Covid restrictions force Tibetans in Delhi to hold low key celebrations for the Dalai Lama


Tibetans observe a muted 86th birthday of the Dalai Lama in New Delhi (Photo: Rahul Kumar)

The Tibetan community in Delhi celebrated the 86th birthday of his holiness the Dalai Lama under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.

The celebrations began in the morning with a ceremonial procession that brought a portrait of a 26-year old Dalai Lama from the local Tibetan temple in Majnu Ka Tila, north Delhi, to the Tibetan school. Regional leaders chanted the traditional mantra 'Om Mani Padme Hum' and other mantras for the long life of their spiritual leader.

The Tibetan also recited the Indian national anthem followed by the Tibetan one and cut a cake to mark the birthday of the revered leader.

Women dance to traditional music on the Dalai Lama's 86th birthday celebrations in Delhi in front of a Tibetan temple (Photo: Rahul Kumar)

Sonam Topgyal, president of the Regional Tibetan Yutsang Association, Delhi, said: "For the past two years the celebrations of the Dalai Lama have been severely affected due to the coronavirus. We cannot gather in large numbers. Currently, according to the Delhi government, there can be no more than 50 people for such gatherings."

Read More: Tibetans angered by centenary celebrations of the CCP, protest outside Chinese embassy in Delhi

Besides governmental restrictions due to the pandemic, the community is also following the directions given by the Dalai Lama. "He has told us to pray for world peace and for the covid pandemic to end. He has asked the people to hold the celebrations from their homes by reciting mantras, doing the prayers and hoisting the flags. Instead of celebrating his birthday by holding gatherings, Tibetan families are having special food at home", Topgyal said.

The Tibetans are marking the occasion by praying for the long life of the Dalai Lama on his birthday.

Women gather at the women's association office adorned with photographs of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama (Photo: Rahul Kumar)

Community leaders in Delhi rue that due to the covid-19 virus they have not been able to celebrate his holiness' birthday for the second year in a row. Their temple at Majnu ka Tila, mostly buzzing with activity and tourists, is forlorn due to the pandemic.

Also read:  Tibetans celebrate Dalai Lama's 86th birthday - the spiritual leader who applauds India's freedom and religious harmony

"Today, we had a low-key celebration", says Phurbu Dolma, the president of the Regional Tibetan Women's Association. The office of the association is located right opposite the Tibetan temple--which is the central place for the Tibetans to collect in their north Delhi settlement.

Dolma added: "The Dalai Lama is not just our God, but is considered a world leader. Today we prayed for his long life. We held a puja with just a handful of monks in the temple due to the covid restrictions."

Kunga Tashi of the Tibetan Refugee Association Market said: "On a usual day, we chant using a rosary with 108 beads. Now the Dalai Lama has told us to do our prayers 1,000 times instead of 108 times. He wants us to chant that the coronavirus goes away and that the sufferings of people are reduced."

The Tibetans are marking the day by preparing food for the homeless people. Tibetans in the Indian capital have been active during the lockdown days. They have been providing food to the poor and also helping people in hospitalisation and procuring medicines. Topgyal says: "We have been doing the cremations and offering proper rites according to Tibetan customs for those who perished due to covid".