Dalai Lama's 75th b'day celebrated in Dharamshala

     Tibetans living in exile and Buddhist followers celebrated their spiritual leader Dalai Lama's 75th birthday on Tuesday here amid growing concerns over his health and future of the Tibetan movement. Carrying colourful umbrellas, hundreds of Tibetans along with Dalai Lama's followers from across the world gathered here despite heavy rains to participate in the birthday celebrations. The Dalai Lama, who usually does not attend his own birthday celebrations, made a rare appearance to accept the greetings of his well wishers. "Normally the Dalai Lama does not attend his birthday commemorations but since he was requested by the Tibetan parliament and the Kashag. That is why he has personally attended this particular birthday commemoration. So, all of us have gathered here to express our gratitude to his holiness the Dalai Lama for making us survive as one cohesive community in exile," said Thupten Samphal, spokesman of the Tibetan Government in Exile. Many Tibetans fear that after the Dalai Lama who has spearheaded the Tibetan movement, a leadership vacuum would be crated that Beijing could exploit to tighten its grip over the restive Himalayan region. Others also fear the loss of their most recognised leader could weaken the unity of the Tibetan movement. "Now because he is coming of age and many people are getting concerned as Dalai Lama has been the face of the Tibetan movement, very charismatic, very able, very benevolent and at the same time he has been a consensus person for Tibetan people -- so it because of this reason that what will happen to the Tibetan movement after The Dalai Lama goes away from the scene," said Lobsang Wangyal, one of the Tibetans in exile. However, for most of the day it was a day to celebrate with Tibetan dancers in traditional costumes performing to the beats of folk music in front of a rain-drenched audience. Various artistes performed traditional dances in honor of the Tibetan spiritual leader. Concerns over the 1989 Nobel peace laureate's frail health have been worrying many of his followers for the past few years. The Dalai Lama has made several trips to the doctors in the recent years due to his poor health - ranging from surgery for gallbladder stones to pain in his arms. Senior Buddhist monks along with the Karmapa Lama, the third highest monk in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy, who many see as a possible successor to the Dalai Lama, were also present at the occasion. China accuses him of seeking independence for Tibet. But the Dalai Lama says he only wants autonomy for the Tibetan people. An estimated 80,000 Tibetan arrived in India along with the Dalai Lama after an abortive uprising against the Chinese rule in 1959 and over the years their numbers have swelled.

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