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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Tibetan Culture Remains Strong

January 21, 2012



The culture in the 21st century is one of youth, music, and nationalism.

A combination of Tibetan rituals, folklore, music, dance, and trade epitomized the ancient Kalachakra Buddhist festival which concluded last week, presided over by Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

On the final day of the 10-day event hosted in Bodhgaya, the Indian town believed to be the place where Buddha attained enlightenment, the Dalai Lama conducted a grand ceremony that spanned centuries of Tibetan civilization. 

The event concluded with classical Tibetan songs of rare beauty, sung by young Tibetan students from TIPA, the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, the first institution  the Dalai Lama established after he went into exile more than half a century ago. 

Every street in Bodhgaya was lined with stalls heaving with religious posters, prayer beads, icons of the Buddha statues and Hindu deities. 

Pilgrims from Tibet were selling exquisitely tailored chubas, jewelry, music CD’s, paintings, and posters, to pay for their passage back to the Land of Snows.

Refugee Road, a Tibetan bazaar that circles around the Mahabodhi Temple, the focal point of the event, was lined with Tibetan Sikkimese and Bhutanese restaurants. 

Mohammed’s, the old favorite with Western pilgrims, was the first to serve pasta and cappuccino. Now, it’s impossible to get a table there for dinner. 
On every corner, TV screens played new music videos from Tibet, with Chinese and Tibetan subtitles, and videos from Dharamsala with Hindi subtitles, all vivid expressions of a pan-Himalayan cultural and ethnic identity. 

And every night at Sujata Bypass, named after the maiden who gave the starving  Buddha a bowl of milk and thereby saved his life, four open fields pulsed with live concerts.

A Darjeeling rock band belts out Hendrix. One Sikkimese troupe specializes in  Bollywood song and dance, with elaborate light shows and huge loudspeakers powered by groaning generators. And Tibetan rappers rock a crowd, filled with young monks, wrapped in maroon robes and shawls, laughing and dancing. 
“Young Tibetans want to be citizens of the 21st century. We have a lot of professionals, filmmakers, actors, rappers,” said Lobsang Wangyal, who created the Miss Tibet Contest, now in its 10th year, and has sent all winners to international beauty pageants representing Tibet as a country, sparking Chinese outrage and plenty of media coverage. 

“It’s important to establish our shared Himalayan Buddhist heritage, so this October I’m launching the Miss Himalaya Pageant," he said. "The event is a platform for young women from the entire Himalayan region to promote its culture and preserve its environment.”

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