A 10 minute drive away from North Campus lies an organic little haven of Tibetan culture, good food and great shopping. An absolutely perfect spot for DU kids!
Right off the bat I must tell you, reader, if you are the kind of person who prefers clean, polished and especially, open places – Majnu ka Tilla is probably not for you. However, if you’re an explorer, aren’t claustrophobic and are enthusiastic to try new food (or buy great first copy sneakers or clothes), you’ll fall in love with this maze of dimly lit and culturally rich alleys.
The place, located on the banks of the river Yamuna, gets its name from the tilla or mound where a local Iranian Sufi mystic called Majnu met Guru Nanak Dev back in 1505. In the 1900s, the British built residential settlements in the area to house the labourers working on the construction of New Delhi. Then in 1959, after the Tibetan uprising, the area saw refugee camps come up consisting of people from Tibet. More than 60 years later today, the area has blossomed into a home for second generation Tibetan refugees, earning it the name “Little Tibet”.
That Tibetan heritage is evident from the moment you set foot in the place after a brief e-rickshaw ride from the nearest metro station (Vidhan Sabha or Vishwavidyalaya on the yellow line). Once you’re in, the place can be intimidating – and charming – in the way it seems to consist entirely of narrow paths and buildings that sprout from each other as if they are parts of the same, giant, living creature.
For the first few minutes of venturing in, it is quite hard to imagine this area is anything but your regular residential areas. However, you soon find yourself face to face with the monastery at the heart of this place and with it, possibly the only open space you will find in the entire maze. This is also when you first start to come across the most famous cuisine this place has to offer: laphing. There are numerous stalls throughout the area offering the dish along with other Tibetan cuisine and a lot of bubble tea.
Further in, you soon get to the stretch of Majnu ka Tilla that starts to look like the tourist spot you hear about. On your left you find numerous stalls selling accessories and jewellery, followed by numerous more stalls selling clothes, from Demon Slayer shirts to Zara jackets. If you happen to be a fan of K-pop or anime, this is a wonderful place to find cheap merchandise. If you’re a sneakerhead but do not have quite the budget required to buy Yeezys or Jordans, there are a large number of stores ready to sell you cheap copies that look almost exactly like the real thing. If you’re interested in exploring something different but good quality then stores like Akama Handicrafts and MAPCHA Designs offer beautiful tote bags, purses and Tibetan clothing as well.
However, dear reader, none of this is quite the reason I insist on introducing all my friends to Majnu ka Tilla. The reason behind that happens to be the wonderful eateries scattered around the area. The two most famous of these are AMA Café and Dolma House, both of which are incredibly old. Both are also almost always packed and on a busy day the wait to get a table can last for over an hour. However, if you do get in, the experience and food is worth the waiting time and more. AMA reminds one of a living creature again, with its organic architecture and warmly lit atmosphere. The food is, of course, the real reason it’s frequented by tourists. The menu is not on the pricey side and the pancakes and cheesecake are in my humble opinion, the stuff dreams are made of.
Like I said above, Little Tibet isn’t for everyone and many people find it claustrophobic, intimidating or overrated. It is for those looking for new things, new cultures, good food and a good deal. In that, it is absolutely perfect for the students of DU.
Feature image credits: Jagran