Seven Years in Tibet

How many of us leave home and embark upon a life altering journey only to find home again at the end of it? How many of us find spiritual salvation on the way of escaping from an internment camp? Moreover, how many of us end up being a part of history in the process?

 Only one in a million perhaps.


Heinrich Harrer was one of those lucky few people. As a young mountaineer, he caught an incurable malady that overwhelmed millions and millions of mountaineers, adventurers, travelers for centuries. A burning desire to explore the Himalayas and decipher its countless mysteries. Once you fall in love with the Himalayas, there is no way to escape. For the rest of your life the unrequited love will keep growing inside you and it will rouse an unquenchable yearning of going back to the lap of the Himalayas over and over again. The danger and the mystical beauty of the Himalayas have attracted adventurers from all over the globe like moth to a flame and they happily sacrificed all comfort and safety at the feet of the most beautiful and vastest mountain range in the world. What brought young Harrer to India was a mountaineering expedition in the Himalayas. It was a turbulent time and the world was on the brink of a war. Very soon the Second World War broke out and Harrer and his companions found themselves confined in the British camps as POWs. Their movements were restricted but they used to be treated with respect and comfort in there. However, what does comfort mean to a born adventurer whose salvation lies within freedom? Heinrich Harrer wanted to be free. His deepest desire was to travel far north and reach Tibet. And it is quite evident from the title of the book that he succeeded in doing so.

Seven Years in Tibet is the story of Heinrich Harrer and his journey. It is the story of a penniless fugitive Austrian and his companion, Peter Aufschnaiter and how they escaped from the prisoner of war camps in India, and how they eventually found home in a far away mystical country that was hitherto a mystery to the rest of the world. It depicts the story of an independent and peaceful country before it was invaded and ravaged by the Chinese. Seven Years is Tibet is a fascinating tale of a country whose Dharma is love and love only. A country whose King is considered to be the reincarnation of Lord Buddha. A country where crucial government decisions were taken with the help of the oracle. A country where people’s lives revolved around the wills of gods and different omens. A country whose people were simple, friendly, virtuous and happy. Tibet was absolutely and unequivocally happy back then. Seven Years in Tibet also tells the story of a teenager who would eventually become the symbol of world peace and a Nobel laureate and would be known to the world as His Holiness The Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

The book ends just after the Red army of China invaded Tibet. He had to leave his second home and go back to Europe with a heavy heart. Nevertheless, Harrer’s story did not end there. For the rest of his life he worked for the rights of Tibetan people. His relentless campaign to free Tibet from the claws of China has attracted global attention, much to the dismay of China. His book earned more recognition when it was made into a movie in 1997, starring Brad Pitt in the role of Harrer.

Seven Years in Tibet is no fiction. It is the true story of a life altering adventure that the author embarked upon years ago.  The hardship that Harrer and his companion faced in order to reach Tibet is truly remarkable. It says, true love endures greatest of all troubles. Undoubtedly, it was the true love for the Himalayas and for Tibet that motivated them to brook all the pains that tried to hinder them. Their story will leave you mesmerized and before you know it, you will start rooting for them to finish their journey safely. Harrer and Aufschnaiter entered Tibet in 1944 and the author left the country in 1951 just after the Chinese invasion. This book is an incredible memoir of the experience that the author had gathered during those seven years. He first met Dalai Lama when His Holiness was just a fourteen years old boy. During his final years in Lhasa, Harrer was appointed as the tutor of His Holiness. They remained close friends until Harrer’s death in 2006. Here is a trivia about Harrer. He had joined the Nazi party long before he came to India. The very same person later became lifelong friend with a person whose name and title are synonymous with peace and non-violence. And had it not been for Harrer and his book, the world might not have known what a beautiful country Tibet is and how rich its culture and tradition. I reckon it will not be an exaggeration if I say that Harrer’s story proves us again that no matter what, love and peace will always find their way to triumph over violence.

Harrer with His Holiness The Fourteenth Dalai Lama

Seven Years in Tibet was published back in 1952 and yet it seems so contemporary. It is perhaps owing to the inexhaustible allure of Tibet and its culture. It will take the reader to the farthest nooks and corners of Tibet that no outsider has ever set foot in. It is a great pity that a country as peaceful and as great as Tibet has been destroyed in order to serve the selfish propaganda of the Chinese. Millions of people have been killed; millions lost their homes; hundreds and thousands of monasteries were looted and ruined. Although the great Potala palace has been declared a UNESCO heritage site, its true owner is far away, exiled from his true home. Tibet deserves to be an independent nation and I sincerely hope that someday she rises up against the oppression and wins her freedom back.


Image courtesy: google image

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