Archive for October, 2016

Of Temples and Gyms: Playing PokemonGo in Dharamshala

BY EVA CIRNU (Dharamsala) - If you haven’t heard about Pokémon Go and its sweeping effect, then ‘there’s a good chance you might be living under a particularly secluded rock’, says Tenzin Tendar, a young Tibetan man who lives in Dharamshala.

He has been playing PokemonGo for over two months now, and yes, he is a web developer, but the PokemonGo frenzy includes more than just computer people and other technologically-inclined individuals.

While PokemonGo has been around for a few months now in Western countries, I was surprised to hear of it in my little village at the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. It turns out that McLeod Ganj, the town just a few minutes up the mountain, is a PokemonGo hub.

For decades, McLeod Ganj has also been the home in exile of H.H. the Dalai Lama and of a large Tibetan community. Hundreds of monks and nuns add their beautiful maroon robe colors to the green landscape, while golden temple rooftops shine in the sun, scattered on the hills and in the valley below.

Add to that a few good dozen meditation, reiki and yoga studios, and this is the last setting I would have imagined for a video game scene. And yet, although the game is not officially released in India, Tibetans, locals and Indian tourists play PokemonGo here… and love it! Furthermore, since Tibetans rule the Pokemon scene in town -with Tendar’s team ‘owning’ all Pokemon gyms- it is only normal that they would have Tibetan names.

Playing a captivating video game outdoors -on the streets, outside temples or on the edge of hills overlooking beautiful landscapes- is in itself a great thrill. But there is another beneficial side to it as well. ‘It also brings people together’, says Tendar. ‘For example, I put down a lure module on a Pokéstop (which lures Pokémons to the stop) near the Main Square in McLeod around 2 p.m. Even with a slight drizzle coming down, several people showed up within minutes. We exchanged a few knowing glances at first and later on we showed each other our Pokémon collections.’

Tendar is a young, bright and hip Tibetan man, like many of his peers. His generation embodies H.H. the Dalai Lama’s call to keep up with the times, to stay informed about new technologies and follow scientific research. And –ironically, in a way- this is being reflected these days by the fact that His Holiness’ and other Tibetan temples have become virtual Pokemon ‘gyms’…

Watch our video interview to learn more about Tendar and the PokemonGo scene in Dharamsala.

‘Dharamsala Dispatch’ is a series of notes from in and around Dharamsala, covering the Tibetan artistic and cultural scene through reports and interviews with prominent Tibetans involved in community events.


Eva Cirnu is the Coordinator of the Canada Tibet Committee’s francophone section. She is currently living in Dharamsala.