Remote India town sustains last vestiges of old Tibet

Tue Nov 10, 2009 3:02am EST
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By Krittivas Mukherjee

TAWANG, India (Reuters) - Perched in the icy folds of the Himalayas near India's border with China, Tawang Buddhist, monastery, where the Dalai Lama made a controversial trip at the weekend, is at the heart of efforts to preserve old Tibet.

To the sound of gongs, maroon-robed monks with shaven heads readied for prayer near a 25-feet high golden Buddha decked with horns, and incense braziers.

In town, elderly Buddhists, many wearing caps made from yak hair, basked in the morning sun with rosaries in hand. Many stopped by the monastery to receive blessings from senior lamas.

Tawang monastery is a complex of 65 white-walled buildings with yellow pagoda-like roofs under which hundreds of monks and nuns keep alive a centuries-old culture and language.

For exiled Tibetans there was little surprise their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, should visit Tawang. [ID:nnDEL266166] China, however, criticized the trip as undermining Beijing's territorial integrity and encouraging Tibetan independence.

Tawang is the biggest Tibetan Buddhist monastery after the Potala Palace in Tibet's capital Lhasa, but for many exiles it is also a home away from home.

"You will find the spirit of Tibet in the air and no matter what China tries, it cannot finish off our culture, tradition," said Gurutulku, a senior monk.

There are other Buddhist enclaves in India -- including the Dalai Lama's headquarters in Dharamsala, but Tawang is a tinderbox in relations between India and China, which claims the town and also an adjoining area roughly the size of Portugal.   Continued...

<p>Buddhist monks attend the teaching by their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in Tawang in the northeastern Indian state of Arunchal Pradesh November 10, 2009. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi</p>