In a bold show of reverence and spiritual allegiance, a Tibetan monastery in western Sichuan province has held public celebrations to mark the Dalai Lama’s 80th birth year on the first day of Losar, the Tibetan New Year.
In the town of Amdo Ngaba, more than 3,000 people came to offer prayer scarves to a life-sized portrait of the Tibetan spiritual leader, with paper Lungta prayer flags filling the sky above Sergon Thubten Chokle Namgyal Ling monastery.
The practice of celebrating people when they reach the age of 80 is called Kyarton and is a commonly practiced tradition in the Amdo region, which has a mostly ethnic Tibetan population.
The Dalai Lama’s 80th year has been heavily anticipated in recent years. Major ceremonies and celebrations are planned around the world, but not in Tibet, where the Chinese government has been forcing Tibetans to disown their support for him for more than two decades.
The surprisingly bold public celebration at this monastery comes amidst heavy security build up in the region in the days leading up to the Tibetan New Year. Some Tibetans fear that the monastery may suffer reprisals from the authorities once the New Year holidays are over.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Tibetan service.