Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh), April 7 : Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama arrived at the Tawang monastery in Arunachal Pradesh on Friday, the high point of a visit that has angered China.
Buddhist monks at the monastery, the biggest in India and second only to the world’s largest — the Potala Palace in Tibet, and scores of devotees received him warmly and with piety.
The Nobel peace laureate will stay at the monastery.
Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu accompanied the Tibetan leader, who has lived in self-imposed exile in India since he fled Tibet in 1959.
Nestled among snow-covered mountains and perched at a height of 10,000 feet, Tawang is home to Monpa people who follow Tibetan Buddhism. The town was decked up to welcome the 81-year-old.
Tawang was decorated with colourful prayer flags, besides Indian and Tibetan flags and flowers. The roads were repainted and the drains cleared.
The Dalai Lama was to start his week-long religious visit to Arunachal Pradesh from Tawang on April 4. But bad weather forced him to take to the road as his helicopter couldn’t take off from Dibrugarh in Assam.
Hundreds of people lined along the winding road to Tawang, holding traditional ceremonial scarves and burning incense, to see the Dalai Lama and receive his blessings, a government official told IANS
Thousands of people from as far as Ladakh and neighbouring Bhutan flocked to Tawang for a glimpse of the Dalai Lama.
“We have been preparing for the last two months. Everybody wants to see him, talk to him and get his blessings,” said the monastery Secretary, Lobsang Khum.
The Tawang monastery belongs to the Gelugpa school of Mahayana Buddhism and had a religious connection with Lhasa’s Drepung monastery that continued during the British rule.
Beijing refers to this connection to claim Tawang as part of China after invading and taking over Tibet in 1950.
The Dalai Lama had stayed in the Tawang monastery for some days before he reached Assam after fleeing his homeland in 1959.
The Dalai Lama first arrived in Bomdila, the district headquarters of West Kameng in Arunachal, and delivered religious discourses.
He then drove to Dirang valley, about 50 km from Tawang where he consecrated the Thupsung Dhargyeling monastery on Thursday.
Earlier on Friday, he left Dirang for Tawang by road.
Security forces kept a vigil, particularly at Sela Pass, which was wet because of melting snow, muddy and slippery.
This will be the Dalai Lama’s first visit to Arunachal after eight years. His first visit to the state was in 1983 and the last trip was in 2009.
China has strongly opposed the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing considers a part of Tibet.