The choedhar – Buddhist religious flag – sports five colours from the blue symbolizing sky to the yellowish-ochre of earth with white, red and orange in between.
But when the 14th Dalai Lama landed from the sky on this spiritual spot in the eastern Himalayas and drove to the Tawang Monastery past rows of choedhars on Sunday, his emphasis was on another principal Buddhist colour – green representing vegetation.
"His Holiness is deeply concerned about the stress on the Himalayan ecology," former Arunachal Pradesh minister TG Rimpoche told Hindustan Times. "His agenda is to blend spiritualism with conservation using Tawang as the launch pad for his green mission."
Rimpoche, also the abbot of the Lumla Monastery 65 km west of this town, accompanied the Dalai Lama from Guwahati to Tawang in a 24-seater civilian chopper.
The Eastern Himalayas, part of the highly sensitive Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot, are unstable and prone to landslips. The central and western Himalayas are more settled, but have been bearing the brunt of global warming.
According to Rimpoche, the Dalai Lama wanted to make a strong green statement ahead of the Copenhagen summit on climate change. "Emotionally attached to the Himalayas, which he feels needs to be saved to save the world, His Holiness insisted on dovetailing an eco-friendly programme with his three-day religious discourse. After all, Budhism is also about the environment people live in."
Accordingly, the Tawang district authorities slated a sapling-planting event before the start of the first session of the Dalai Lama’s sermons at the Yid-Gha-Choezin ground here on Monday. The spiritual head of Mahayana Buddhism would also be distributing to 1,500 lamas and devotees saplings blessed by him.
"We intend to plant these saplings, all indigenous species, on barren patches around this town. We shall also be seeking the help of local heads of the monasteries to expand the green mission to save the Himalayas," said Tawang Deputy Commissioner Gamli Padu.
Arunachal Pradesh, spread across the Eastern Himalayas, is one of the biologically richest regions on earth. A recent WWF report said between 1998 and 2008, at least 353 new species were discovered in this region – an average of 35 new species finds every year for the last 10 years.