Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, celebrated his 75th birthday in Dharamsala, his hometown-in-exile, with a tinge of sadness that people in China-administered Tibet were not able to mark the day.
The Dalai Lama, who usually remains in his mansion in McLeod Ganj, a small hill station in the upper part of Dharamsala, made a rare public appearance on his birthday on Tuesday.
Hundreds of people from different walks of life converged at the courtyard of Tsuglagkhang, the main temple in McLeod Ganj, undeterred by the heavy monsoon showers.
The members of both the Indian and the Tibetan communities gave him a gala reception.
“Tibetans always want to celebrate my birthday, but it is difficult for them,” said the Dalai Lama, in a grim reminder of the situation in Tibet.
The Dalai Lama favours meaningful autonomy for Tibet under Chinese rule.
Looking at a poster depicting him at various stages of his life, from Takster to exile in Dharamsala, he said, “When I see those pictures and see the development, I know my life has not been wasted.”
The birthday celebrations that lasted for three hours saw Indians, foreigners and Tibetans presenting gifts to the Dalai Lama, who was flanked by Tibetan Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche.
Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 25-year-old head of the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism was also present at the occasion.
Expressing concern over the aging leader’s physical condition, Rinpoche asked the Dalai Lama to take care of his health.
“We have nothing but admiration for all his endeavors, but these are certainly taking a great toll on His Holiness' health,” Rinpoche said.
The Dalai Lama’s daily schedule has him waking up at four in the morning. He travels extensively throughout the world seeking support for the 50-year-old Tibet issue.
The Dalai Lama escaped to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising. Since then he has been residing in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh.
Addressing the large gathering, Rinpoche asked the people to be wary of Chinese manipulations.
“The other side is using all its political, financial and human powers to create discord among Tibetans and between Tibetans and the local communities where Tibetans live in exile,” he said.
He also advised the Tibetans to maintain cordial ties with the local community.