Travel, YTT Yoga Teacher Training

Tibetan Prayer Wheels and Temples

McLeod Ganj Prayer Wheels
Tibetan prayer wheels

Our yoga teacher training schedule is crammed, so we relish the little bit of free time for exploring the area and early one morning I enjoyed a visit to the Buddhist Kalachakra Temple (no photos allowed). There were local Tibetans making their daily circuit of the temple; praying, spinning the prayer wheels, stopping to pay their respects to the golden Buddha statue.

The prayer “Om Mani Padme Hum” is written thousands of times on a scroll of paper and placed inside the prayer wheel. The translation is “Praise to The Jewel in the Lotus” and is repeated to invoke compassion. It’s believed that each time you spin the wheel, the effect is the same as reciting the mantra as many times as it is written within the wheel.

McLeod Ganj stupa
McLeod Ganj Stupa

I have a small Tibetan prayer wheel at home, but to be able to turn the prayer wheels in a Tibetan community, within walking distance of the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, was particularly special. I walked behind a group of Tibetan women, in their long skirts with striped pinafores, and I spun the prayer wheels clockwise, silently repeating the prayer. One of the ladies caught my eye and smiled at me. The temple was also the perfect place to sit and meditate; enjoying the quiet atmosphere. Even the stray dogs and monkeys seemed peaceful!

Ornate motifs inside the stupa

On the walk back up Temple Road, there is another set of prayer wheels in the street surrounding a stupa – a memorial to those Tibetans who lost their lives fighting for a free Tibet. Again, you’re welcome to join the Buddhists who spin the wheels on their way to work, as they walk past the cylinders of deep red and green and gold. There’s something very mindful about starting your day with a ritual that includes a wish for all beings to be compassionate.

Yoga in Dharamkot
Yoga in Dharamkot

My walk then took me through the quaint village of Dharamkot, with its charming higgledy-piggledy streets, laidback cafés, small shops with crystals and handmade clothing, and multiple signs for yoga. Many signs are in Hebrew, and I discovered Dharamkot is a favorite destination for Israelis visiting India. I felt a bit like I’d just walked from Little Tibet to Little Jerusalem.

Getting to know Shiva, on the menu
Getting to know Shiva, on the menu

Yummy lunch of paneer in curry sauce (don’t you love the menu, compete with introduction to Shiva?) and then I made my way to the Galu Devi T

emple. It looked like it was about a 20-minute walk on the map, but I kept hiking higher and higher up the mountain, red-faced and panting and asking locals how much further, and they all said “Ten minutes! Ten minutes!”.

Galu Devi Temple in Upper Dharamkot
Galu Devi Temple in Upper Dharamkot

It turned out to be a 4.5km walk (I noticed afterwards my map said “Not to scale”), but the fresh air and the spectacular views out over the valley were worth every step. As was my encounter with a friendly and funny goat, who grinned cheesily at the camera for me.

This is how a goat says CHEESE!

A gorgeous day out. And perhaps I walked off some of that carrot cake I can’t seem to resist at Lhamo’s Croissant, which is treacherously within metres of our yogi cottages!