Today’s the start of the Lhamo festival at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) http://www.tibetanarts.org. There was a security check before entering the compound. A longish line of people built up as bags were searched, and persons were padded down. Both His Holinesses, the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa were there to grace the occasion. The Dalai Lama we couldn’t see, as he was said to be in a glassed-in upper room. I was disappointed that I could see him. I had attended a couple of his teachings in California some time back, and was hoping to catch a glimpse of him.
The Karmapa, in his 17th incarnation was seated on a balcony with one companion monk. He looked as he always looked in photos, his chin tilting down and his long eyes looking up, squinting a little, looking quite solemn. He was a fairly recent arrival from Tibet. As the head of one of the oldest school of Tibetan buddhism, he was a key spiritual leader. The world learnt of him only when he escaped from Tibet and crossed the Himalayas into exile. He was 14. Other than that I knew little of him. On the other side, a couple of little tulkus (incarnate lamas), maybe 3-or-so years old, with their senior companions. These were incredibly quiet and serene little kids.
The stage was at ground level in the middle of the courtyard. The largely Tibetan crowd sat chatting on the ground around the performance in their best festive wear. People had their picnic lunches out. The thermos flasks and plates they used reminded me of childhood. People were happy, chatty. Monastics and lay people sat side by side. The Opera was called Di-Mey-Kun-Dhen I was told. “It’s a long story” I was also told. Unfortunately all my untrained eyes and ears caught was a lot of clanging and colourful costumes.
I wondered around with my camera trying to get some nice shots. The costumes were quite beautiful. Here and there I catch the pensive eyes and deeply lined faces of the aged. Here and there the bright eyes and vibrant glow of the children. The gayly dressed crowd offered lots of candid shots. Many Tibetans wore their traditional dress. Many serious photographers with their serious photographer’s vests were there with their serious lenses. As I stepped backwards to catch a long shot, I became aware of a kind of magnetic force coming from above my head. It was powerful and gentle at the same time. I looked up. There was the Karmapa leaning forward. I felt a kind of lifting and lightness. I was intrigued and decided to investigate the bookshops for his story. I had seen a number of music CDs with his image on them. (https://www.kagyuoffice.org/karmapa.html)
Still feeling warm and fuzzy, I wondered outside. There was a bustling makeshift market serving a variety of fried bread, noodles and momos. After slurping down a bowl of mediocre soup noodles, I checked out the souvenir stall. Since it was going to be more of ‘a long story’ that I didn’t get, I decided to leave. On the walk down to McLeod Ganj, the wailing of sirens made me jump backwards. First came 2 sedans filled with Indian uniformed men, then came a station wagon with the Dalai Lama in the front seat. I bowed with joined palms as is customary. He smiled a bright smile and waved a blessing. The next thing I know there was a smile in my heart, tears in my eyes, and a bounce in my step.