Delhi’s little Tibet
Majnu ka Tilla, a popular name among the student populace of Delhi University, has a famous Gurudwara and a Tibetan colony. The colony was allotted in the early 1960s by then Prime minister of India Pt Jawaharlal Nehru in order to give refuge to the Tibetan refugees following the mass exodus in 1959.
The Tibetan colony at Majnu ka Tilla has several Tibetan stores and roadside stalls that offer traditional Tibetan clothes, handicrafts, Buddhist artifacts, jewellery, various types of pickles, bamboo shoots, dried Tibetan noodles as well as Tibetan traditional corn flakes, colourful face masks, socks, shoe-soles. Some made-in-China products like sandals, umbrellas and bags are also available here.
The colony is full of restaurants that specialise in Tibetan, Nepali, Korean and Bhutanese cuisines. Besides the mouth smacking Momos, <g data-gr-id="43">Thukpas</g>, and Shabalays, one thing that draws visitors from all over <g data-gr-id="44">Delhi,</g> is the non-alcoholic Fruit Beer, which is available in every restaurant in the colony.
On <g data-gr-id="39">Wednesdays</g> none of the restaurants in Majnu ka Tilla provides <g data-gr-id="37">non vegetarian</g> food. In the year 2004, the colony was renamed after the late freedom fighter Aruna Asaf Ali.
The colony has about 363 permanent registered families in addition to many tenants and outstation students. “The temple we have in the courtyard is not a monastery, so it is only open twice a day during the morning and the evening prayer sessions. Our usual functions and festivals are performed in this courtyard only but sometimes they are also carried out in the school playground,” said an official. On asked about the timing of the lively stores, he added, “The stores here are generally open till <g data-gr-id="51">7pm</g> in the evening and some of the restaurants till 10-10:30 at night which adheres to the government rule.”
"The place is visited mostly by Delhi University students and foreign tourists for the good reputation of <g data-gr-id="42">food</g>. There are many good restaurants here that provides tasty Tibetan and Nepali food”, said Gopal Krishnan, a worker at a local Travels and Money Changer store.
Since Majnu ka Tilla was gifted to the Tibetans by the Government of India, they are neither allowed to sell the land to Indians nor are Indians allowed to buy property there. The place is exclusively meant for Tibetans who are at a liberty to have Indians rent a store for business.
“People mostly buy the Dream-Catcher from our store, amongst all the other artifacts and traditional items. The Dream Catcher is believed to catch the bad dreams and prevent one from having nightmares,” says Tenzin, a worker in one of the artifacts stores.
According to an auto-driver, who ferries passengers to and from the Vidhan Nagar metro station to Majnu ka Tilla, the <g data-gr-id="46">co-ed-school</g> is only for Tibetan children from the colony and has till the 8th standard. Even though Indian children were admitted to the school previously, it had been forbidden for quite some time now.
With all the colours and spices sprinkled over to flavour the place, Majnu ka Tilla still has several local residents who find it difficult to communicate with outsiders due to language issues.
If only they interacted more with the visiting students and tourists in Hindi and in English they could have learnt the language and also be a tad bit <g data-gr-id="41">more</g> friendlier.