Well. I have spent a very happy day today, mostly shooting up heroin.
I mean, looking at thangkas and carpets. (The effect is very similar. 😉 )
Thangkas, in case you didn’t know, are Tibetan religious paintings, usually done on fabric. (Thin cotton, sized with paint to produce a smooth surface.) They typically feature one or more Tibetan Buddhist deities–though there are lovely mandalas, depictions of the life of Buddha, the Wheel of Life, and so on. They cost between $16 (for a cheap, printed one) to $500 and up for the best ones–I saw a Kali chakra mandala that was $2500, but it was 6×8′ at least and absolutely stunning.
Umm. I’m getting ahead of myself.
I found out yesterday night that the Dalai Lama was having a public teaching this morning, and was also told he might be having a public audience. So I went this morning.
It was neat. The Dalai Lama was leading chants when I got there (the place was utterly packed–I had to crouch because there wasn’t even enough room to sit), which went on for about fifteen minutes….people were throwing rice in the air, and also tossing katah (white Tibetan gift-wrap scarves) into the air, forward towards the Dalai Lama. (People on whom the katah landed would hold the katah for a moment, praying I assume, then toss it further forward.) Maroon-robed monks moved through the crowd with silver urns, pouring tea into the attendees’ cups.
(I have to apologize. I have only ten minutes before the Internet cafe closes, so this will have to be abbreviated.)
Tibetan chanting is interesting…there is a gutteral, almost distorted note to it that is quite unlike, say, Gregorian chants…at some portions, it’s almost unlike a human voice at all. It’s really neat when everyone around you is doing it.
It is said that the Dalai Lama (who is the incarnation of the Buddha of Compassion, incidentally) has a very strong presence. This turns out to be eminently true…I could certainly feel it, and I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, since he was speaking in Tibetan. The teaching was interesting nonetheless…there was an offering of torma at some point, and chanting and prayers (and jokes) interspersed. I wish I’d had a radio, which would have allowed me to follow the translation, so oh well.
Afterwards I had the nearest near-miss with the Dalai Lama yet…I was seated in the center aisle, and when His Holiness left the temple, I somehow found myself in the front row as he passed…so he went by within about eighteen inches of me, close enough to touch. (No, I didn’t.) He has an even stronger presence, up close. Very interesting…
At any rate, I then wound up on shopping lane, where I did pretty much all my gift shopping in a few hectic hours. After searching through half of Dharamsala, though, I *finally* managed to break into the right crowd…yesterday I had bought three thangkas in a very nice shop. The shopkeeper took a liking to me (no, he didn’t proposition me–he’s a nice guy 😉 ) and showed me his thangka collection today…which was stunning…and when I mentioned I was going to buy carpets, he told me not to buy at the place I was considering, and took me to what he said was the best carpet place in town.
Their carpets are stunning. I thought the Kashmiri carpets I’d been seeing were neat, but these! Wow. The ones I’d been seeing have 900 knots per inch (30 x 30 knots), but I saw a 1600-knot (40×40) there and they’re sending a 60×60 for me to look at. I want to *see* a 3600 knot per square inch carpet. I mean, people don’t even do needlework that fine. Yikes.
(I am no longer worried about child and slave labor w/r/t these carpets, by the way–apparently they’re only used on the cheaper carpets, especially wool ones. Silk carpets, particularly fine quality ones, have to be made by master carpet weavers–20 years of experience or more. A good master weaver can tie about 300 knots per day on the finer carpets, which means about 1/3 of a square inch. Yikes.)
I’m out of time, so will run off–more on today’s shopping adventures later, maybe tomorrow, maybe after I get to Rewalsar.