Thousands of Tibetan exiles assembled in Dharamsala (Himachal Pradesh) and Bylakuppe (Karnataka) Saturday morning to celebrate the 78th birthday of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
"Exiles, monks and well-wishers joined the birthday celebrations. Prayers for the well-being and long life of the spiritual leader were held across Tibetan settlements in India and abroad," an official of the Dalai Lama's office told IANS in Dharamsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
He said the Dalai Lama participated in functions in Bylakuppe, one of the largest settlements of the exiles in India.
In a brief address in Tibetan, the Nobel Peace Prize winner thanked the Indian government and the people for their hospitality to the exiled Tibetans.
Members of the cabinet of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and Prime Minister-in-exile Lobsang Sangay were present at the function in Bylakuppe.
Special prayers were also held at the hilltop Tsuglagkhang temple close to the official palace of the Dalai Lama at McLeodganj near Dharamsala where hundreds assembled braving heavy rains.
Sangay, the democratically-elected political leader of the Tibetan people, said Tibetan democracy in exile is the result of decades of efforts by the Dalai Lama.
"Tibetan democracy in exile from its infancy to today's consolidated state is the result of decades of efforts by the Dalai Lama," the political successor of the Dalai Lama said in a statement.
He said the spiritual leader's outreach to Chinese students and scholars is shaping their attitudes towards Tibet.
"His Holiness' outreach to Chinese students and scholars and his teachings to Chinese Buddhist practitioners are shaping Chinese attitudes towards Tibet and Tibetans," Sangay said.
Born on July 6, 1935 at Taktser hamlet in northeastern Tibet, the Dalai Lama was recognised at the age of two as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama Thubten Gyatso. He fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, basing his Tibetan government-in-exile here.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his non-violent campaign for democracy and freedom in his homeland. Ever since he fled to India, he has spent his time in exile pushing for autonomy for Tibet.
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has been following a "middle-path" policy that seeks "greater autonomy" for Tibetans rather than complete independence.
The Dalai Lama has increasingly voiced his frustration with the ongoing self-immolations in Tibet and said, "these drastic actions are the symptom of a cause, which the Chinese authorities should investigate and take steps to resolve".