My first encounter was in Basgo Village. Aussie Anna and I along with our guides Stanzin and Mantog had just been to the Basgo Monastery and were returning. We knew that the Dalai Lama was expected to drive through the village on the way to and from a monument above the monastery. We saw the local villagers all dressed up and holding flowers and white blessing scarves and lighting incense along the road. Well, we thought we would just stop and wait with them.
I asked a couple of local ladies if I could take their picture and they said yes. There were also some monks and their friend from Tibet but who were not at a monastery in India. They thought I should have their picture too. Then they got Stanzin in the picture too. Here is the results.
Here is the Dalai Lama waving to all of us as the villagers greet him. This will be the closest I every get to him on this trip.
Traffic was backed up at that time way before we got to the site. Our taxi driver dropped us off as close as he could (say 1/2 mile) from the entrance. We had his phone number so we could find out where he parked afterwards, however, none of us had a working phone for Ladakh and would have to find someone to let us use theirs. There were so many people, at least 100,000 to 150,000 people. Foreigners had a designated area to the left of the stage. However, there were over 4000 foreigners. Getting our spot on the ground to sit was difficult but we managed. George and Vijay had wanted to accompany us, but security was tight and they were not allowed into the foreigner section and the security was corralling the 3 of us into the foreigner section. We all had badges that we received when we registered for the event. Registration required our passports plus 2 additional passport sized photos. Our badges had "Foreigner" on it and George's and Vijay's had "Pilgrim" on theirs. So off we go to our designated areas.
The first couple of hours were the prayers. The prayers are by monks chanting in those low bass rythmic voices. The Dalai Lamai was speaking in Tibetan. Most of the pilgrims spoke either Ladakhi or Hindi. Most foreigners, English. So we were asked to bring little FM radios. On different stations were the different translations. (I think mine was 89.0). The English interpreter really annoyed me at times as he would slurp his tea in the microphone and miss sections of the Dalai Lama speech, or laugh at someone's statement.
Then the Dalai Lama came out and gave his speech on world peace and relationships between religions. How the precept for all religions is love and compassion. It was a generic speech to all involved, not just those committing to the actual Kalachakra initiation and vows. A very good speech which could have been even better with a more professional English interpreter.
Getting out was a whole issue unto itself. Here were all these people wanting to get out. It took forever to just get to the area where our taxi driver had parked and cars were already backed up trying to exit. I think the parking lot was almost empty before we were able to locate our taxi. We had to walk through a landfill of sorts to get to the car. Yuck. The traffic was so bad that the driver thought it would be faster to go to Shey (which is in the opposite direction) and then cross the Indus River and go back on a road there. Well, it took about 2 1/2 to 3 hours to return. The event is only 8km away from Leh. We finally made it back the long way, and our hosts, who drove back on the main road still had not arrived. I decided I'm not going through that again since I'm only an observer, so would only make it back for the Dalai Lama's birthday.
Three days later, July 6th, was the Dalai Lama's birthday. We told the taxi driver to park at a particular spot about 1 km away but which we could walk to and would know exactly where he was. So much better getting in. Finding a seat was much harder. Claudia tried to go sit with the women monks to get a good view until the security made her leave.
There were quite a few speakers to wish him well. There were more political talk this time since one of the Dalai Lama's big objectives is the Tibetian people and trying to work with China to make things better for the Tibetan people. The Tibetans still have much hope in him and his efforts to help them live a better life in Tibet. Even Richard Gere was there, who is a long time friend of the Dalai Lama's. He is totally white haired now, but still looks great. He represented all of us westerners in wishing the Dalai Lama well. Then the Dalai Lama came out and talked about various things, again, more generic, but also adding in what will be happening during the next week for the initiates.
After the completion of the Kalachakra, the mandala that was created was kept on display for 3 days before they destroyed it. Mandalas are large "drawings" created by colored sands (or finely ground rock powder). It takes a few monks a few days to create one as complex as the Kalachakra mandala. The Kalachakra mandala represents a 3 dimensional 5 story building where the initiates visualize themselves as certain dieties or buddhas within it's walls.
I asked my host family if I could go with them and hurriedly got my Ladakhi dress and scarf on and proceeded out the door to do. Cho cho, their teenage daughter was standing outside my door waiting for me and asked what about my pants? I had forgotten to put on pants. Even though the dress is of dress length, it only fastens at the waist and my legs would definitely come out at in opportune moments. She, of course, is laughing hysterically as I go put on my pants that go with the outfit. (I was rushed to get ready.) The family laughed all the way there, I think.
We get to the site and there is a line that is 1/2 mile long at least. So we just got out and got in the line. It took us over 2 hours to get to the site and was dark by the time we finally made it. It was also all locals, all of the tourists that came to see the even had gone to their homes.
Finally made it to the sight.