Paragliding is the recreational and competitive adventure sport of flying paragliders: lightweight, free-flying, foot-launched glider aircraft with no rigid primary structure. The pilot sits in a harness suspended below a hollow fabric wing whose shape is formed by its suspension lines, the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing and the aerodynamic forces of the air flowing over the outside.
Despite not using an engine, paraglider flights can last many hours and cover many hundreds of kilometres, though flights of 1–2 hours and covering some tens of kilometres are more the norm. By skilful exploitation of sources of lift the pilot may gain height, often climbing to altitudes of a few thousand metres.
Paragliders are unique among soaring aircraft in being easily portable. The complete equipment packs into a rucksack and can be carried easily on the pilot’s back, in a car, or on public transport. In comparison with other air sports this substantially simplifies travel to a suitable takeoff spot, the selection of a landing place and return travel.
Paragliding is related to the following activities:
- Hang gliding is a close cousin, and hang glider and paraglider launches are often found in proximity. Despite the considerable difference in equipment the two activities offer similar pleasures and some pilots are involved in both sports.
- Powered paragliding is the flying of paragliders with a small engine attached.
- Speed riding or speed flying is the separate sport of flying paragliders of reduced size. These wings have increased speed, though they are not normally capable of soaring flight. The sport involves taking off on skis or on foot and swooping rapidly down in close proximity to the slope, even periodically touching it if skis are used. These smaller wings are also sometimes used where wind speeds are too high for a full-sized paraglider, although this is invariably at coastal sites where the wind is laminar and not subject to as much mechanical turbulence as inland sites.
- Paragliding can be of local importance as a commercial activity. Paid accompanied tandem flights are available in many mountainous regions, both in the winter and in the summer. In addition there are many schools offering courses, and guides who lead groups of more experienced pilots exploring an area. Finally there are the manufacturers and the associated repair and after sales services.
- Paraglider-like wings also find other uses, for example in ship propulsion and wind energy exploitation, and are related to some forms of power kite.
- Kite skiing uses equipment similar to paragliding sails.
Bir-Billing is a village located in the west of the state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India.
Bir-Billing is a noted centre for ecotourism, spiritual studies and meditation. Bir is also home to a Tibetan refugee settlement with several Buddhist monasteries and a large stupa.
Prominent institutions and attractions
There are several institutions in Bir that attract students, tourists, volunteers and other visitors from around India and from abroad:
The Deer Park Institute is a ‘centre for the study of classical Indian wisdom traditions’ established by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in March 2006 under the patronage of the Dalai Lama. The Institute hosts frequent guest lectures and workshops with reputed scholars and meditation teachers.
The Dharmalaya Institute is an eco-campus for service-learning and contemplative practice. Dharmalaya is an Indian charitable society (NGO) ‘devoted to education, service, and compassionate living, with a practical focus on sustainable village development, contemplative service-learning, and immersive ecotourism’. Dharmalaya hosts work retreats and meditation retreats, providing opportunities for long-term volunteers and meditation students to do karma yoga (mindful service work with an unselfish, altruistic intention) for various charitable projects to benefit the local community and the natural environment. Programmes include earthen building, vernacular eco-architecture, green job skills training for local villagers, organic farming, and a tree-planting project. Visitors must contact them via the website before visiting, as they are sometimes closed to visitors for silent retreats and special programmes.
Chokling Gompa is the monastery of Neten Chokling Rinpoche, a reincarnate lama in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and the director of the film Milarepa (2006). The Tibetan architecture and large stupa are the principal attractions for casual visitors. In addition to its ongoing programmes for its full-time monastic students, the monastery periodically hosts Buddhist ceremonies open to the public. There is a guest house and restaurant on the premises.
The Bir Billing Tea Factory is a longstanding Bir cooperative, which offers tours for those interested in the process of tea production.
The Bir-Billing area is a popular destination for ecotourism and adventure travel, offering paragliding, hang-gliding, trekking and camping.
The Bir-Billing area is a popular site for paraglider pilots, both Indians and visitors from all over the world. The flying season is from September to October, with some flying also done in November. The village continues to host periodic international competitions and events. The paragliding launch site is in the meadow at Billing (14 km north of Bir), at an elevation of 2400 metres, while the landing site and most tourist accommodations are in the village of Chowgan (also spelled Chaugan), on the southern edge of Bir Billing
Bir Tibetan Colony
Bir Tibetan Colony is a Tibetan refugee settlement located at the west end of the village of Chowgan on the southwestern edge of the village of Bir.
Bir Tibetan Colony was established in the early 1960s following the exile of the Dalai Lama and other Tibetans from Tibet.
Bir Tibetan Colony houses several Tibetan monasteries (representing the Nyingma, Kagyu, and Sakya traditions), a Tibetan handicraft center, a Tibetan Children’s Village school (Suja), a branch of the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute (Men-Tsee-Khang), a medical clinic, and the Deer Park Institute.
See the full Wikipedia article on Bir Tibetan Colony for further information.
In popular culture
Bir Billing was the setting for Khyentse Norbu’s first feature film, The Cup (Phörpa) (1999), which was based on events that took place in Bir during the 1998 World Cup final and was shot on location in Bir0