Rousing reception awaits Dalai Lama in Tawang | india | Hindustan Times
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Rousing reception awaits Dalai Lama in Tawang

The picturesque border town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh is all set to welcome the Dalai Lama on Sunday on a visit denounced by China, with Indian flags fluttering alongside Tibetan prayer flags and welcome arches coming up on the roads.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2009 15:42 IST

The picturesque border town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh is all set to welcome the Dalai Lama on Sunday on a visit denounced by China, with Indian flags fluttering alongside Tibetan prayer flags and welcome arches coming up on the roads.

The Tibetan spiritual leader arrives at Tawang, perched at an altitude of more than 11,000 feet close to the border with China, on a week-long visit to Arunachal Pradesh, a state of about one million people bordering China and which Beijing claims.

"Everything from the main prayer hall to the throne from where the Dalai Lama would lead a three-day prayer session for some 30,000 followers is ready," Guru Tuku, the abbot of Tawang monastery, told IANS.

Hundreds of devotees from Nepal and Bhutan have also converged for the Dalai Lama's visit, which at one time had threatened to disrupt relations between New Delhi and Beijing.

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu personally supervised the arrangements Saturday at the monastery.

"We are very happy with the arrangements and eagerly waiting for the Dalai Lama," the chief minister told IANS.

Child monks with their maroon and yellow robes put up welcome arches, while many climbed trees and got on to rooftops to set up Tibetan prayer flags and mount pictures of the Tibetan leader who has lived in India since fleeing his homeland in 1959.

Mandala paintings using coloured sand were made on roads leading to the monastery, with skilled monks carving intricate designs.

"The mood is one of sheer excitement and anticipation, coupled with a sense of awe," said Lama Lopon, another priest at the monastery.

The smell of burning incense wafts the air as sounds of gongs and cymbals reverberated the surrounding with monks busy rehearsing in the monastery to welcome the Dalai Lama.

"The welcome ceremony would be purely religious with about 800 monks taking part, besides people from the area," TG Rinpoche, a senior Buddhist spiritual leader and a former minister, told IANS.

The Dalai Lama on Sunday would inaugurate a museum and a library at the monastery and then address monks and priests.

"The Dalai Lama's main itinerary begins Monday when he starts the prayer session at a school playground near the monastery. That would be his first public appearance," Tuku said.

It was through Tawang, a revered seat of Buddhism, that in 1959 the Dalai Lama escaped the Chinese to enter India.

The Buddhist leader will then visit the adjoining town of Bomdilla and Dirang Nov 12, before leaving for state capital Itanagar Nov 14. The visit ends Nov 15.

China had raked up a controversy by asking India not to allow the Tibetan spiritual leader to visit Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese media warned of consequences if the demand was not met.

Indian officials argued that they could not control the Dalai Lama's movements. But after a meeting between Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh of India and Wen Jiabao of China in Thailand late last month, the Chinese attitude towards the Indian government has softened.