Traveling is a learning experience. Every time we travel to a place, it adds a page to our life. And while most of our travel decisions are shaped by some natural wonders or monuments, there is another aspect that adds life to our journey. And that is the people of that place and their lifestyle.
I got the opportunity to learn about the Tibetan lifestyle when I traveled to the Ngari prefecture of Tibet, one of the most remote regions lying in the far west of Tibet.
Tibet is an autonomous region of China and also its second-biggest province. Before its incorporation into China in 1951, Tibet served as an independent nation.
With a population of around 3 million, Tibet is one of the most secluded and mystical places in the world. Besides Tibet, a significant number of Tibetans also live in India, Nepal, and Bhutan.
Most of the Tibetan population practice Buddhism, which got introduced in Tibet in the 8th century. A small percentage of the population still practice Bon, considered as the oldest spiritual tradition of Tibet.
The lifestyle of Tibet is deeply intertwined with its religion. We can easily see the traces of religion in the form of Mani Stones and Tibetan Prayer Flags.
Mani Stones are stones plates or rocks that are carved with six syllabled Buddhism mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”. And Tibetan Prayer Flags are colorful, rectangular cloths that are used to carry prayers and mantras through the wind.
The Prayer Flags consist of five colors (Blue, White, Red, Green, Yellow) with each color symbolizing its meaning (Blue: the sky and space, White: the air and wind, Red: fire, Green: water, Yellow: earth).
The tightly intertwined religious lifestyle of Tibet is also considered as the secret for their resilience against the harsh living conditions. Despite living in harsh living conditions, Tibetan people are known for their happy spirit and ever so smiling nature.
Tibet’s incorporation into China has also meant its modernization in recent years. Although the majority of people still rely on agriculture-based income, people are shifting more and more towards trade and services nowadays.
With Tibet getting more outside exposure than ever before, there is also a growing concern of Tibetan lifestyle losing its unique traditional charm.
Keeping in mind China’s famous Belt Road Initiative (BRI) and Tibet’s strategic location as the gateway to South Asia, it is not wrong to imagine even more exposure of Tibet to the outside world.
Therefore, Tibet, which had remained untouched and isolated for much of its history, will undergo even rapid transformation in the near future.
And one day, these faces will also change.