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In tricolour, Tawang ready for Dalai Lama

In tricolour, Tawang ready for Dalai Lama

Author: Samudra Gupta Kashyap
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: November 8, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/in-tricolour-tawang-ready-for-dalai-lama/538734/0

Forty-seven years ago around this time, Tawang was a ghost town. The Chinese had occupied Tawang, forcing its residents to flee. But on Saturday, the town was abuzz with life as it got ready to receive the 14th Dalai Lama. Everywhere the Indian tricolour fluttered along with the Tibet flag.

"The Indian flag is all over the town because this is India. And the Tibetan flag because His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the highest Tibetan spiritual leader, is coming," says Guru Tulku Rinpoche, head of the Gaden Namgyal Lhatse, popularly known as the Tawang Monastery. The nearly 400-year-old monastery that overlooks the Tawang-Chu Valley in Arunachal Pradesh was where the Dalai Lama headed after he escaped from Tibet in the winter of 1959.

"He stayed here for a few days when he fled from Tibet 50 years ago. He was here three more times, the last being in 2003. But this time is special, in view of China's unwarranted objections," says Phupten Tenzin, a local Monpa tribal, who runs a souvenir shop.

In the town, the smell of paint follows you everywhere. Almost every house has got a fresh coat of paint while almost everyone has helped sweep the town. Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu is personally supervising the preparations for the Dalai Lama's four-day visit that begins on Sunday.

On Saturday, Khandu spent over an hour supervising work at the monastery where the Dalai Lama will be staying. "His Holiness the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang has been pending for over a year now," says Khandu. "He is coming here to bless the people. He was to be here last October but that visit had to be cancelled at the last moment," he adds.

The Dalai Lama will inaugurate the Tawang Monastery Museum and the Tawang district hospital, visit the Khinmey Monastery, the Yid-Gha-Choezin Gonpa and the Urgelling Monastery, lay the foundation stone of the Jikhob Thongdrol Choeten and visit the Manjushree Vidyapeeth here apart from offering special prayers in the Tawang Monastery.

While the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang had generated a lot of heat after China objected to it, calling him "an enemy" of the country, the chief minister refuses to speak on the issue. "It is for the Government of India to handle that issue, and the Prime Minister has already said what India has to say," he says.

Meanwhile, Buddhists, including many Tibetans from the north-eastern states, are flocking to Tawang. Nima Gyelpo and Sonam Yandon along with their one-year-old daughter Karma Chomzom travelled over 900 km, changing four vehicles from Kohima in Nagaland to Tawang, to see the Dalai Lama.

"We have always longed to see our own country, our dear Tibet. It is just across those mountains. But since that is not possible at the moment, at least we can get the blessings of our great leader," says Gyelpo, whose parents escaped from Tibet to India in 1959.

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