Himalayan Tibet Museum
This is the newest museum in Darjeeling inaugurated on 2nd July 2015 by revered Tibetan guru Gurung Tulku Nima Hoiser Rinpoche. The timing was so chosen to coincide with the 80th birthday celebration of Dalai Lama.
The museum is located on Gandhi road and within easy walking distance from the town center (i.e. the clock tower area). As the name suggests, the museum is mainly about the Tibetan community although it has several exhibits and artifacts of other communities along the Himalayan belt as well.
There are other Tibetan museums in India, but they mostly focus on the religious aspects of Tibetans. This museum has its main focus on the history and culture of the Tibetans rather than their religious backgrounds. And the reason for that being it's a unit of Manjushree Centre of Tibetan Culture which is a well known non-profit organization in Darjeeling that has been working on preservation of Tibetan history, heritage, culture and language since long.
The museum is located at the ground floor of Manjushree Centre. Upstairs, the organization also runs a small lodging-only budget hotel called Tibet Home
which helps to generate some funding. But there is a strange background to why and how this museum was first conceived. The president of Manjushree Centre Ngawang Tenzin Gyatso was in Lhasa of Tibet in 2007 when he visited the National Museum there. It is built on the theme of Chinese occupied Tibet. He figured out that the Chinese had manipulated the history of Tibet to suite their own story and misrepresented the facts about Tibetan history and culture. He decided to create a Tibetan museum in Darjeeling to straighten out the facts.
Site of Himalayan Tibet Museum
The construction of the museum started several years back as the funding started trickling in from the local Tibetan community and also through the help from local MP. I was there in September 2011 when the initial construction was going on at the ground floor of the building.
The workers were creating wooden blocks for artwork at the roof of the building which were manually transported to the ground floor and fixed along the ceiling of the museum hall.
Early days, workers crafting wooden blocks
Now the museum is full of priceless exhibits and artifacts. One of the most striking displays is the large 3-dimensional structure on the floor depicting the Himalayas and the plateau. You will come to learn about the ancient civilization of Tibet and also about its first king Nyatri Tsenpo who reigned from 127 BC.
See the wooden blocks are fixed near the ceiling
Dalai Lama himself has donated many articles and exhibits to the museum including a statue of Buddha, diamond sutra text which is written in golden colored ink, prayer bells etc. You will also find portraits of eminent Tibetologists like Alexander Csoma De Koros - a Hungarian who was the first to write dictionary as well as grammars in Tibetan language after tireless efforts.
He died in 1842 in Darjeeling and his grave can still be seen in Old Cemetery
. Other such eminent Tibetologists who were also connected to Darjeeling and whose portraits can be seen in the museum includes Sarat Chandra Das, Gendun Chopel and George Nicolas De Roerich.
Some of the other highlights at the museum are the replica of Potala Palace, seats of Dalai Lama and that of the Government in Tibet which existed before the Chinese invasion took place in 1959.
Himalayan Tibet Museum is open on all days except Wednesday.
During summer it is open between 9:30am to 5pm. During winter between 10am to 4pm.
12 Gandhi Road, at the Ground Floor of Manjushree Center of Tibetan Culture. It's quite close to Bethany school. From Keventer's, it's only about 2-3 minutes walk.
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