Tens of thousands of Tibetans celebrate New Year festival

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Dharamsala, Feb 16 (IANS) Tens of thousands of Tibetans assembled here in Himachal Pradesh on the first day of the sacred Losar New Year festival on Friday and offered prayers for peace.

Officials of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), led by its President Lobsang Sangay and members of parliament-in-exile participated in daylong religious ceremonies.

Special prayers were held in the morning at the hilltop Tsuglagkhang temple close to the official palace of the Dalai Lama at McLeodganj.

According to the Tibetan lunar calendar, Losar is the first day of the New Year and is traditionally celebrated by Tibetans in a big way. This year, the festival fell on February 16.

In a message, Sangay said this year marked the 10th anniversary of the 2008 Tibetan national uprising and also the 60th anniversary of Tibet’s brutal occupation by Chinese communist forces.

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“However, due to the untiring efforts and leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the indomitable spirit of the Tibetan people, the Tibetan freedom movement has sustained and persisted. We need to continue moving forward with an unflinching determination and unity.”

To mark 60 years of Tibetans taking refuge in exile, the CTA is marking this year as “Thank you year” to express its gratitude to India and its people.

The three-day festival marks sacred and secular practices like prayers, ceremonies, rituals and folk dancing and merrymaking.

The Dalai Lama and his followers fled Tibet after a failed uprising against China’s communist rule in 1959.

Around 140,000 Tibetans now live in exile, over 100,000 of them in different parts of India.

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