Tibetans in Pokhara marking the first day of Losar with hunger fast and prayers for Tibetans inside Tibet on Febrayry 11, 2013.
DHARAMSHALA, February 12: Tibetans inside and outside Tibet observed the Tibetan new year, Losar, with prayers and protests as a mark of respect and solidarity with the ongoing critical situation in Tibet.
The Tibetan lunar new year, which this year fell on February 11, saw muted celebrations for the fifth year in a row, following China’s brutal crackdown of the 2008 peaceful protests in Tibet.
In 2012, as many as 83 known Tibetans set themselves on fire protesting China’s occupation and demanding freedom and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile.
Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, the elected head of the Tibetan people, last month, requested all Tibetans to forgo the usual new year festivities
given the “continuing tragic situation” in Tibet.
“Instead, when this year’s holiday falls on February 11, I ask you to perform only the customary religious rituals like visiting temples and making offerings,” Sikyong Sangay had said. “Kindly pray for all who have sacrificed their lives and for all who continue to suffer in occupied Tibet.”
In the Tibetan exile headquarters of Dharamshala, the customary ‘Tsetor’ ceremony was held early in the morning on Monday at the Tsug-la Khang, the main temple.
Monks of the Namgyal Monastery and officials of the Central Tibetan Administration recited the invocation of Palden Lhamo, the guardian deity of Tibet, which was followed by monks participating in a brief Buddhist philosophical debate as part of Losar rituals.
Thousands of Tibetans, wearing traditional dresses, were also seen visiting the Tsug-la Khang to offer prayers.
Also in Dharamshala, around 40 students of the College for Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarah, sat on a 24-hour hunger fast in solidarity with Tibetan self-immolators and protesting China’s repressive policies in Tibet. Covering their mouths with black cloth, the students also wrote in their own blood the name ‘Lobsang Konchok,’ a Tibetan monk who was recently sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve on charges related to the self-immolation protests.
The students called the sentences passed by China “unfair and unjust” and said they planned to organise more campaigns to protest the verdicts passed by China against several other Tibetans.
Tibetan students of the College for Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarah write the name of Tibetan monk Lobsang Konchok with their own blood in Dharamshala on the first day of Losar, February 11, 2013.
In the Indian capital New Delhi, over a hundred Indian and Tibetan students from the Delhi University participated in a marathon on the first day of Losar.
The marathon, organised by the Students for Free Tibet, India also marked the beginning of the celebrations of the 100th year of the Tibetan proclamation of independence.
"Our celebration marks a paradox in that it is both an occasion of celebration and mourning the lives of Tibetans who have burnt themselves to fight for that very freedom," said Ugyen Choedup, SFT leader.
Tibetans and supporters worldwide will be commemorating the Centennial of the proclamation of Tibetan Independence on February 13, 2013.
In the Nepali city of Pokhara, around 40 Tibetans sat on a day-long hunger fast on Monday. Organised by the regional Tibetan Youth Congress, Paljorling, the Tibetans also offered 500 butter lamps for those who have passed away in the ongoing self-immolation protests.
There are also reports of mass prayer gatherings in at least three different areas of eastern Tibet on the first day of Losar. According to information received by Phayul, photos of Tibetan self-immolators were displayed at the prayer gatherings held in front of portraits of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.