‘Of Lamas and Mandalas’
by Tara Patel
(Afternoon. March 11, 2000)
The 'Festival of Tibet 2000' starts tomorrow with the arrival of
the Dalai Lama in Mumbai.
Probably not many people in India know that about 4,000 to 5,000
Tibetans still run away from their mountain-bound native land
of Tibet every year and many of them continue to seek refuge
in India. Which, after all, says president of the Tibetan Youth
Congress, Tsetan Norbu , 'is the land of our Guru'.
About the refugees, he added, 'you should see the state in which
they arrive after having crossed the snow-clad mountains, many of
them are frostbitten and suffer from eyesight problems.' It is the
Government-in-exile in India which has to settle these refugees on
one of their 37 Tibetan Tibetan refugee settlements in India.
The Tibetan dilemma of surviving away from their homeland, continues
for over 2,00,000 refugees world over, more than half of whom are in
India. Says Norbu, 'actually this is a small number when you realise
that six million Tibetans are still in Tibet and they are being
outnumbered now by 7.5 million Chinese!' China. from the sound of it,
has left no stone unturned in its efforts to root out the religious
and cultural identity of native Tibetans and replace it with Chinese
homogeniety (Tibet was invaded and annexed by China in 1949).
In India, Tibetan refugees who were away from home for the last
40 years, the idea behind having the 'Festival of Tibet' makes
sense. It is to create understanding and get support from every
section of Indian society for the Tibetan cause.
This is the second time such a festival is being held in Mumbai,
but the last time it was on a small scale, this time His Holiness
the Dalai Lama, will be arriving in the city to inaugurate the
richly-packed six-day festival. He will also be addressing a
public gathering on 'The Ethics For The New Millennium' at the
Birla Matushri Hall, at 4pm.
Preparations for the festival have been in full swing throughout this
week, with over 150 participants already here to prepare for the
cultural programmes being featured during the festival. Highlights
include the release of the book 'Breaking Silence: In Support Of
Tibet', a 13th century traditional masked 'Cham' dance performed
by monks of the Zonkar Choede Monastery, a fair of things Tibetan
(including a Tibetan kitchen), a 'Five Candles' photo exhibition at
Coomaraswamy Hall, and a grand finale to the festival -- a flute
recital by Tibet-born flute maestro Nawang Kechog (for detailed
schedule, contact Hotel Regency Inn, behind Regal Cinema, Colaba or
call tel nos. 2020292, 2823948 or email:
Apart from the cultural troupe quite a number of monks from various
Buddhist monasteries in India are in the city. Monks make up roughly
eight percent of the Tibetan refugee population in India and it is
the monks who will be engaged in some of the religious rites of
the forthcoming festival eg. a collection of butter sculpture is
being readied at Crossroads (Tardeo), a sand mandala will also be
created by the monks, as also special arches at the YB Chavan Centre
(the venue for the screening of the Tibet-related documentarie,
feature films and animation films).
Interestingly, this year's 'Festival of Tibet, 2000' has been
organised by the Tibetan Youth Congress (founded in 1970 and one of
the 71 chapters the world over) in collaboration with the Friends
of Tibet (INDIA), a city-based organisation, founded a year ago.