs]. Best way to make mind stable is through meditation. By thinking about emptiness and why I am busy, why I am in this world.

Actually I am not good at doing meditation. I am under three poisons. I am full of ignorance, attachment, and hatred.

What are you attached to?
Beautiful things. I am wearing this[robe] but I am still trying to control my attachment to desires. So I have this attachment. If I didn’t, I could stay in the mountains and live there forever. If I am not under the three poisons I will be liberated from samsara. Like Milarepa.

Photographed and interviewed in November 2013 in Mcleodganj.

*// The color “red” had become the traditional monk robe color in Tibet mainly because it was the most common and cheapest dye at one point of time. Also, red is considered a ”poor” color in Tibet so the idea of wearing red symbolizes deflecting attention from oneself and focusing on compassion & kindness towards other beings – one of the main principles of Buddhism.  Wearing such robes also symbolizes the vow taken to lead simple lives. A monk’s robe is a symbol of his non-status that he no longer partakes in a material world. *//


January 15, 2014

dharamsala street fashion india
Samten, 31. Tibetan. Works as a photographer. Lives in McLeodGanj, Dharamsala.

How long have you been living here and what did you do before working as a photographer?
I came here in 2004. I worked at coffee shops, restaurants. In total around 7-8 places.

What kind of photography you’re interested in?
Nothing in particular. It’s free. For example I like this cup, I have some feeling, I take a photo.

Do you have any favourite books?
I like reading Chinese & Buddhist philosophy. I just started reading this book about a traveller who came to Beijing, then inner Mongolia via Xinghai then Lhasa and what he saw how everything was about 200 years ago. It’s in Chinese. I don’t know how to translate the name. // I think it’s Young Husband.

Favourite films?
Weeping camel. Amelie. YesterdayIn the Heat of the Sun.

Is there anything you find interesting about Buddhist philosophy?
The Buddha talk.  // Dhammapada

Does your name mean anything?
Samten means if I go this way I’m never coming back. If I am thinking something, I decide to do something, I will do it.

Do you believe in reincarnation?
Yes yes yes. I think it’s true. When we die we just change bodies. Yes.

Photographed and interviewed in Mcleodganj in November 2013.

The Human Experience

September 17, 2010

You don’t really look forward to getting older, but as you reach a certain age, you think about it all the time. You get extremely selective about things you like and you don’t. You carefully choose what you want to do with your time. You feel the constant want to know more about more things while forgetting what you already know. You sleep early or at least try to, thinking you’d wake up early too. You ask bigger questions about the purpose of existence and meaning of life. You are happy, and you are terrified, and you are still in your 20s.

Being in this world, in this time, where change is constant, you just can’t help getting older. It is a part of nature. A never ending human experience.

Ripped/torn clothing has been in and out of fashion for decades but the last time it gained ground it had a better significance than before, probably because it was “reflecting recession,” in the sense – “poor state of economy = poor state of clothes.” No one wanted to look like they had money.So there were leggings, jeans, skirts & shorts – all slashed, mutilated but more expensive than before.
I wonder if most of the trends are born out of not caring. For example: the seams of the sweater in the photo above are coming off at the neck, and it is probably out of indifference or not having enough money to get it stitched or both.
Considering the unpredictability of fashion, I’m thinking if it’d become a trend some day for the top part of clothing as well, just as it did for bottoms. At the least, it could be argued, whether deliberate or not, the tearing of clothes, and the current state of the world economy are interestingly symbolic.

All Tibetan women are seen dressed up in long-sleeved shirts and striped aprons at the waist. According to the Tibetan custom, aprons are worn by women to indicate they are married. There are aprons in different colors, varying mostly in the sizes of the stripes. If a woman gets divorced or becomes a widow, she no longer wears an apron. Also, if observed, no Tibetan men wear rings or any other specific articles of clothing that indicate their marital status.

I am also wondering if old people worry about matters like – “So today I am going to the temple, and I should wear this black bowler hat with my brown walking stick, and canvas moccasins?”

Old folks of Dharamsala. Praying, turning beads between their fingers, counting; smiling at the unfamiliar, greeting the familiar; content; lost on the streets, and within selves.

Vows of Individual Liberation in Red

July 20, 2010

One of the things that struck me the most, when I stayed in Dharamsala, was the abundance of color all around that somehow seemed to be in perfect harmony with the projected minimalism of life.

In reality, the color of a monk’s robe is not just plain red but varies in many shades of red, ranging from maroon to crimson to deep wine.

The color “red” had become the traditional monk robe color in Tibet mainly because it was the most common and cheapest dye at one point of time. Also, red is considered a ”poor” color in Tibet so the idea of wearing red symbolizes deflecting attention from oneself and focusing on compassion & kindness towards other beings – one of the main principles of Buddhism.The Buddhist robe is said to be more colorful than other sects. Interestingly it is also one of the oldest styles of fashion that is still in existence despite 2500 years having passed by since this type of attire came to be.

The simplicity of wearing such robes also symbolizes the vow taken to lead simple lives. A monk’s robe is like his uniform in a way – a symbol of his non-status that he no longer partakes in a material world. It is interesting to see that a symbol of such self imposed insignificance has become so significant with time.

Tibetan monks wear a shirt and a skirt instead of a one-piece robe. A shawl-type robe may be worn as an outer layer.
The basic robe consists of these:
The dhonka, a wrap shirt with cap sleeves. The dhonka usually is maroon or maroon and yellow with blue piping.
The shemdap, a maroon skirt made with patched cloth and a varying number of pleats.
The chogu is something like a sanghati(the outer robe), a wrap made in patches and worn on the upper body, although sometimes it is draped over one shoulder like a kashaya robe(the upper robe). The chögu is yellow and worn for certain ceremonies and teachings.
The zhen is similar to the chogu, but maroon, and is for ordinary day-to-day wear.

There are a number of stories explaining the blue piping. The most common one is that it commemorates a connection to China.

The shaved heads symbolize the renunciation of worldly things. It helps the monks overcome vanity on the path to a simple enlightened life.

They talk about global warming, space shuttles, and Bollywood. Many have nothing and want nothing except their homeland back. Most of them renounced everything they had to embrace the simplicity of  a life dedicated to a religion that preaches selflessness. Everyone else including local Indians & many travelers around them complete their large circle of family, love, friendship, and support.

The controversial 17th Karamapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, one of Tibetan Buddhism’s most revered leaders and a probable successor to the Dalai Lama.

Conversation classes are hugely popular in Mcleod Ganj. A typical description of a conversation class is English-speaking travelers converse with monks/tibetans  in English in order to improve their spoken English. These conversation classes are held every day for an hour or two, 5 days a week. Teaching and learning at these classes work both ways. Volunteering travelers talk about their city life & day-to-day experiences, and learn about the tibetan way of life, their struggles, their dangerous journey over the Himalayas, the sacrifices they made, and their rehabilitation in a foreign land.

Poster for a *Conversation Class* held at one of the NGOs I was volunteering at.

The monastic life feels like a big alternative spiritual get-together.

Here Comes the Umbrella

June 17, 2010
It was a long, cold, lonely winter, and it felt like it’d been there for years..but then out came the sun and The Beatles said, “it’s alright.” Smile returned to people’s faces. The sun shone, and people sipped lemonade, but when came the rain, people ran and hid their heads, and The Beatles said, “when it rains and shines, it’s just a state of mind.”

These photos were taken during the months of August, September, October in Mcleodganj, Dharamsala. It was considerably cold throughout. People looked happy when the sun shone, rain always brought with it a bit of gloominess, and life got colder with the dark winter fog.  Just a state of mind? I can’t be sure.
Meanwhile, the cost of these umbrellas remained unaffected, ranging from 60Rs. to 250Rs.

The Joker Shoot

March 5, 2010

maja bernvill

the joker shoot


heath ledger joker

heath ledger joker shoot

Clothing & enlightenment

February 17, 2010

During the days of teachings, I would sit on the temple road for 2 to 3 hours every day and take photos. I started by photographing people from behind, or when they were not looking, but gradually I realized that no one cared. And the ones who did…changed their mood for the photographs.


February 16, 2010

Photos from Jogibara road/Temple road in Mcleodganj, Dharamsala.

Scarves on Temple Road

February 16, 2010

The commonest of all scarves. If you don’t have it, you are not a traveller. These scarves sell for about 150 Rupees on Temple Road. And last time I checked; one can find them in Sarojini Nagar Market for about half the price.

Most of these photos were taken during the Dalai Lama teachings. The teachings are about Buddhism, ethics, and interfaith harmony, and they happen almost every month for about 3 to 4 days. In the beginning, I didn’t think much of the teachings. I felt they were not for me. But during my last month I decided to attend one just for the experience. The Dalai Lama said the most simple things…most obvious things..but things that we have forgotten or we overlook as we stay busy in this fast changing world, and I was glad I attended.

Bags on Temple Road

February 16, 2010

I am in Mcleodganj, Dharamsala; still on the sidewalk on Temple Road, although it’s not much of a sidewalk so I’m quite on the road itself. I wasn’t particularly thinking about documenting bags while taking these photos. Most of these people are travellers going to the Dalai Lama temple.

Hairstyles/ Sunglasses

February 15, 2010

Holly Frances
The cap is from a temporary stall in Phuket for about 200 Rupees.
Sunglasses are 1960s vintage from a vintage shop, Crown Street, Sydney for about 600 Rupees.

My first post. Photos are from Mcleodganj, Dharamsala. I came here to do something else but ended up doing something else. Which, I think, is true for many others too.