A peek into Tibetan culture at Majnu Ka Tila

For the past year, Delhi’s Tibetans have been gathering together to participate in Gorshey, where they dance to traditional music, celebrate their culture and strengthen the community

November 11, 2022 12:59 am | Updated 12:51 pm IST

Weekly ritual: Tibetans doing Gorshey at Aruna Nagar Colony, Majnu Ka Tila.

Weekly ritual: Tibetans doing Gorshey at Aruna Nagar Colony, Majnu Ka Tila. | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Majnu Ka Tila in North Delhi, has been a home to Tibetans in exile from the 1950s. But it was only a year ago, that Gorshey became a part of the White Wednesday routine, after the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress – that meets annually at Dharamshala – decided to promote traditional Tibetan culture to strengthen the community living in different refugee settlements across the world.

Gor’ means circle, and ‘shey‘ means dance,” says Tenzin Youdon, the lead dancer of the circle at Majnu Ka Tila. “Every Wednesday, we pray in the morning, then gather together to speak in Tibetan, eat Tibetan food, and wear traditional Tibetan clothes. The Gorshey takes place between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.”

Whoever is present in the colony – from a student to a momo-maker, a housewife to a shop owner - joins the evening ritual, sometimes in a traditional dress or casual attire. There is a steady influx of Tibetans who come to study in universities or come looking for work and leave after a short stay, says Youdon, and adds, “preservation of our culture is what every resident of the colony understands. We feel happy to contribute in whatever little way we can”.

The courtyard in front of the Buddhist temple (also referred to as the Tibetan monastery), comes to life, as young and old men and women take centre-stage, dancing in circles. The group also includes Tibetan children sporting broad smiles, and bouncing through the joyful dance moves as well as senior members of the community.

“We teach our children about our heritage and customs from a young age; It inculcates a feeling of patriotism in them and helps them imbibe their culture and not forget their origin even after being born in exile,” says Kurpoo, a shop owner. “We try to keep our connect with our motherland with such entertainment-filled evenings.”

The gripping circle dance is done on Lhakar or White Wednesdays, as it is recognised as auspicious. Youdon, who teaches Gorshey pro bono, says, the traditional music played on the occasion mostly originated in Tibet, though some of it has been composed by Tibetans living in Dharamshala.

This vibrant colony – which is a 10-minute ride on an e-rickshaw from the Vidhan Sabha metro station – has emerged as a popular stopover for tourists and Delhiites alike, who visit to sample the traditional Tibetan cuisine, and shop at the clothing stores.

“It is an attempt to replicate a sense of belonging and retain the culture of the community,” says Tenzin Dhonden, general secretary of the RTYC. With regional branches in 89 countries, the RTYC sets its cultural agenda influenced by the organisation’s activities in Dharamshala.

Many visitors accidentally stumble upon this celebration of culture. Once the Gorshey is over, they invariably stay back, waiting for tables at the now-packed restaurants, as the space erupts into a mini cultural hub.

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