Dharamshala: In honour of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's 76th birthday, a celebration was held today at the main temple in McLeod Ganj. During the event, government officials spoke about the significance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Tibetan people and community groups put on arts performances for attendees.
An enthusiastic and festive crowd, including the Tibetan and Indian communities as well as numerous foreign visitors, came out for the day's festivities. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was not present, as he is currently teaching in America.
The day started with a flag raising ceremony and a performance of the Tibetan National Anthem by Thangthong Lugar, a local dance and arts organization.
Kalon Tripa (Tibetan prime minister) Samdhong Rinpoche and Deputy Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament Sonam Tenphel spoke on behalf of the Kashag (cabinet) about the significance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Tibetan people and about the future of Tibet.
In the Kashag's statement, Kalon Tripa praised His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his work in rehabilitating Tibetans and in keeping Tibetan culture and religion alive, as well as for travelling around the world and raising awareness about Tibet.
The statement also commended His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his Middle Way approach to Tibet's political situation. His Holiness has created a democratic government by establishing the Tibetan Parliament in Exile and by calling for the election of Kalon Tripa through the popular vote.
This democratization, according to the statement, "has given the Tibetans the opportunity to make the issue of Tibet more global and strengthened the legitimacy of the exile administration."
Kalon Tripa, recognizing that some Tibetans are critical of His Holiness' political moves, such as His Holiness' decision to renounce his political power, urged the Tibetan community to "uphold their spirit and determination by not being deterred by these political changes."
The Deputy Speaker expounded on this topic, speaking of the recent change of election through popular vote. "Many things have changed in the Charter of Tibetans in Exile, but the duration of the Tibetan Administration's policy and the three pillars of the Tibetan Administration and their services and work are the same as before."
In regard to relations with China, Kalon Tripa emphasized that the Kashag has made their opinions clear through the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People and for the Note on the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People. These two documents call for increased dialogue between the Chinese government and the Tibetan people.
Though China has not given much response to these documents, Kalon Tripa stated that the Kashag "has a firm determination to continue the dialogue process...we have formulated a clear stand and a firm base to carry forward the dialogue."
After the speeches, the crowd enjoyed colourful performances, given by local schools and community groups. The performers, adorned in traditional Tibetan costumes, danced, sang, and played instruments for onlookers. Groups performing included local schools such as McLeod Ganj Day School, Yong Ling School, Tibetan Transit School (TTS), Upper and Lower Tibetan Children's Village (TCV) schools, Norbulingka, Sara College, and community groups U-tsang Province, Dhotoe Province, Dhomey Province, the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA), and Thangthong Lugar.