In 1959 The Dalai Lama fled to India and eighty thousand of his countrymen came with him. Many ended up in Darjeeling where they set up this self help centre. Although the Tibetan diaspora has spread throughout India, refugees still live and go to school in the complex, where they also sell carpets and other hand made goods.
Stretching the full length of the building, thick hardwood beams support the walls of the spinning room, and a bank of windows maximises natural light. Rows of swaddled Tibetan women quietly work on both sides, using spinning machines cannibalised from old bicycle wheels. Mounds of lanolin-rich sheep's wool dot the floor in rough woven sacks. Next door, the carpet weaving room contains four rows of enormous weaving frames, made from polished ancient hardwood. Ateliers surround the main courtyard: a few wizened men work hand sewing machines in the tailoring section, cigarettes clamped between jaws; a woman paints intricate flower designs onto greetings cards with fine paint brushes; and there is a room full of jaunty ladies knitting woollen bags, mitts and hats. A small photographic exhibition reminds visitor of the on-going troubles in Tibet.
65 Gandhi Road, Darjeeling
+91(354)225 2552 (Factory), +91(354)225 5938 (Office)
Google map: bit.ly/UOfdhW
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