Dalai Lama leads hundreds of Tibetans in special prayers

March 8th, 2009 - 10:59 am ICT by IANS  

By Jaideep Sarin
Dharamsala (Himachal Pradesh), March 8 (IANS) Hundreds of monks in red robes and with shaven heads converged alongwith scores of other Tibetans at the Tsuglagkhang main temple early Sunday to join the Dalai Lama at his abode-in-exile at Mcleodganj near here to offer prayers for the Tibetans killed in Chinese crackdowns, including the latest one a year ago.

The Dalai Lama led the prayers that were attended by the entire top brass of the Tibetan religious and political leadership apart from the monks and other Tibetans.

The religious heads from the four main sects - Gelug, Kagyu, Nyingma and Sakya - and also the Bon tradition (non-Buddhist) were also present along with the Kalon Tripa (prime minister-in-exile) Samdhong Rinpoche, ministers and members of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile.

“The prayers are being held in the memory of those Tibetans killed inside Tibet under the Chinese crackdown. The event also commemorates the March 8, 1989, imposition of martial law in Tibet by China, the March 1959 Tibetan uprising and the crackdown on innocent Tibetans by Chinese forces during the uprising March last year,” a spokesman of the Tibetan government-in-exile said here.

“Special prayers are being offered for those Tibetans who died during the enforcement of the martial law in Lhasa city and for those who are still suffering and are behind bars in Tibet,” the spokesman added.

The prayer ceremonies are being organised by the government-in-exile’s Department of Religion and Culture to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising March 10, 1959.

This month also marks the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan exiles living in exile in India.

The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, had dramatically escaped to India with nearly 80,000 Tibetans after Chinese forces took control of Tibetan capital Lhasa and other areas.

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

In October 1950, China launched a full-scale military invasion into Tibet, catching the Tibetan army by surprise and taking Chamdo province in the east. Though the Tibetan and Chinese leadership tried to negotiate a ‘peaceful settlement’ and a ‘17-point agreement’ was signed acknowledging Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, the anti-Chinese feeling among Tibetans grew.

On March 10, 1959, tensions finally erupted. Thousands of Tibetans gathered outside the Dalai Lama’s summer palace, the Norbulingka, as rumours that the Chinese were planning to abduct him spread throughout Lhasa. As the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) closed in, the Dalai Lama made a tedious 14-day flight into exile, walking through high Himalayan mountains through Tibet and Nepal before he arrived in India.

Tibetans inside Tibet started an uprising against Chinese occupation March last year, just five months ahead of the Beijing Olympics. The Chinese forces cracked down on the protestors, reportedly leaving many dead and injured.

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