Ever since we knew we were going to Mcleod Ganj, the exile city of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people, we knew that we would be there at the same time of His Holiness' birthday. It was the one definite plan we had bef0re embarking on this journey, to attend the Dalai Lama's 75th Birthday Bash!
Tuesday, July 6, arrives, and with it the monsoons. Small sidenote about monsoons - when they arrive, it is as if God has taken a large river, placed it in a bucket then decide to pour the contents onto the land all at once. The monsoons make the rain in Humboldt County look like a garden sprinkler. Sidenote about Mcleod Ganj - we are told that this little spot in India gets the 2nd highest rainfall on the planet! I preface with this as the Dalai Lama's Birthday celebration was being held in his very humble temple abode, a large yellow building set upon the hillside, about a 35 minute walk down the beautiful woodland path from where are staying.
The festivities were to begin at 9 am and we had been advised to arrive by 7:30 to secure seats in the outside courtyard of the temple. When we woke up to the monsoon, however, we decided it might not be the best idea to stand in the rain for two hours waiting to see if the Dalai Lama would or would not show up for the festivities, as it was unclear at that point whether or not he would even be there. We had heard rumors that he is not really that into his birthday... We get there at about 9:10 and the streets surrounding the temple are already packed with hundreds of Tibetans, each with a massive brightly colored rain umbrella. There was excitement in the air - the rain, the birthday, the crowds...as we squeezed through the temple gates we bumped into a rainbow umbrella which sprayed water down upon Seth and a nearby red clad monk. The two of them laughing, Seth reached out and rubbed the monk's shaved wet head, as we passed him by.
We wedged our way through the crowds, avoiding more umbrella pokes, passing old Tibetan women selling traditional "momos" veggie stuffed dumplings. Everyone was heading toward one small rigged doorway, with one large security guard, allowing one person at a time through this doorway. It was like an elephant stampede trying to get through a tiny ant hole. So there we are, crammed into a stairwell with hundreds of Tibetans, I am talking so squished I feel the pressure on my innards, and as I was on day two of recovering from India stomach - it was not good. I am starting to feel very claustrophobic, very anxious, the crowd is not moving, but there is Seth squished up next to me, announcing to the entire crowd in a joyous voice, "May all beings be Happy, We are all loving and peaceful people, just here to celebrate His Holiness' Birthday, can we please enter? OM MANI PADME HUM!" That is what I love about him, even in the most uncomfortable of situations he is able to find the light.
So after what seemed like an eternity to me, we made it through the security, and felt a deep breath of fresh air. We were allowed into the temple, but due to the large crowds, we could not be on the floor, but on the balcony overlooking the open courtyard, where as it turns out, the Dalai Lama was sitting, watching his special Birthday performances. So we were upstairs with all the Tibetans, dressed in their finest attire. Some were dressed in traditional costumes, where groups were rehearsing their bits to perform for His Holiness. Loud speakers were blaring the ceremony, and when the Dalai Lama's voice came through, I was instantly brought to tears. Though we were pressed up against hundreds of red robed monks leaning over a railing, we could not quite glance a glimpse of the Dalai Lama. Regardless there was still a Tibetan Party going on upstairs, and when some Tibetan Rock stars took stage, Seth took me in his arms for a little impromptu jig, which was awarded with a "thumbs up" and many smiles from the monks!
As we were leaving we happened to notice a side entrance into the courtyard, near where the HH The Dalai Lama Turns 75!
Dalai Lama was sitting. By maneuvering through monks, we were able to stand on some rickety plastic chairs, and OH YES, get a glimpse of the left side of the Dalai Lama's smiling face.
So there you have it. We were at the Dalai Lama's 75th Birthday and we have the sticker to prove it!
For photos of the event, check out HH the DL's Facebook page.