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Dalai Lama’s 74th birthday celebrated in Dharamsala


Dharamsala : Thousands of Tibetan exiles assembled in this Himachal Pradesh town Monday to celebrate the 74th birthday of their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

“Since early this (Monday) morning, thousands of exiles, monks and well-wishers started assembling here to join the birthday celebrations of His Holiness (the Dalai Lama). They were praying for the well-being and long life of the 14th Dalai Lama,” Tenzin Taklha, joint secretary at the Dalai Lama’s office, told IANS.

“Special prayer sessions were held at Tsuglagkhang temple where members of the Kashag (Tibetan parliament) and the government-in-exile also participated. The 17th Karmapa, Ugyen Trinley Dorjee, presided over the function,” he added.

The hilltop Tsuglagkhang temple is close to the official palace of the Dalai Lama at McLeodganj near here.

The prayers have been organised by the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and the Tibetan community.

Dharamsala is the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

“Visiting Australian parliamentarians also participated in various religious and cultural functions,” Taklha added.

A delegation of six Australian parliamentarians comprising Labour MPs Michael Danby and Melissa Parke, Liberal MP Peter Slipper, independent senator Nick Xenophon, and Greens Senators Scott Ludlam and Sarah Hanson-Young are on a week-long visit here.

However, the Tibetan temporal head did not attend the functions here.

“The Dalai Lama was in New Delhi to attend the birthday celebrations organised by the Himalayan Buddhist Cultural Association and the All Buddhist Organisation of Himalayan Region,” Taklha said. Last year, the Nobel laureate’s birthday celebrations were largely subdued due to unrest in Tibet.

Born July 6, 1935 at Taktser hamlet in northeastern Tibet, the Dalai Lama was recognised at the age of two as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama Thubten Gyatso. He fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, basing his Tibetan government-in-exile here.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his non-violent campaign for democracy and freedom in his homeland. Ever since he fled to India, he has spent his time in exile pushing for autonomy for Tibet.

The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has been following a “middle-path” policy that seeks “greater autonomy” for Tibetans rather than complete independence. The Dalai Lama has increasingly voiced his frustration with the situation and has said that he has now given up trying to win concessions from Beijing.

“Things are not going well… I have to accept failure… my trust with the Chinese leadership (is) now thinner, thinner, thinner,” the Tibetan leader has said.

Though he looks healthy, the deteriorating health of the elderly monk in recent months is a matter of concern for the community in exile. He was admitted to Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi in October 2008, where he underwent a gall bladder surgery. Earlier, he was admitted to the Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai twice with abdominal discomfort. Subsequently, he had also cancelled his visits to Europe, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. But he has returned to his gruelling schedule, travelling around the globe to speak on Buddhism and human rights.

After India allowed the Dalai Lama to settle here, Dharamsala became an attraction for westerners in search of Tibetan culture and spiritual sustenance.

A total of 140,000 Tibetans now live in exile, over 100,000 of them in different parts of India. Over six million Tibetans live in Tibet.