February 13, 2013 marked 100 years since His Holiness 13th Dalai Lama proclaimed the restoration of Tibet’s independence following a period of Qing domination. In the last few years, February 13th has been celebrated as Tibetan Independence Day in over 30 cities worldwide.
Each year, on this date, Tibetans and their supporters have celebrated various symbols of Tibetan independence: the Tibetan national flag, the 1913 Tibetan Proclamation of Independence, the historical pillar in Lhasa erected to mark a peace treaty between Tibet and China.
This year’s global celebration of this important day is being marked by highlighting the historical importance of the great Potala Palace of Tibet and Tibetan people’s vision for a free and democratic Tibet. Today, China attempts to portray the Potala Palace solely as a tourist attraction.
However, for the Tibetan people, the Potala Palace is much more than an attractive monument; it is a representation of Tibet’s independent past and a symbol of Tibet’s future statehood for Tibetans around the globe.
Below are ten interesting facts about this world heritage site known as the Potala Palace:
1. The Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, was the chief residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It also served as the seat of the Tibetan Government for hundreds of years, until China’s illegal invasion of Tibet in 1949. So in terms of symbolism, it is like the White House and the Capitol Building combined in one majestic edifice.
To promote healing and world peace, a group of TibetanBuddhistmonks realized artwork breathtaking using millions of grains of sand. A dramatic work, by the precision, time and patience devoted to install each grain of colored sand until it becomes a spectacular piece.
And now a page from our “Sunday Morning” Almanac: October 5th, 1989, 25 years ago today . . . the day the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced it was awarding that year’s Peace Prize to the 14th Dalai Lama, the political and spiritual leader of the people of Tibet.
The Dalai Lama (born Tenzin Gyatso in 1935), the traditional religious and temporal head of Tibet’s Buddhist clergy, in 1959.
He was born in 1935. Buddhist leaders declared him — while still a young boy — to be the re-incarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama.
Monks prepared him for his new role, a role that was disrupted in 1959, when Chinese occupying troops forced him, at the age of 23, to flee Tibet for exile in India.
In the years that followed, the Dalai Lama has steadfastly championed the Tibetan cause, while at the same time opposing any resort to violence.
Instead, as the Nobel committee emphasized, the Dalai Lama “advocated peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people.”
The Dalai Lama accepted the Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo on December 10, 1989.
In his Nobel lecture speech he included a prayer:
For as long as space endures,
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I, too, abide
To dispel the misery of the world.
And in the quarter-century since, he has continued to speak out for Tibet . . . and for non-violence and tolerance, earning the admiration of people of all faiths all around the world.
A ceremony in India this past week marked the 25th anniversary of his Peace Prize . . . but what the future holds is in some doubt.
The Dalai Lama forswore the political part of his role in 2011, and at age 79 he has questioned whether there should even be a 15th Dalai Lama after he’s gone.
A Tibetan monk seen as a possible successor to the Dalai Lama is to be prosecuted for money laundering.
The decision to prosecute Karmapa Urgyen Trinley comes after an Indian court overturned a decision to drop charges.
A judge at the Himachal Pradesh High Court issued an order for authorities to open criminal proceedings over the recovery of around $1m (£650,000) in foreign currency during a raid on his Buddhist monastery four years ago.
Criminal conspiracy charges were filed after the raid but a district court in 2012 dismissed the case but the latest appeal means Trinley now faces judicial proceedings.
The case dates back to a raid in January 2011 on a monastery in the Himalayan town of Dharamshala in which investigators say stacks of bank notes in 26 different currencies were recovered, including the equivalent of £65,000 in Chinese yuan.
The raid came after police stopped two people driving a car that was full of cash – the pair said the money was intended for a land deal involving a trust run by Trinley.
The 30-year-old has denied any wrongdoing, saying the bank notes were donations from devotees gathered over the years and he was not involved in any land deals.
The monk, who fled Tibet at the age of 14, is recognised by both China and the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Karmapa Lama, the 17th incarnation of the head of the Karma Kagyu lineage, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
Since fleeing Tibet and reaching India after an eight-day journey on foot and horseback, Trinley has lived mainly at the Gyuto Monastery in Dharamshala, the northern Indian hill station that is the seat of the Tibetan government in exile.
He is seen as having the highest profile of an array of young lamas who could succeed the 80-year-old Dalai Lama.
Their appearances together have increased speculation he is being groomed as the Nobel peace laureate’s spiritual successor.
Trinley’s spokesman, Kunzang Chungyalpa, said the lama had great faith in India’s judicial system.
“He strongly believes truth will prevail at the end.”
The earthquake triggered avalanches that killed at least 18 people and injured 61 more at climbing camps in Mount Everest, the AP reported.
Most of the fatalities occurred in Nepal, but there are also reports of victims in India, Bangladesh, and Tibet and along the Nepal-China border.
Dharahara Tower, a popular historical landmark in Kathmandu, built in 1832 and recognized by UNESCO, collapsed in the quake. The AP reported that hundreds of people buy tickets to ascend to the top of the watchtower on weekends.
Officials say the death toll will rise
The true devastation from the quake, which struck around noon, won’t be known for some time, as rescue workers continue to wade through the rubble, particularly in the heavily populated Kathmandu Valley — where, according to the AP, building quality is often low. Home Ministry official Laxmi Dhakal has said the death toll will rise.
To make matters worse, further earthquakes and aftershocks have made rescue operations difficult.
“There have been nearly 100 earthquakes and aftershocks, which is making rescue work difficult,” Kathmandu district chief administrator Ek Narayan Aryal told the AP. “Even the rescuers are scared and running because of them.”
The AP reported that at 7.8, the initial earthquake was considerably more powerful than the one that devastated Haiti in 2010, and the same magnitude as the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.
But it falls bellow Nepal’s worst recorded earthquake in 1934, which measured at 8.0 and ravaged the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan.
Avalanches killed and injured mountain climbers
German climber Jost Kobusch posted horrifying footage of an avalanche that reportedly hit a Mount Everest base camp in the wake of the initial earthquake. In the video, someone says,
“The ground is shaking,” before a wall of snow overwhelms a camp with dozens of tents. Two people are shown taking cover from the avalanche as they’re pelted by ice and snow.
They then walk around, showing the remains of the leveled camp.
Avalanches killed at least 18 people and injured at least 61 more in Nepal over the weekend, the AP’s Gurubacharya and Daigle reported. But Kobusch survived, according to CNN.
Beyond the toll on human life, disasters like this earthquake greatly strain impoverished countries like Nepal.
The South Asian country’s economy relies heavily on tourism from trekkers and mountain climbers, many of whom are attracted to Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.
Experts warned of a tragic earthquake in Nepal a week before it happened
One week ago, experts warned Nepalese officials of the type of earthquake and aftershocks that hit the Asian country over the weekend. The AP’s Seth Borenstein reported:
Just a week ago, about 50 earthquake and social scientists from around the world came to Kathmandu, Nepal, to figure out how to get this poor, congested, overdeveloped, shoddily built area to prepare better for the big one, a repeat of the 1934 temblor that leveled this city. They knew they were racing the clock, but they didn’t know when what they feared would strike.
Seismologist James Jackson, head of the earth sciences department at the University of Cambridge in England, told the AP that he didn’t expect such a huge earthquake to hit so soon, but experts were warning that something like it was possible.
Not only is Nepal on top of a natural seismic fault, but local infrastructure is so poorly built to resist earthquakes that the tremors can lead to far more casualties than they would in other places across the world.
US Geological Survey seismologist David Wald estimated to the AP that the same level of severe shaking would lead to 10 to 30 deaths per million residents in California but kill 1,000 or more in Nepal and up to 10,000 in parts of Pakistan, India, Iran, and China.
“They knew they had a problem,” Hari Kumar, southeast Asia regional coordinator for GeoHazards International, which works on global earthquake risks, told the AP, “but it was so large they didn’t where to start, how to start.”