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Tibet-Kalachakra-Bodhgaya-2017Bodh Gaya — With more than 100,000 devotees from around the world attending His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Kalachackra empowerment in Bodh Gaya, ceremony organizers are lamenting the absense of nearly 7,000 Tibetans from Tibet who were allegedly barred by Chinese authorities from taking part in the event.

Thousands of pilgrims from Tibetan-populated areas of western China who had hoped to attend have been forced to return home, though, while others have been blocked from leaving China, according to event organizers Karma Gelek Yuthok and Kalon Choekyong Wangchuk.

“It is extremely unfortunate and sad that so many Tibetans who wanted to attend could not come, and that many others who were able to come have had to return to Tibet under strict deadlines,” Karma Gelek said.

“These total nearly 7,000,” Gelek said, adding, “This raises serious questions concerning China’s claim that it allows religious freedom.”

In a bid to reduce attendance at this year’s ceremony, Chinese officials allegedly began to confiscate the passports of Tibetans in November, at the same time ordering Tibetans already present in India and Nepal to return home.

Many had been threatened that their families would be harmed if they failed to return to Tibet, sources told TPI in earlier reports.

Speaking at the end of December to Tibetan pilgrims in Delhi, India, the Dalai Lama assured those ordered home that he would keep them in his prayers, as previously reported by TPI.

“Distance cannot dampen the sacred ties between a lama and a disciple. You can all pray from the far-flung areas in Tibet and I assure you that you will receive the Kalachakra empowerment,” the Tibetan spiritual leader said.

“From the Kalachakra ground, I will keep the Tibetans inside Tibet in my deepest prayers."

Kalachakra, which means Wheel of Time, is a ritual that prepares devotees to be reborn in Shambhala, a celestial kingdom which, it is said, will vanquish the forces of evil in a future cosmic battle.