Photo Essay: Tibetans in Dharamshala (India)

Deepak Rana
4 min readApr 16, 2022

The late 1950s saw the beginning of the Tibetan resistance movement and uprisings against China. But the enemy was too big, and therefore, the possibility of success almost zero. As a result, thousands of Tibetans were killed. The Dalai Lama and some members of the Tibetan government subsequently fled to India, followed within a year by about 80,000 Tibetans.

Today, more than 1,25,000 Tibetans live outside Tibet, without any hope to go back. This brings us to Dharamshala, a small town located in the Himalayan foothills of north India. Dharamshala is important for many reasons: it is the largest settlement of Tibetan community and host to the Dalai Lama along with the Government-in-Exile.

In this photo-essay, we’ll catch a glimpse of the life of the ordinary Tibetans, residing in Dharamshala. Let’s start then, shall we?

Tibetans are politically active people. They make sure that they raise their voice, particularly when it comes to the matters of world peace, human rights, and China. You will often see them protesting for one thing or another at the main square.

Traditionally, there has been a practice of at least one child in the family joining monastery. This is why monks and nuns are everywhere to be seen. Some preaching on the streets…

And some relaxing at a coffee shop.

Tibetans have traditionally been traders and merchants. For centuries, they have been visiting India to buy and sell goods. This practice continues as they have set up shops in every corner of the town.

They have brought a cafe culture in the town. Wherever you turn, there is a cafe — and each one of them is as cosy and comfy as you would expect in a hill station.

The same goes for street food. There has been a momo-and-chowmein pandemic in recent years. Even in a small town like this, you’ll find hundreds of momo-and-chowmein vendors.

Tibetan women play an important role in the family. They take up different kinds of jobs to support not just the family but the community as a whole.

Tibetans work very hard to preserve their history. They have dedicated groups working on this. It is due to their intimate connection with their roots that they have preserved every aspect of Tibetan language, religion, art and culture. In fact, they have created a mini Lhasa in Dharamshala.

Most Tibetans live a comfortable life in Dharamshala. The new generations don’t really consider the idea of going back to Tibet. The old ones, however, do talk about the past with moist eyes.

In today’s world, every time when someone asks this question — what do immigrants do to a place? — we expect a negative response. But, when it comes to Tibetans, the answer is usually something like this: immigrants make the place richer — socially, culturally, aesthetically. Without them, Dharamshala wouldn’t be nearly as beautiful.

Note: I own the copyrights to all the images used in this photo-essay. Kindly contact me at if you wish to use them for any personal or professional work. Thank you.

Originally published at on April 16, 2022.

Deepak Rana

I'm a writer, living in the Himalayas. More importantly, I'm a reader, constantly in search of new voices. So, feel free to share your work.