Want to go on a trip to Chungtown? How about to Samyeling? Still wondering where this is going? This is about one of the most popular neighbourhoods, ethnic residential pockets if you may, in Delhi--Majnu ka Tilla. Chungtown and Samyeling are both official names of our beloved Majnu ka Tilla, also fondly called MT. Located on the banks of Yamuna River, Majnu ka Tilla is the ever busy locality, with travellers, visitors, residents constantly moving about.
Why the name though? There is a beautiful story behind it. The period was that of Delhi Sultanate; Abdulla 'Majnu' a kind Sufi mystic who met Guru Nanak here; kind deed was what he did--ferried devotees free of cost across Yamuna River to meet the Guru; under the leadership of Baghel Singh, Majnu ka Tilla Gurudwara was built. This development sure sealed the deal as far as the name is concerned. Hence Manju ka Tilla or Manju's hillock (tilla meaning hillock).
In the present times, if you are ever driving down that road, you will come across a group of Sikh volunteers tending to the homeless with a morning meal and any First-Aid medical assistance.
Right around the corner from the gurudwara, there lies Majnu ka Tilla, a Tibetan settlement established in 1960. As a local how do we know of Majnu ka Tilla? Only this is the best place in town for real momos. But food aside, if we look into the history of Tibet uprising, this was the place that gave many Tibetan refugees a safe home away from erstwhile home. The Government of India allotted the land to these refugees and this bustling locality is what we know today as Majnu ka Tilla. It is home to many second generation Tibetan refugees. And we love the neighbourhood.
A quick stroll around the settlement will take you to many food stalls selling piping hot laphing; street vendors selling churpis (dried cheese), dried meat, herbal tea, prayer flags and beads and many other items brought from their faraway home. One will easily find Buddhist monks and residents sitting outside the temple, busy in casual chitchats or giving directions to one too many travellers. For those first-timers, it's easy to get a bit lost because the alleys are small and every alley corner look somewhat similar. Every other unit in either side of the narrow street is either a restaurant or a hotel. Great news for travellers on a tight budget.
Anyone travelling to Dharamsala/McLeodganj or any other parts of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand, must know about Majnu ka Tilla. This is where you catch your bus ride! And again, if you driving down that road, you will come across backpackers patiently waiting for their buses. Also, it's in close proximity to Kashmiri Gate ISBT. If you are a student of Delhi University, you have been here. Best momos, and even better thukpas, it's all here in Majnu ka Tilla.
Coming to culture, Majnu ka Tilla has a small monastery and a Buddhist temple. There are many shops here that sells Tibetan handicrafts, food items like herbal tea and even Tibetan herbal cosmetics (try their tea and oil for a number of ailments).
Majnu ka Tilla, like every other destination, is best explored in person. The neighbourhood is thriving because we love everything about it--be it fashion, food, culture or even the general vibe.