Dalai Lama says it's for people to decide fate of his office

The courtyard of the 300-year old Tawang Monastery was filled with the sounds of the dungchen (a long metal horn instrument) as monks clad in traditional red robes welcomed him where he will stay during his visit here.

Lhendhup Chosang, president of the district unit of the Bharat Tibet Sahyog Manch that is organising the signature campaign, informed that so far over 3,000 people have expressed their support for the Nobel laureate.

"He has arrived after a strenuous seven-hour road journey from Dirang".

The flags however, were seen flying high at the Tawang Monastery today.

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu accompanied the Tibetan leader, who has lived in self-imposed exile in India since he fled Tibet in 1959.

Perched on a cliff at 10,000 feet, the monastery is known in Tibetan as 'Tawang Gaden Namgyal Lhatse, ' meaning celestial paradise chosen by the horse.

Tawang was decorated with colourful prayer flags, Indian and Tibetan flags as well as flowers. The roads have been repainted and the drains cleared.

A resident of Tawang, where the sixth Dalai Lama was discovered in the late 1600s, told RFA's Tibetan Service that the visit had been highly anticipated. But bad weather forced him to take to the road as his helicopter couldn't take off from Dibrugarh in Assam. It belongs to the Gelugpa school of Mahayana Buddhism and had a religious connection with Lhasa's Drepung Monastery that continued during the British rule.

"It was 58 years ago that the Dalai Lama came to India and entered via Tawang.It is a historic moment for us and the people of Arunachal Pradesh". A day after after delivering sermons in Bomdila, he spent two days at Dirang, about 40 km north of Bomdila, where he consecrated the Thupsing Dhargye monastery. The state police and paramilitary personnel are keeping vigil along the 140-km stretch between Dirang and Tawang, particularly at Sela (13,700 feet).

The Dalai Lama also suggested that the Indian government should encourage Chinese Buddhists to visit important Buddhist sites in India, where the religion originated before being brought to China around the second century BC. His first visit to this mountainous state was in 1983 and the last trip was in 2009, which coincided with his 50 years since he crossed through Arunachal Pradesh.

The visit to Arunachal Pradesh, which China also claims as its territory, has raised tensions between the nuclear-armed Asian neighbors.

The 14th Dalai Lama is on the last leg of his tour before departing on the 11th of this month. And while India has dismissed such claims, the mood amongst people in Tawang is sympathetic to the Tibetan cause.

This is published unedited from the IANS feed.

  • Leroy Wright